Pioneer Potluck: In celebration of my little brother Jim McClure’s 71st birthday

By Ann “Grannie Annie” Berg

Monday, Oct. 1, 2018 would have been my little brother Jim McClure’s 71 birthday.

I remember the morning my Dad came into our bedroom (my brother John and sister Ginger shared a bedroom) and pulled on my big toe and whispered, “Get up and help Aunt Ruth get breakfast. You have a little brother.”

My reply was: “What? How did that happen?”

I scooted out of bed, grabbed my clothes just as my brother John woke up.

“What did Dad say?”

“I have a little brother.”

“Oh,” he replied, and rolled over and closed his eyes. If it was something for me, he was not interested.

I was 10 years old and felt so grown up. Besides, I loved Aunt Ruth. She was full of giggles and hugs.

I tiptoed out of the bedroom and dressed in the dinning room, hustled out to the kitchen to greet Aunt Ruth and get a big hug. She was in a hurry to get breakfast, but needed my help to show her where things were. Dad had started the old black wood stove earlier and put the coffee pot on, then went out to milk.

Aunt Ruth was trying to find things in the cupboards to make pancakes. I got out the bowl Mom used, helped with the flour and found the baking powder and fixins’ for pancakes. I put the syrup, butter and jelly on the table. I set it with a plate on the end of the table for Dad and three plates for John, Ginger and a high chair for 2-year-old Elaine. Aunt Ruth sat on the end where Mom usually sat.

But that time John and Ginger could smell the bacon cooking and crawled out of bed. Ginger was 7 years old; John was 9. I still remember the excitement of being relied on to help Aunt Ruth and Dad. I really felt important.

I got Elaine dressed, remembering that when Dad came in to tell me I had a little sister, I reacted the same way.

“What? Where did she come from?”

I was 8 years old then and went through the same routine of helping my Aunt Ruth.

Heating up the water in a dish pan on the stove so we could do the dishes after breakfast, Aunt Ruth washed them and Ginger and I dried them with clean white, embroidered dish towels that were made from flour and feed sacks. Grandma embroidered most of them, trying to teach me to take small stitches and “make them neat, Edith Ann!” Grandma and Aunt Ruth were the ONLY ones that could call me that. I did not like my first name, but when Grandma said it — she said it with lots of love — it was OK.

When I asked Grandma why my name was Edith Ann, because I knew she was the one who named me, she grew real indignant.

“WELL,” she replied. “I could have named you Freda Louise, but your Dad did not like that.” Her name was Freda Pauline.

I shut up after that — because I DID not like either of those names.

Mom and Dad decided to remodel the house and expand to make another bedroom and a large living room with a beautiful fireplace. We all moved into the basement for the remodel. Dad and Grandpa dug the basement out by hand and then poured concrete by the wheelbarrow full for the walls. It was an all-summer job on top of all the other farm chores, the year before in 1946.

All settled into the basement, Mom and Dad left me in charge of the everyone while they went into Fort Collins to select paint for the walls of the new remodel. (This included paint for a big nice kitchen for Mom. She selected yellow walls and and red ceiling. YES! )

They left a little after four in the afternoon. The only way I could contain active little brother Jim was to TIE him in the high chair with a kitchen towel. I noticed that he needs a hair cut. I got out the kitchen shears, and proceeded to cut his hair. When I got through with the hair cut, I made a chocolate cake from the recipe on the soda box. I was so important!

The cake baked and baked but it still had a hole in the middle and dripped over the sides. I did not know we lived at a mile-high altitude and you had to adjust the leavening and the flour. Before I could get rid of the evidence Mom and Dad came home.

Mom looked at the “cake” and frowned. Dad looked at Jim’s hair cut and looked at me. He roughed up Jim’s hair.

“I will have to take him for a hair cut in the morning,” he said.

No scolding, just a frowns. If I had a scissors in my hand anytime after that, Jim would cover his hair with his hands and run!

Jim was on the the run everywhere he went, and it was my job to keep up with him to see that he did not get hurt and keep him out of trouble. He climbed trees. He climbed on tractors. He walked through mud puddles and into the dug-out silo where Dad had cut corn stalks for silage. He came out of there smelling like he was fermented. He climbed up in the barn looking for kitties. He tried to jump out of the hay door on the top floor of the barn. He got into the cattle corral and swished his hands in the water tank. He got in the chicken pen and chased the chickens. He tried to find eggs in the nests. He got two out before he broke one. I had to clean him up with the garden hose every night before he was allowed back in the house!

We played on the swing with Elaine. He wanted to swing high. He also would jump out of the swing!

He had a favorite “binkie” he drug everywhere he went. Sometimes it would get left in some unusual spot and we would have to back track to find it to shut him up!

He also had a favorite boy doll that dressed like a cowboy. I have completely forgotten what he named it! He slept with both the “binkie” and the doll.

He grew up into a fine person and I went on to have my own life. We connected every once in a while. The last time I spent a lot of time with him was when he had a brand new Pontiac GTO and loaded up three suitcases, my three kids and me and drove us to Denver to get on our first airplane ride to Alaska.

That was in 1967. He was 20 years old. I was 29 years old and headed to a place I did not know anything about. I soon learned, and 51 years later I am still in Alaska. My kids and grandkids and great-grandkids are here in this area, except for Michael and great-granddaughter Cecile, who are in Washington.

Jim and Sandy raised a great family and have many grand kids. He loved the Bronco’s and had wonderful get to gathers for all the games.

Jim visited me two times in Alaska. He thought I had made the right choice and reminded me that he had had a hair cut before he came!

With lots of love and wonderful memories, I wish him a heavenly birthday. He is greatly missed.

SALMON OR HALIBUT POTATO CASSEROLE

You cannot get any more Alaskan recipe than this. It is a good potluck dish, or company coming supper.

Prepare salmon or halibut cutting into large serving pieces. Oil glass 13- x 9-inch glass baking dish.

Roll salmon/halibut in:

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon garlic salt

Mix and dip or spread over fish. Place fish in baking dish and prepare the potatoes.

In a large cast iron skillet, with 3 tablespoons vegetable oil and a tablespoon and butter add:

4 large Alaska-grown potatoes, unpeeled and diced

1 onion diced

2 teaspoon garlic

1/2 diced red and green bell pepper

Cook until the potatoes are tender-crisp, about 8 minutes

Stir in 1 teaspoon garlic salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel

Place on top of fish and spread evenly.

Sprinkle the top with:

1 cup grated cheese of choice

1 cup of fine bread crumbs that are combined with 2 tablespoons melted butter

and 1 teaspoon rosemary

Cover and bake for 30 minutes at 400 degrees. Uncover and bake 10 minutes longer, until the middle of the fish is done and the top is toasted and browned. Serve hot out of the oven with a green salad straight from your Alaskan garden.

PINA COLADA CAKE

Make this the day before or the morning before you plan to serve it.

1 box of lemon cake mix

1 small box of coconut cream instant pudding mix — use dry

3/4 cup vegetable oil

3/4 cup water

4 eggs

1/2 cup chopped pecans

In a small bowl put in the water, oil and eggs. Mix with a fork and set aside.

Put cake mix in mixer bowl, pudding and nuts. Combine the wet with the dry and completely mix. Pour into a 9- x 13-inch baking pan and bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes. Test to see if done.

While cake is baking combine the topping.

2 cups powdered sugar

2 tablespoons melted butter

1/3 cup warm water

1/2 teaspoon coconut or lemon or vanilla extract

Turn off oven. Take cake out. Close door. Pole holes in cake with meat fork. Pour the powdered sugar mixture on top of cake and put back in the turned-off oven for 5 minutes. Remove and chill cake.

Make the frosting of:

1 small package of dry coconut pudding — dry

1 8-ounce container of Cool Whip

1 8-ounce can on drained, crushed pineapple

1/2 cup crushed pecans

Spread over chilled cake. Sprinkle with coconut and pecans. Place in refrigerator until chilled.

Serve with a smile. Now you have been to Hawaii with out leaving your house!

HALIBUT ENCHILADAS

1 can green shopped chilies

1/2 green bell pepper or one chopped jalapeno

1 medium onion chopped

1 pint sour cream

2 cups flaked, cooked halibut, cooled

1 dozen flour tortillas

Mix all ingredients and roll mixture into flour tortillas Place in 2- x 13-inch glass dish.

Pour over top:

1 can undiluted tomato soup

1 can mild enchilada sauce

Top with as much grated cheese as you like.

Bake for 20 to 30 minutes at 375 degrees

This is a good make-ahead recipe and then bake and serve. I serve refried beans or Spanish rice and a salad with it. Very good! Enjoy!

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