On Halloween night, as we hid from tricks and/or treaters, my sisters and I reminisced about days of yore when we feasted on squirrel.
For those of you who are aware of my legendary status as a picky eater, yes, I willingly and knowingly ate squirrel. I can’t recall how it tasted, but, unlike meat loaf or sausage or beef stew, I didn’t refuse to eat it. So, it must have sated my discriminating taste buds.
Anyway, my youngest niece had oodles of questions for us. For example, she wanted to know where we got the squirrels.
“Your Poppaw hunted them,” her mom aka my second oldest sister explained. “These hills are full of squirrels.”
They weren’t as full of them when our dad, the late great Burton Goff, was still hunting them. I can remember him walking down the road on chilly autumn mornings with freshly-hunted squirrels affixed to what looked to me like a huge safety pin. Then, he’d sit on the back porch and skin the squirrels.
After that task was completed, Mom either cooked the freshly-skinned squirrels in gravy or put them in the freezer so we could feast on a rainy day.
My niece asked why, if we considered squirrel the epitome of gourmet dining, we’d ceased eating them.
Her mom and I couldn’t give her a satisfactory answer. Tastes change. That’s the best I could offer.
My oldest sister, however, had a more definitive answer. When she overheard Daddy saying that a squirrel had a wool in it, she tapped out. Later, I asked her what “wool” meant. She said, “I don’t know, but it didn’t sound good.”
Needing to know more, I asked a friend whose dad was also a squirrel hunter. He wasn’t sure about the definition of wool, so he looked into it. He sent me an explanation that I felt sure would make me gag, so I asked for an overview. Here’s the gist: Some sort of fly gestates under a squirrel’s skin and then the larvae burrow out –
I’m going to stop there.
I guess the fly goes by the alias of wool, but I’m not sure about that, so don’t quote me. I am sure my parents didn’t serve us wooly squirrel, but I’m not sure how they disposed of said squirrels.
Although we hadn’t satisfied my niece’s curiosity vis-à-vis squirrels, she swerved slightly off course and asked about other small wild game like rabbit and groundhog, neither of which I can remember eating.
My oldest sister can remember eating them. Indeed, she recalled that, as a child, our parents rewarded her after a minor surgical procedure with a baked groundhog. That’s what I call positive reinforcement.
My niece asked her what part of the groundhog – or the squirrel or rabbit for that matter – she ate.
Giving her a puzzled look, my sister said, “The meat.”
This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.