The Ground Hog Feed
Go back with me sixty two years to a little church in Idaho which decided they could earn money by feeding the community lunch and dinner in honor of the Ground Hog and his shadow. My husband’s parents were part of that decision and this year Glen’s 90 year old mother served lunch with two of her friends--of the same vintage. We have heard much about this auspicious day over the years, but this year we got to participate!
Mashed Potatoes and gravy
Green beans with bacon
Ice Cream with homemade cookies
Coffee and Tea
It gets going right after the New Year when sign up sheets come out for supplies and for helping at the event. Preparation began in earnest on Super Bowl Sunday, also the real Ground Hog Day. We could smell the grilling of sausage as we approached the door of the church. It was being prepared outside under a tent surrounded by snow. At noon, with lunch under our belts, we transformed the Fellowship Hall--no plastic spoons are part of the settings--and also the nursery which became the “Idaho Spud Room.” It now contained 340 pounds of potatoes, large plastic trashcans lined in black plastic surrounded by men, women and children holding their weapons--potato peelers! After the peeling the potatoes were cut into small pieces and placed in buckets of water to await the cooking and the mashing the next morning. Many members of the church turned out for this part of the preparation and I was amazed that, though there was no one in charge, people were very busy setting things up without chatter or confusion. Even the teens worked hard so that by 2PM we were ready to go home for the Super Bowl that afternoon. We prepared to feed 500 people.
The next morning we showed up for our respective duties. The potatoes were boiling outside and then brought in for the mashing part. Women were in a side room finishing up the slaw. Great pots of green beans were cooking with plenty of bacon thrown in. I helped with the gravy whose base was--bacon grease. Two of us kept two large frying pans going for a couple of hours giving me a chance to really get to know my partner. We would pour the gravy into a large pot in the oven where it was kept warm until needed. A side kitchen was set aside for washing up pans, utensils and cups so that there were plenty of clean dishes for those who were eating in the evening. Glen worked in this room with another couple.
At 1PM I took off my apron and sat down at one of the long tables with women from the Jonathan Club. Long ago women would get together monthly according to where they lived so each club was named after a road. My mother in law has always been part of the Jonathan Club and she thought it would be good if I came since we live in a hundred year old farmhouse just off of Jonathan Road. There are not many houses near us and I can see how these clubs provided the needed fellowship for the women living out on the farms.
Does this sort of remind you of Little House on the Prairie? It is as if I stepped back into the fifties in many respects. We drive six miles into town without meeting a single stop light. The train station still stands where Glen got on the train that took him halfway to New York city where he began four years of college. The passenger trains are gone but freight trains come frequently day and night.
I guess what is most significant to me is that the town is built around people. Ordinary people who share lives together. Neighbors watch out for each other; many people are related; church is still a very important part of the community and we really celebrate the fourth of July--with the flag, a firetruck, a short parade, grilled hamburgers provided by the vendors and fireworks! Christmas is still celebrated in the schools and there is a town wide Christmas service in a building owned by the city. The winters are cold and mostly cloud covered but the other three delightful seasons of the year make up for it.
We are both grateful to live here, down the road four miles from Ruth, who is doing very well physically. We come over with dinner Sunday evenings and watch Downton Abbey together. Our family generally gathers at Ruth’s house, known affectionately as “The Place” each fourth of July week, but we have not been here much in other seasons. All that has now changed. We have come home.
Jane Corwin Reeves