Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The teepee burners of the my childhood, gone with the way of life.... Sawmill gravy

I remember the teepee burners as big part of most of my childhood memories. I saw them in Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, Arizona and New Mexico, at all the mills my daddy worked at.  Now if you see any they are something else, a shop, a monument to days gone by but for the most part they are all gone with the times that they heralded.  Every sawmill had one they were used to burn the mill ends from the boards that the sawmills cut.  Sadly in my life time the mills have now mostly gone along with the teepee burners that sent smoke up like a messenger of their existence.  I think I recall them mostly because I spent a lot of time picking boards out of the shoot as it went up to dump it's cargo into the fire that burned below.  We used the boards for a lot of things.  The barn my mom built laminate style for our sheep.  We made lean-tos and burned the ends to heat our homes when we didn't go and get firewood in the woods.  I recall the smoke of the teepee burners but back then I don't recall the smoke that we now have in the woods because they are left to get dirty and clogged with debris and then something sets them on fire and the woods burn down destroying homes, whole forests and people livelihoods. Well I guess not everyone's now instead of the loggers taking pride in saving the woods they so depended on we have the fire fighters that have to come and fight the fires because the logging industry has been systematically destroyed mostly because of the smoke from the teepee burners and because people want to shut the woods off from the damage of logging it.  Funny how we now have more smoke than anything in my childhood and the damage a fire does is far beyond what a responsible logging crew ever did.  I guess you get what you ask for or I suppose it is more that if you don't stand up and voice your opinion someone with a louder voice comes along and gets to make his choices destroy your way of life.  I think it is sad what our state, and country, have allow the few with the loudest voice to bring us too.  Okay off the soapbox.

The teepee burners had a warm glow in the bottom where the mill ends would burn.  They were a brown domed teepee looking funnel of metal.  The smoke would stream from them into the sky, they sometimes burned black but for the most part them were an ever present stream of white smoke.  They were a security to me as a child for I knew that some where near by my daddy was working in the shadow of the teepee burner that signaled his whereabouts with its signal of smoke.   Gone are the burners with all but a very few of the sawmills that feed me as a child, and more than one generation of my ancestor's. 

I remember well that my mother could not make gravy, to save her soul, when I was a small child.  One day my mother was in the house cooking away and my dad was out under the house working on something under it that needed fixin'.  My mom called out to him did he want gravy of should she just feed it to the dog, more as a joke than anything I think.  He called back and said "no, go ahead and feed it to Bruiser"  that was his hounds name.  She took him at his word and went over to dump it into the dog pan.  Dad was just climbing out from under the house and saw the gravy she was going to dump and called out for her to stop.  My mom had made, for the first time ever, gravy that looked like it was edible.  He got a spoon and tried it and yes, it was edible, so for years after that he asked her to make him some dog gravy, so sawmill gravy at our house was dog gravy.  Prior to this day my mom had always tried to put water and flour in a quart jar and shake it up then pour it in the hot grease, it lumped and made an inedible mess every time.

Dog Gravy (Sawmill Gravy)

( Fry your favorite meat, chicken, steak, deer, venison, elk or moose in your favorite oil, grease, lard or butter.  Usually coated with flour and seasonings.  After you get done cooking the meat, drain off the grease until there is about 1/2 a cup left in the pan.  Sawmill specifically usually has  fried ground breakfast sausage in it.)

1 pound of breakfast sausage fried and drained, retain 1/2 cup of the grease in the pan .
1/2 cup cooking fat with the bits from frying left in the pan ( sausage removed and drained)
1/2 cup of flour dumped in the pan 
1 quart of milk, give or take

stir the flour into the grease and let it cook a bit, nothing is worse than raw flour pretending to be gravy, several minutes until you have a paste that has a bit of color. (okay a rue, but my mom didn't and still doesn't know that is what it is called) Add in the milk, let the gravy come to a boil, it is as thick as it will get once it boil (okay it gets thicker when cold but that is different),  if it is to thick you can add a little more milk or a little water to thin.  Add the sausage and taste, add some more salt or pepper to it depending upon what it tastes like, it may have enough seasoning from the sausage. 

This incident occurred prior to my Grandma Thelma dying, my dad was so proud of my mom's gravy he bundled us, (Red, Silver and I, Sister was there but she hadn't been born yet so she rode with mom) all up in the car and took us over to Grandma's house so he could brag about mom's gravy........

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