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Mike Wilson column: No breakfast left behind

By Mike Wilson

I have been extremely fond of breakfast all my life. My granddaddy had a taste for fresh pork tenderloin — supplied to him regularly by an old farmer friend by the name of Jumper — and all other pork products for that matter, so I am certain that I went from bottle to bacon without a hitch when the time was right. To my knowledge, Granddaddy never ate a bowl of cereal or a bagel or English muffin (which wouldn’t go with redeye gravy anyway) in his entire life, even after he stopped farming and went to work for the Railway Express Agency. I must have learned from him to take the admonition to “breakfast like a king” so very seriously.

I have been lucky enough to be invited for many years running to a great deer hunting club down in eastern North Carolina because my buddy’s dad has been a member for some 60 years. It is now a tradition that we head down early in December to take part in several of their highly organized dog hunts, a necessity since the local terrain is so dense and swampy. The real highlight of the weekend to me, however, has to be the breakfast, notwithstanding the charbroiled venison tenderloin served at dinner. You can see the cooks back in the kitchen carving thick slices off whole sides that are a quarter-inch thick after frying and perfectly crisp. Bacon lovers’ heaven!

My Boy Scout troop in Memphis back in the ’60s established our own summer camp at a lake in Arkansas because the council camp seemed a bit pricey for most of the boys in my neighborhood. (By pure accident of geography, it featured every poisonous snake available in the continental U.S. as well as scorpions and tarantulas.) We took turns doing our own cooking for the troop, which helped a lot of the scouts earn the cooking merit badge. One morning as I left the serving area with my tin plate of scrambled eggs, bacon, and fried biscuits (too bad — no oven), I tripped over an exposed tree root. The next thing I knew, my scraped-up face and elbows and knees were in the hard dirt and gravel, but I hadn’t lost a bit of the food on my plate. Now that can only be the result of a powerful instinct and divine intervention!

A few years ago, my duck hunting buddies Boss-Man and the DC, along with an excellent young man who is now an officer of the law, and I were about to eat our habitual pre-hunt Bojangles’ sausage and egg biscuits. The novel twist in this particular drill was that we had decided since it was public land to get out near our spot, which involved wading a couple of hundred yards, and then eat on our stools with our headlamps on in relatively shallow water before standing a little deeper in flooded willows at shooting time with our guns at port arms. I felt uneasy about the stability of my folding stool on that bottom, but I forged ahead. The still-warm biscuits had just been distributed when I began to list to starboard. Everyone’s hands, including mine, were full, so I pretty much just quietly and helplessly disappeared under the water. My friends turned and saw only my left hand and a biscuit sticking up, and though I was thoroughly drenched, my breakfast was amazingly intact. They somehow knew to save the biscuit first and then try to pull me up.

Thank God it was first split in North Carolina and I was able to keep hunting! I may seek a patent on a camo floating plate for the waterfowler who thinks he already has everything…

Mike Wilson is chairman of Modern Foreign Languages at Catawba College.

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