A Texas Thanksgiving…….Deer Camp Style
By Gayle Jones
Thanksgiving deep in the heart of Texas can sometimes include things other than the customary Turkey, dressing, green beans and yams. Depending on your geographic location and expendable income it could mean venison tenderloin (aka deer back strap), wild pig roast (aka feral hogs), a token turkey (deep fried) I mean it is Thanksgiving. Turnip greens, smother fried potatoes, baked sweet potatoes, pinto beans, biscuits and cornbread. If you’ve never had Thanksgiving at a deer camp you’ve really missed an event. Those guys put their food on to cook well before daylight and maybe even the night before. They have to be out on the deer stand before the sun comes up. Mid-morning they return to camp to feast on bacon with the rind, biscuits, sawmill gravy, ribbon cane syrup and scrambled eggs. They wash this morning feast down with lots of coffee and ice cold milk. Now that’s just the beginning of Thanksgiving Day. They will have already begun to smoke just about any kind of meat the law allows. There’s always smoked meat at the deer camp! Everyone at camp pitches in and makes their favorite dishes. Turnip greens were most likely planted at camp during the preseason camp clean up. Do you have any idea how many turnip greens it takes to make a ‘mess of greens’ for a deer camp? A 30-gallon garbage bag would probably be needed to hold the raw turnip greens just to have enough to satisfy a few campers. Those greens are washed, put into a huge pot along with a Texas size ham hock, a glob of bacon grease, sugar and allowed to simmer until nice and tender. Sweet potatoes are greased and put on the side of a smoker to be baked. The women from back at home begin arriving at camp bringing all the side dishes and desserts. Camp is pretty primitive but somehow these guys and a few gals manage to put on quite a feast. Their campers are circled just like in the wagon train days. A huge fire pit in the center of camp provides the setting for the biggest tales ever told under a moonlit Texas night.
When all at camp gather to say grace before this incredible meal, the quietness of the woods beckons back to a time long past.