Pioneer Potluck: About porcupines and eating brookies

  • By Grannie Annie
  • Tuesday, September 16, 2014 5:55pm
  • LifeFood

1948-49 Red Feather Lakes,

2014 North Nikiski, Alaska


My Dad owned two ranches besides the home farm that he called “The Shamrock Shorthorn Ranch.”

He bought the two ranches after I left home in 1955, so I rely on information from my sisters and brothers about them. One he called the “Grace Creek Ranch” and the other was “ The T-Bone” I never got to see either one. I am sure I missed a lot. Mom and Dad and anyone they could get to go with them would spend endless hours fishing for “brookies,” small trout in the creek running through one of the ranches. Mom would fry them rolled in cornmeal and flour in a very hot skillet-usually the bacon fat that was left from breakfast, for a feast that my Dad would talk about for days!

My first recollection of fishing for brookies is at Red Feather Lakes on a trip we took with Grandpa and Grandma Cogswell and my Uncles, Les and Marvin, Aunt Ruth and Uncle Norman, about 1948-49. After fishing all day, we all gathered around a large table, with a huge platter of brookies Mom had fried and was still frying. We all dug in and carefully pulled the backbone out of each fish before we ate it with great pleasure. We also had to have a slice (Dad called it a “slab”) of homemade bread with lots of butter on it – just in case we swallowed a fish bone. I remember Grandpa showing me how to carefully pull the backbone out so there would be no bones left.

For a replacement of the brookies, our Alaska lake had small trout that I used to “con” Arleigh or Grey into catching so we could have a special treat of pan fried “pish” as they called it.

On the particular day at Red Feather Lakes, after the big batch of brookies were devoured and a pile of bones left on the plates, everyone sat around and told stories. My Dad told his colorful and humorous stories about when he was growing up in Kansas.

Bed time was bunk beds and large beds for everyone. We all were fast asleep, until Grandpa got up during to night to “go out doors” and pushed the screen door open which pushed a porcupine away. The critter took exception and Grandpa ended up with quills in his leg.

After a great discussion about how to get the quills out, my Dad did the “doctor” work and they all came out one by one. Of course there was a large audience – with me right in front looking on intently. I thought my Grandpa was so brave for not crying and my Dad was even braver for being the doctor in a crisis.

Our own dealings with Alaskan porcupines have been getting more and more aggravating. Usually they move on and we do not see them after three or four days. Not so the new resident that mysteriously appears during the night and eats the leaves off our raspberry bushes, the Sitka rose bush and some other green leafy morsels he cannot resist.

Now I understand he is getting ready for winter-but there is a whole vast Alaska green wilderness for him to eat, NOT our flowers. raspberries and roses. We are hoping that he will move on soon.

Years ago, one little bitty porcupine lived under the old shed with the cats all winter. They did not mind him and he was happy to eat cat food.

The dealings with porcupine quills in dogs through the years is vivid – I have done my share of pulling quills out of our doggies. Gail’s nice German Shepard, America, when we lived in Eagle River is just one instance. I held her down while Gail pulled quills and then we switched positions until they were all out. America came back in the yard the next day with the same amount of quills. Some dogs never give up. She certainly did not.

We hope this sneaky little devil will get his full soon and go south for the winter! So far our Jake-dog is afraid of anything moving in the woods and seeks shelter behind our legs or in the sun room.

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