Cowboy in the Kitchen

A Huntsman’s Breakfast


Cowboy Gooseberry Pie with a Sprinkling of Apple Pieces




Gooseberry pie, nothing to it, just remove the stems and blossoms from each berry.  Three hours later you have enough for a pie or two. No greater labor of love.






IMG_1956It holds untold reasons for being.

Turkeys roosting in your trees,
Bears ambling by when least expected,
The gravel on your road echoing its own sound
With every boot-clad step.

You wonder how tall your trees are,
How many split rail fences each would make.
You speculate.
If it is possible to measure their reach to the sky
Without climbing to your death, would you?

And the birds, oh the birds!

Setting aside the spectacular varieties,
You spend a day watching a dark-eyed junco
Measure the acreage for her nest.
Will she select the perch
And not the fan blade, please.

Or, you can foolishly close your eyes,
Blind your senses.
Just a tree, just a bird, just a bear,
Missing out on the excitement of
Simple sounds,taking off en pleine air.

Charlene James-Duguid
Amissville, Virginia



yetiHe cackles every time he talks about them and tries to scare me with their existence.  His Yetis have coyotes for pets and so whenever we hear their howls, they are nearby, examining our property, deciding whether they want to take up residence in our house.  He knows I have city girl sensibilities and others with my bent would be frightened.  But he counts on this being our little joke.  And it is.

If there are Yetis I’d probably invite them in, ask about their family and see if they drank coffee or tea.  I wouldn’t mind their muddy paw prints all over my kitchen floor and I could even abide their musty, earthen odor.  They would be other creatures, entities  with whom to interact, to converse with, to share a moment of intimacy in this forsaken vacuum called, The Country.

I’m being to hard on it, him, and them.  It is actually very beautiful here with mountains, creeks, lavishly colored sunrises and sunsets, but it is a far cry from charity balls and designer gowns.  But that’s what we have right now , so our Yeti joke comes off pretty well, especially since the other topic of conversation is whether it will be wet enough to burn the pile.

You ask what is this about.  It’s all about manicuring the woods, improving on God and then getting rid of the residue.  More exactly, it is setting fire to a hogan sized and shaped pile of logs which have been dragged out of the woods.  Conditions must be right or the rest of the 23 acres might go up in smoke.

So now our holiday is determined by when we can burn the pile because right now it is so high that my husband the “Yeti Lover” can’t throw more logs up to it’s  maximum height.  I try to pull a fast one on him in order to get us to the city for a celebration by suggesting that the Yeti have taken up housekeeping in the pile and if we burn it they will come stomping out, homeless.  Not unlikely for I’ve heard it’s happened at another pile where a mother bear and two cubs came lumbering  out when their home was torched by another one of God’s self-ordained forest landscapers.

I wonder if a chit chat with Yetis can compare with my visits with the two or three people I see each month as I luxuriate in our Eden off the beaten path.  There is the Australian woman who comes to shear our neighbors exotic sheep,  lambiepoos bread specifically for their extra rib cages.  She doesn’t seem to care less that her work tailors the victuals for most of the embassies in Washington D.C.  Grab, secure, shear the chest, toss, shear the back, resecure, shear the face and off it goes.  Problem is, all my well chosen questions go unanswered because the job, during which she loses an easy fifteen pounds, must be done in one day.  No time to waste.













bath.jpgI remember when the standard practice,
Based on wartime frugality,
Was a bath once a week,
Preferably on Saturday night
Before marching off, clean, to church
On a Sunday morning.

The question is,
Did we smell the rest of the week?

None of this daily showers with gels
And lotions and creams.
No shampoos able to put a springtime garden
To shame.

But did we smell?
I don’t know.
My memories are citified, run through
A modern sewer system.

So I ask my husband, reporting on his boyhood in
Frontier Wyoming. He rendered an accurate, or
At least more colorful rendition.

He says, “Baths were organized by pecking order,
Mom, my sisters, me, then finally my pa. We stood
Around in a drafty farm kitchen,
Wind whistling through the rafters.
Each family member got a swift three minute dunking.

So just pick this odoriferous, bacterial event apart.

Water never hot, mostly crystalline with ice shavings,
Soap as naphthalene as it comes,
Towels as course as gunny sacks,
One copper tub with layers of sloughed-off skin~.
That’s what you got for

And I was bold enough to ask,
‘Did you smell the rest of the week?”

Shame on me, as if it mattered.



IMG_2136.JPGSmiling out at me,
A 79 year old’s grin that never wears thin,
A man enjoying life through stories of his past,
Relating them to every guest who stops at our door,
He’s my husband, Jim.

They get that way, old men,
While hair sprouts from their ears
And wax coagulates there,
They begin to compensate by talking, not listening,
Repeating again and again past cowboy tales, off-colored jokes,
And axioms filled with truths and myths interchanging.

He claims to strain to hear me and denies he’s not listening
But I know he is conjuring up another tale for the
Onslaught of visitors he believes will appear at our cottage door
When they learn of his astonishing storytelling talent.

Expertise beyond the confines of a front porch
And rocking chair,
Journeys round the world to manly and exotic places,
Rugged destination packed with fear more than delight.
If he runs out of places, he’ll invent more
And bereft of facts, he will create anew.

And Change? Not he.
A word outside his vocabulary, a thought
Outside his brain. Left for lesser men
To contemplate, attempt, and fail.

Not my Jim, set in his ways, all traits that defy description.

Tried and true, forever and a day.

And best yet, still, he’s all mine.


Charlene James-Duguid



IMG_1863.jpgRemember 2019
Anticipate 2020

Yesterday, we found a duck.
Not a wild one or even a fresh one,
Merely a frozen slab or
Some pale avian
Raised in the wilds of
Indiana Amish country.

But it is a duck, granted,
For a wild goose,
Chosen by default.

At least, It’s not a “turducken”
One of the Cajun
Marketing ploy birds
Impossible to bred,
Hybrided only in a
Warped MBA’s brain.

Lucky we were able
To brave, then survive,
Torrential rains to fill
Our holiday larder.

Of course, it required
Meeting and combating
The Cranberry Dilemma,
Another repacking ruse,
Four ounces less for same
Price, making past recipes impossible
To convert,
Unless you use clementines
Instead of big, juicy oranges.

Anathema to a real chef
On second thought, let’s try it.
Along with white gravy
Concocted with
A mammoth parsnip

Menu still unclear,
Let’s refocus on the decor.

Tree or not?
With 23 acres of nature’s best
Walnut, Poplar, Locusts , Elms,
Why cut one of these or a
Stately pine.

How to decorate
Santa’s mechanical band.
Find a crèche.
Not much else.
No reason.

We have the best of everything.
We have each other.

Charlene James-Duguid
Amissville, Virginia
Completed 12/4/19