Robert Hitt Neill Column

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Who thunk up all that good stuff?

I was teaching some youngsters up at Bologna Performing Arts Center in Cleveland a week ago, doing a class on Creative Writing, and was trying to get them to think of basic questions.

I did the same Art Camp last summer, and a basic question was asked of me by the Director only a month ago: “A mother of one of last year’s campers called from South Carolina, and wanted to know where her child might have picked up the expression, ‘Happy as a dead pig in the sunshine.’ I told her that it just might have come from Uncle Bob.”  

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He was correct.

Yet the basic question remains:Who thought that up in the first place? I have heard it all my life, and have seen plenty of dead pigs, but none who were just allowed to go on being dead in the sunshine once they had achieved that state.

Any dead pig around Brownspur was quickly converted into bacon, hams, po’k chops, and chit’lins before rigor mortis set in. Of course, if we go back to the Bible, where most origins are explained, perhaps a dead pig would have been allowed to go on undisturbed being dead in the sunshine, since God’s Chil’en back then were warned against eating dead pigmeat.

I’m glad that Commandment got superseded, for I cooked a wonderful pork loin on the smoker yesterday!

I love raw oysters, but I’d be willing to bet that the first person to try one was near’bout starving to death!  Either that, or it started with a fraternity prank. Clams aren’t nearly as tasty as oysters, but they look like they’d eat better anyway.

And who in the world thought about eating chit’lins? I like them fried, and Betsy’s daddy loved boiled chit’lins, though Miss Mable never allowed Mr. Adam to cook them in her house.

Yet I’ve never heard about anyone eating any type of intestines other than pig’s. That must be another fad started by fraternity hazing.

Betsy came in all excited the other day, exclaiming, “Bob! Have you see the Agapanthus out at the High Place?”  (Her garden/meditation place.)

I jumped up and headed for the gun cabinet, wondering if my 30.06 would be big enough to shoot one of them things with, or if I needed to go to the 458 Elephant Gun, until she caught me and explained she had floweredy blooms on a plant called that.

Who named an Agapanthus an Agapanthus? It says God let Adam name all the animals in Eden, so did maybe Eve get to name her garden plants?

If so, what weed had she been chewing on just before she decided that bloom looked like an Agapanthus? And who decided the stuff in willow bark was good for headaches?

Did God whisper in Adam’s ear, “When Eve gets a headache, get her to chew a mouthful of willow bark and she’ll be miraculously healed”? Nay, nay, for before they got to messing around with snakes in Eden, there were no headaches atall.

I bet there was some witch doctor ‘way back (we had one right across the old Black Dog Railroad Line from Brownspur) who had a weird sense of humor, and when someone came to him for a headache cure, he’d say, “Go eat you some mistletoe berries, but don’t tell anyone I said for you to, or it won’t work.”

When that girl kicked the bucket, I bet he pulled out his scoresheet and marked off “Mistletoe Berries,” muttering, “Nope, that’n didn’t work either. Next week, I’ll have someone try willow bark.”

Bingo! Then he’d start working on a cure for constipation: “Boil up some new leaves off a skunk cabbage plant,” knowing the next day, he’d probably be saying, “I can’t believe the guy actually tried that!”

The bark and wood of a sassafras sapling is very aromatic, so I can see why someone would have decided sassafras tea might be good, but then who would have thought of digging up the roots, drying them, and shaving some into a teacup of boiling water? Or that it was good for you?

I love sassafras tea, and always keep some roots on top of the refrigerator to shave for tea, then one time when I was fixing to smoke a wild turkey, was out of hickory. In studying about what to use in its place, I spied those roots, and tried them on the coals.  I have never gone back to hickory to smoke meats over. Thank the Lord for whoever thought of using sassafras roots for tea!

Have you heard that rubbing rancid salt meat on you will cure redbugs?