Old man Olsen had me working like a dog; man I went to work at six-fifteen and did not get home until dang nigh seven. Shucks I missed the news, the Wheel, and Jeopardy. Man alive that old man had a long list that needed to be finished afore the New Year.

See, the trouble is Tilde had gone over to Medicine Bow to help Clara Lee out. (Clara Lee is our daughter who married Jim Weskopft). Seems Jim came down with the pneumonia and then Clara Lee slipped and busted her hip. Well, Tilde has been having back and hip problems. Her dang trick knee that was a result of me turning over a load of hay with her on top of it.

So as I said, I was a batching and when you get home late, dog tired, you do not feel like cooking up a big bait of supper. Dang, I don’t know how Tilde does it; all of those problems and she is over there milking, feeding the stock, and cooking for Clara Lee, Jim and their three youngins. My Tilde is a superwoman, she is, yes indeed she really is.

Anyhow, Sunday morning I was out at the early hour and after feeding the stock and taking care of the horses, plus all the other chores like feeding the chickens, gathering the eggs and slopping the hogs, I got the tractor out. I was plowing the driveway down to the main road cause I knew Mrs. Olsen never missed church. That is one woman a man does not want to get riled, because when she does, there is hell to pay and usually it does not stop with just a chewing out. No siree bob, that woman hounds a man for a week, months, and sometimes years about some little something. She came out on the back stoop and yelled to me, “Rufus you dang fool, I am not going to church this morning, so why in tarnation are you doing that?”

“Yessum,” I replied, when will Mister Olsen be ready for work?” I asked.

She looked at me with a smile, “Mister Olsen won’t be out afore ten, he is busy,” and with those words she closed the door.

I finished plowing the driveway and went on to my house. Oh, I live a couple hundred yards from their house in the hired hand’s house.

I went home and as I walked in the back porch, I went over to the freezer and got me a package or stew beef, about two pound I would guess. I knew I had an hour or so afore the old man would be hollering for me, so I made me a cup of coffee, put the stew beef in my big stainless pot and turned the heat on. I decided I would make me some stew, cause it was supposed to get colder and get another pretty good snow.

Man I sauted that beef all nice and brown, salted and peppered it a plenty, then I put some water in it and let the beef simmer and develop a good taste.

Then I took a sack of carrots and cut them up, shucks I just cut both ends off and sliced them. Three great big Colorado onions I diced; man I don’t know if you ever had Colorado onions, but they are the strongest and the hottest onions a man or beast will ever try to eat. Next came the whole stalk of celery, I just cut the end off and cut it into the pot.

Now lets see, a couple cans of diced tomatoes, a pound of frozen peas and a pound of frozen corn were added. Then as I finished my coffee, I just started peeling and dicing potatoes until the pot was about two or three inches from the top. Couple table spoons of sugar, couple cloves of garlic, two big bell peppers and I turned the heat down to simmer.

The phone rang, “Rufus you going to work today or are you going to dilly dally at home all day?” Mister Olsen was done with whatever it was he had been doing.

“Been waiting on you sir,” I said, tongue in cheek; the missus had a smile on her face, figured you were busy,” I added. Then I moved the receiver about six inches from my ear as I heard the old man explode.

After he ran down, he told me what we had to do, so I went to the shed, got the tractor and trailer and loaded four of those large bales of hay on the trailer and tied them down. We were going to take that hay over to Midge’s meadow for Mister Wister’s cattle. Man that was a mean trip in the summer or in fair weather, not a good one with a big load of hay in the snow and when it was two above zero. I made me a thermos of coffee, put four big apples and three power bars in my pockets and when everything was loaded, Mister Olsen came out. He handed me a clip board. He was going to stay home.

“You make Jim Wister sign this bill of sale before you unload one blade of that hay. Then you do what he asks of you, making sure you keep the time you work for him on paper, exact time, time started, time finished, clock time not just elapsed time.” I shrugged and was off. I had filled the tank on the tractor and had put two five gallon jerry cans of diesel and one of gas on the back of the tractor.

Took me the best part of three hours to make it over there, for the snow made opening and closing gates a big chore. It was after dark when we finished feeding all Mister Wister’s cattle and so I headed back home with the empty trailer. I was tired, but when you are a hired hand, you work until done.

I put the tractor back in the shed and took care of my chores, then as I started to walk back to my house, I noticed there were no lights on in the Olsen’s house. I saw a candle in the window and went to the back door and knocked. Mister Olsen came to the door, “Damn Rufus, double damn, the fuse box shorted and we don’t have any power. No lights, no heat except the fireplace and of course no supper.” About then Mrs. Olsen came to the door, all wrapped up like an Eskimo.

“Mister Olsen, I put a pot of stew on and I have the spare bedroom, so why don’t you and Mrs. Olsen come on over and eat stew with me?” He knew my Tilde was a good cook, but he did not know about my culinary abilities.

“Yes, oh yes,” Mrs. Olsen said, we will be there in a few minutes, dish up some stew,” she said as she turned and went inside.

I went home and checked my stew; man the house smelled like stew. I had a loaf of French bread so I put it in the oven to warm as I perked a pot of coffee and got the brandy bottle from under the sink. Oh did I laugh for that bottle was covered with dust. I wiped it down, poured a big dollop into my coffee cup and had me a big drink. “Knock, knock, knock, you home,” Mister Olsen yelled as they came in. He had two bottles in his hand.

Well I poured them both a fresh cup of coffee and then each about half a juice glass of brandy. I got three soup bowls, peeled an onion and said, “Serve yourself,” as I got the bread and began to slice it. We sat down and let me tell you, that was one good pot of stew, the best, for I was dog tired, hungry and wanted to go to bed.

After we ate, Mrs. Olsen could not believe how good my stew was. I just laughed and poured her another dollop of brandy and freshened her coffee. I cleaned up the table and they went in to watch TV. Me I snuck off for a shower and went to bed.

But that was one good pot of stew, and it hit the spot not only for me but also for my boss and his wife.

By Tom (tomWYO@aol.com)




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