Lyrics composed to
an unknown tune in the style of Floyd Cramer by John Henderson
on the 27th January, 2009
after reading 'One Man's Wilderness' - the true story of Richard
Proenneke's life in the remote Twin Lakes area of Alaska.
Beasts out in the wild, feed simply,
Eating much the same every day;
I learned a lot from this,
And reckoned I, would follow in their way.
Never have I, felt better
Than from oatmeal well-steeped and baked
With all that can be mixed in to sweeten it,
My thirst with cold water slaked.
Pots full of beans, spuds, meat and fish,
Fresh greens now and then,
With sourdough fermented to make lots cakes,
And biscuits fit to fuel men.
Right well-fed am I, and cosy
In my cabin out by the lake,
Safe from heavy snows, as long winter drifts
Till all with Spring's return again soon wake.
Richard Proenneke, an emigre from
Iowa to Alaska, kept a journal during the time he was fulfilling
his dream of living in an altogether undeveloped part of Alaska
Here is an early
extract from his journal ....
"What a man never has, he never
misses. I learned something from game animals. Their food is
pretty much the same from day to day. I don't vary my fare too
much either and Ive never felt better in my life. I don't
confuse my digestive system, I just season simple food with
hunger. Food is fuel, and the best fuel I have found is oatmeal
and all the stuff you can mix with it, like raisins and honey
and brown sugar; meat and gravy and sourdough biscuits to sop up
the juices with; a kettle of beans you can dip into every day;
rice spuds with fish, and some fresh greens now and then.
Sourdough Hotcakes and
I got ready for morning. I uncovered
the jar of sourdough starter; dumped two-thirds of it into a
bowl, put three heaping teaspoons of flour back into the starter
jar added some lukewarm water; stirred and capped it. If I did
this every time, the starter would go on forever. To the starter
in the bowl I added five tablespoons of flour, three
table-spoons of sugar, and a half cup of dry milk, mixing it all
together with a wooden spoon. I dribbled in lukewarm water until
the batter was thin. Then I covered the bowl with a pan. The
mixture would work itself into a hotcake batter by morning.
Thick bacon sliced from the slab
sizzled in the black skillet. I poured off some of the fat and
put it aside to cool. Time now to put the finishing touches to
the sourdough batter. As I uncovered it I could smell the
fermentation. I gave it a good stirring, then sprinkled half a
teaspoonful of baking soda on top, scattered a pinch of salt,
and dripped in a tablespoon of bacon fat. When these additions
were gently folded into the batter, it seemed to come alive. I
let it stand for a few minutes while bacon strips were laid on a
piece of paper towel and excess fat was drained from the pan.
Then I dropped one wooden spoonful of batter hissing on to the
skillet. When bubbles appear all over, it's time to flip.
....Brown, thin, and lightnothing
quite like a stack of sourdough hotcakes cooked over a wood fire
in the early morning. I smeared each layer with butter and honey
and topped the heap with lean bacon slices. While I ate I peered
out the window at a good-looking caribou bedded down on the
upper benches. Now that's a breakfast with atmosphere! Before
doing the dishes, I readied the makings of the sourdough
biscuits. These would be a must for each day's supper. The
recipe is much the same as for hotcakes, but thicker; a dough
that is baked."