JUNE 2022



Book Cover for Fishing for Chickens

Before getting into the meat of matters for the joyous month of June, I need to share a couple of announcements on the book front. I’ve gotten word from the University of Georgia Press that delivery of Fishing for Chickens: A Smokies Food Memoir, has been delayed by about three weeks. Apparently the printer, who was not identified to me, was the victim of a ransom ware attack and that delayed a bunch of stuff. Anyway, I’ve been told books should be in-house and ready to ship by the middle of next month. For those who pre-paid, just know that I’ll mail you signed and inscribed copies as soon as I receive them. For the rest of you, if you intend to acquire the book (I certainly hope that will be the case) and want to save the $5 shipping cost, I’ll extend my special offer of covering shipping costs if you place an advance order any time between now and July 15. The book is $28.95 and checks for that amount can be mailed to me c/o Jim Casada, 1250 Yorkdale Drive, Rock Hill, SC 29730. I might add that the folks at Garden & Gun evidently got an advance review copy, because they have very positive and gratifying coverage of it in their latest issue.

Another development on the book front is that I finally have an official date (provided things move along all right) for the availability of my book Lords of the Veldt and Vlei: Africa’s Pioneer Hunters. It is supposed to arrive at the offices of Sporting Classics, the publisher, in mid-November. I’ve already agreed to get down to Columbia, SC, where the magazine is headquartered, to do a signing session prior to Thanksgiving. That means the book will be available in time for the Christmas market, and as I learn more details I’ll share them.

Beyond those happenings, here’s a partial list of some of my recently published material:

“Trout Magic in Words: The Anatomy of a Fly Fisherman,” Sporting Classics, Mar./Apr., 2022, pp. 147-50.

“There Are Strange Things Done in the Springtime Sun,” Sporting Classics, Mar./Apr., 2022, pp. 72-79.

“Gifts from the Gardening Gods,” Smoky Mountain Living, Apr./May, 2022, pp. 14-17.

“Dave Harbour: Called to Adventure,” Sporting Classics, 2022 Adventure issue, pp. 139-42.

“The Fine Art of Deceit,” Columbia Metropolitan, April, 2022, pp. 68-75.

“Eat Taters: They’ll Stick to a Man’s Ribs,” Smoky Mountain Living, June/July, 2022, pp. 16-19. 

“The Lunatic Express,” “Sporting Classics Daily,” June 3, 2022.



One of the ongoing delights of putting this newsletter together each month and then sending it out involves interaction with readers. It’s a joy to hear your thoughts, whatever their nature and wherever they may range, and I not only welcome responses, I encourage them in the heartiest of fashions.

Yet sometimes those reactions to something I’ve offered, or frequently, sharing of experiences my words brought to mind for some reader as they wandered wistfully back to their own past, are moving. They are also motivational for me, real encouragement to keep plowing along with monthly production of the newsletter. From the standpoint of pure economic reasoning, this effort is a flat-out bust. Yes, it helps sell books and for that I’m most appreciative. It also is good for my soul because each month I’m taken, often with pure bliss, back to some portion of my past as I share it with you. But if you measure time spent, the modest amount paid my wonderful webmaster Tipper Pressley (she’s my technological rock as well as a cherished friend and someone who shares my deeply rooted love for Appalachia), and costs such as paying for the domain, I’d do far better by peddling words for nickels and dimes as I do when writing for magazines, newspapers, internet publications, or books. 

Every time such things start weighing on my mind a bit, and I’ll readily admit I’ve long worn the badge of frugality with pride, I have to remind myself of all the tangential, non-monetary benefits I derive from this newsletter. With surprising frequency the mail brings some surprise gift from a loyal reader. Over time such surprises have come in a host of forms—an old-fashioned bubble light of the type that adorned Christmas trees when I was a lad, scrumptious samples of dishes for which I’ve provided recipes (reader Rob Williams once brought me an applesauce cake his wife had baked using on of my Mom’s favorite recipes, and the combination of wonderful taste and resurrected memories linger strong in the storehouse of my mind), chocolate-covered cherries (my daughter purt nigh devastated a gift box when she discovered them one Christmas), some fine sippin’ stuff that in earlier life knew the likes of rows of corn and the inside of wooden barrels, books, and much more. One reader, Jack Loudermilk, has kept me supplied in leisure reading from some enjoyable paperbacks on a regular basis, and just recently, knowing by roots and love for the region, he doubled down with a seven-function Victorinox Swiss Army knife celebrating the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. My father spent the most meaningful days of his youth on a tiny little stream, Juney Whank Branch, that would be absorbed into the Park when it was created, and I learned the ways of the fly rodder fishing creeks in it. It was a truly meaningful gesture.

Then there was the occasion, a couple of years back, when I broached the subject of charging what my Grandpa Joe called “cash money” for the newsletter in one of my offerings. I explained the reasoning behind mention of money and also why I decided not to go in that direction. Nonetheless, I was overwhelmed at how many of you sent along modest contributions just to help out while others offered support through words of encouragement. Take all of these things together, and they are but a sampling of the whole, and you get some idea of why I view the newsletter as a blessing to me as opposed to a time-consuming burden. All of this is, in summation, a hearty THANK YOU to each and every reader. You bless me.

In May’s newsletter, I went on what admittedly was a bit of a one-man rant regarding the state of society today in general and the widespread lack of a work ethic in particular. Yet I didn’t write a thing I didn’t firmly believe, and as a matter of a fact I seriously thought about doing something that once was common among rural preachers (and is still heard with some regularity today, although more often from a podium than a pulpit). Namely, the speaker making some statement and then asking: “Can I hear an Amen!?” Well, I got Amens, a bunch of them.

In fairness, it also needs to be noted that a single reader, sternly, even stridently, differed with my views. His dissent was offered in forceful fashion but was in no way nasty or in the category of some of the sort of comments regularly found on social media. Incidentally, for anyone who might find the demographics of interest, I don’t have anything approaching full details but can say that among the respondents were at least three physicians, several active of retired military personnel, a number of school teachers, four professors, and a whole bunch of folks with close links to the land (fishermen, hunters, gardeners, hikers, and the like). I lack the moxie to interpret all of this, but I feel pretty confident in saying most of those who took time to comment are most concerned about the woeful work ethic in today’s America. Like me, they grew up with deep exposure to the working life and strong expectations from parents, almost always in two-parent homes, that there was something essentially good and nurturing about a willingness to work. 

About the only other thing to be added that there were only two individuals who “unsubscribed” (I detest the word, by the way, but my disdain has to do with the mode of expression rather than the action). Just as there are periodic additions to the list of those receiving the newsletter right along, each new issue normally sees the departure of several subscribers.



One of my favorite outdoor writers has long been Corey Ford. Nurtured by his rollicking column on the antics of members of the Lower Forty Club in the pages of Field & Stream during the same time period Robert Ruark’s “The Old Man and the Boy” graced its pages, over the years I’ve read a great deal of his material. One of his books carries the title, The Time of Laughter, is at a distant remove from things and places that intrigue me (it is about life in Hollywood and New York), and somehow it always comes to mind when my thoughts turn to humor. Mind you, I make no pretense of being a humor writer, but good humor writing is a rare art and laughter adds some of the finest spice to life. The long running Reader’s Digest section title “Laughter, the Best Medicine,” gets it exactly right. Fortunately I’ve been blessed to witness, hear about, or be involved with a lot of truly funny happenings over the course of my life, and periodically I share some of those experiences here.

This one comes from a chapter in my book, A Smoky Mountain Boyhood: Memories, Musings, and More, and is but one of countless examples of the manner in which mirth ran as a constant them in my youth. The setting was a Saturday afternoon at this time of year. Throughout the late spring, summer, and early fall street preachers regularly appeared on the town square in Bryson City, where I grew up, and Saturday was their day to shine. These “Bible Thumpers,” as they were universally known thanks to their habit of carrying an oversize Bible and giving it a resounding whack with the palm of their hand when they wanted to put particular emphasis on some matter: “Now let me tell you, brethren (loud thump), there’s a lot of souls hereabouts on the fast road to hell (another loud thump).”

A talented Bible thumper, particularly one of the hell-fire-and-damnation persuasion whose favorite topics involved drinking and sexual activity, often drew sizeable crowds. The finest of the street preachers had a certain rhythm to their delivery, with the phrase “Let me tell you brethren” being repeated countless times.  It would almost always be followed by a mighty smack of the Bible and an utterance (I’m not sure it was a word) which sounded to me like “Huh!”  or “Ha!” There were periodic pauses to wipe the sweat from their brow with large handkerchiefs and the overall level of showmanship rivaled that of a carnival barker or purveyor of patent medicine. There was never any question of a speaking permit, impeding traffic, or anything like that.  The verbal offerings were variously viewed as serious religion, welcome entertainment, and sometimes an opportunity to debate religious issues.

A skilled thumper could paint verbal visions of Hades and word portraits of Satan sufficient to scare the bejeebers out of a small boy.  You could almost smell sulfur and feel heat as they ran through a litany of sins serving as a guaranteed passport to the portals of the underworld. Interestingly, I recall almost no references to good works and ways to enter paradise. Devilish deeds and damnation, along with myriad examples of sinful shenanigans, were standard fare on the square.

Titillating tales of lust, chastising of chasers of women, and condemnations of adultery played exceptionally well with audiences.  Dancing was another frequent target. It was a social activity inviting all sorts of lurid descriptions, although the best I ever heard was in a class by itself. One particularly articulate preacher excoriated any and all dancing at considerable length, concluding with a thunderous statement that it was nothing more or less than “a vertical position for horizontal desires.” 

Flashy or revealing attire—anything from Bermuda shorts to ladies wearing fashionable slacks, from penny loafers to pegged pants—provided fine verbal fodder. But my favorite moments came when some particularly daring or devoted thumper, lacking any verbal filter or acquaintance with diplomacy, would start pointing fingers. He would single out some hapless passerby as a specific example of a soul whose evil ways were made manifest by their manner of dress and hector that individual in merciless fashion. 

The Loafers Glory crowd, ever alert to an opportunity for comic relief or perhaps conversational meat for the coming week, often played bit roles on such occasions. It was interactive theater, so popular in England during the Elizabethan era, brought to the mid-20th century. No sooner would a preacher direct his attention to someone who seconds before had been sauntering innocently down the sidewalk than he would get support known as “aggin’ and hissin’.” Cries of “You tell ‘em, brother;” “Preach on preacher;” “Tell it, tell it all;”or just heartfelt “Amen’s” would ring out from the audience. 

More often than not those individuals who drew such unwelcome attention slunk along the sidewalk in shame, but on one memorable occasion a local woman noted for her outspokenness and eccentric behavior turned the tables in dramatic fashion. She always carried an umbrella, and when the thumper directed shaming comments at her, that parasol instantly turned into a weapon. Carrying it before her like a soldier charging with a bayonet-equipped rifle, she marched up to the offending preacher and accosted him. Emphasizing every word with threatening pokes of her weapon, she unleashed some decidedly unladylike language, loudly called the suddenly hapless thumper a “sanctimonious son of a bitch,” and threatened to beat him to the ground. The thumper, used to having the upper hand, was caught on the horns of a dilemma. He could hardly take physical measures with a woman, and it was abundantly clear she had no intention of leaving or ceasing her frontal assault. After perhaps thirty seconds of being the target of withering abuse, he ignominiously fled the scene to the accompaniment of rollicking laughter and hearty applause from the contingent at Loafers Glory, as the town square was popularly known. To this day I relish to moment as one of rare humor, and looking back, perhaps of deserved retribution as well.



When I think of June as I knew it when a high country lad who didn’t even know enough to know he was living in what many considered a backward part of the country and what was unquestionably an impoverished area, there were so many sources of pure joy in daily life that merely remembering them brings a soft smile to my face while warming the cockles of my heart. Here are some of those joyful recollections.

*Cooling rain showers in late afternoon after a hot, humid day. Or, even better, a nighttime rain hammering on the tin roof of our home. The only sound with which I am familiar that can compare to that wonderfully soothing and rhythmic music would be that of a mountain stream singing its song.

*Walking barefooted through a mud hole with mud squishing up between your toes. I can’t speak for facial mudpacks or treatments of that sort, but the cooling softness of mud on one’s feet is pure delight. So too, for that matter, was the obligatory rinsing with a water hose afterward.

*Speaking of hoses, anyone who has never run back at forth through a sprinkler attached to a hose on a hot summer afternoon has missed something every kid should experience. 

*Likewise, if you went through adolescence without a single opportunity to go skinny dipping, I’ve got to reckon there was a bit of deprivation in your childhood.

*Listening to the distant rumble of thunder. I realize not everyone is a fan of heavenly drumbeats, but I’ve always enjoyed the rumbles connected with approaching storms.

*Nighttime observation of lightning playing across the horizon. As long as it isn’t too close the sudden flashes of brightness somehow lift my spirits.

*Watching those enchanting insects variously known as lightning bugs or fireflies flash their courting signals in a momentary flash of brightness  amidst the dark.

*Listening to insects. Whether it’s grasshoppers tuning up as morning sun begins to dry their wings and lift their inclination to be active, crickets chirping from some hidden spot beneath a bit of cover such as a pile of leaves, or katydids singing their song as they collectively rise to a crescendo before going silent and then giving encores without end, these tiny musicians with voices completely beyond the scope of their size are a pure, enduring delight.

tomatoes on vine

*Eating a dead-ripe tomato fresh from your own garden. There’s no doubt finer fare that a tomato sandwich featuring a couple of thick slices from a Cherokee Purple, two slices of bread, an ample application of mayonnaise, and maybe a bit of decoration in the form of salt and pepper, but I reckon I haven’t been privileged to sample it. A proper tomato sandwich is so scrumptious, so satisfying, that I notice that my co-author, Tipper Pressley, has a “recipe” for one in the cookbook featuring Southern Appalachian fare the two of us are working on. I would never have thought of that inclusion, but she’s right on target. There are few things tastier, more comforting, or more satisfying than a tomato sandwich. Add to that a myriad of other tomato-based delights and I reckon you could say I’ve got a madness for maters (see details below).

*Sitting at the edge of an open porch eating a big slice of watermelon so juicy you ought to have a bib. Juice runs down your chin, there’s joy in spitting the seeds out into the lawn, and the deliciousness of a really good ‘un defies description in words. About all I can say is some of my fondest summer memories revolve around a watermelon cutting with Grandpa Joe. After hot hours in the field it was creature comfort beyond compare to watch as the first touch of a homemade butcher knife (made from an old saw blade) saw the melon split wide open. It was so jam-packed with sweet goodness it was about to burst. By the time a greedy-gut boy had gone through two or maybe even three slices, he was likewise fit to burst, and rest assured that a bush in some remote spot on Grandpa’s little patch of earth’s vast expanse received an ample application or urination not long afterward.

couple with catfish

*Lolling in the shade of a tree watching several cane poles propped up on forks I had cut with my pocket knife. A couple might have bobbers and be baited for bream, while others would lack bobbers as a hook carrying stinkbait (usually a piece of liver left in the sun to “ripen”) rested on the bottom waiting for a catfish to come along.

*Piddling around in spring branches—maybe catching crayfish (pronounced crawfish in my world), lizards, or minnows; playing boy engineer by building a makeshift dam with rocks, or just splashing around.

*Picking blackberries. Strange though it may seem, and maybe it’s connected with the activity having been a significant if short-lived source of income for me each summer during my boyhood, I enjoy harvesting this particular aspect of nature’s bounty. Never mind briars, scratches, chiggers, heat, or other obstacles, the end results in forms such as a blackberry cobbler (see recipe below) make it all well worthwhile.

*Porch music-making sessions. As a boy I was privileged to enjoy many of these, with Friday nights being the most common time for such gatherings. Earlier this month, when the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association held its annual meeting in West Virginia, I was taken straight back to my boyhood when the conference concluded, as it always does, with its own version of picking and grinning. Rest assured my grin, matching that of the cheeriest Cheshire cat ever to expose a tooth, was right there on the front row listening to a whole bunch of gifted folks as they shared their talents. I can only envy musical ability while I enjoy the abilities of others. My only contributions were to join others in providing an audience “Wa, wa, wa, wa” and “Why, why, why, why” to “Runaway,” the smash Del Shannon hit from long ago and to give the performers a brief break as I indulged in a brief telling of a tale.

*Speaking of Del Shannon and “Runaway,” it’s actually an exercise in pure pleasure, one that takes you back to childhood, to walk in a late afternoon shower bring coolness to a hot summer day. You get soaked to the bone but are cooled in the same way as the good earth. I reckon such things make no sense for staid and proper adults, but as John Prine wrote (I think it was him who provided the lyrics in one of his songs), “Common sense ain’t that common anymore.” For my part, I don’t want to be a prisoner of common sense who never escapes, and maybe that’s why longing looks back to the escapades of yesteryear bring me so much pleasure. At any rate, I’m nursed and nurtured by nostalgia, and I certainly hope the same is true for you. Remembering times of joy, no matter one’s age, is uplifting.

With that heartening thought I’ll stopper my literary pie hole and conclude with some recipes fit to fill the pie holes of you, my loyal readers. They appear below, starting with one that is, literally, for a pie.




Cobblers have to be considered the easiest to prepare of any type of pie. They are literally just cobbled together, and for all I know that’s where the word originated. Here’s my Mom’s recipe for blackberry cobbler, and it works just as well for about any kind of berry, not to mention cherries, apples, and peaches. 1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 cup whole milk

1 stick butter (or margarine), melted

2-4 cups blackberries (frozen berries, thawed before adding to the mix, word about as well as fresh ones)

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and milk; stir with a wire whisk until smooth.  Add melted butter and blend.  Pour batter into a 9 x 13-inch baking dish.  Pour berries(amount depends on personal preference) evenly over batter.  Do not stir.  Bake at 350 degrees for thirty to forty minutes or until golden brown.  Serve hot with milk, cream, whipped topping, or vanilla ice cream.


Turning to tomatoes, here’s a whole batch of tomato recipes. Many of them come from an article I wrote for Smoky Mountain Living magazine a few years back. I contribute a regular food-related column to this fine publication, one that is striving, with what I consider great success, to carry on mountain traditions and folkways not only in relation to foodstuffs but high country life in general.


Simple and supremely satisfying, a tomato sandwich using a tomato you grew is one of summer’s pure delights. My personal favorite in the tomato line is the Cherokee Purple variety, but there are many others that are just dandy. For starters take two slices of what folks called “light bread” when I was a boy, or better still, if you do a lot of baking at home, cut slices from a loaf you’ve made. Slather them liberally with your favorite brand of mayonnaise and cover one piece of bread with thick tomato slices. Dust with salt and pepper to taste and add top with the other piece of bread. If you don’t end up with a soaking, soppy mess of deliciousness before you’re through you probably didn’t have a sufficiently ripe tomato or maybe used one of the less juicy varieties. In this case though, messy means magic.



Phyllo shells

Sweet onions

Virgin olive oil

Fresh basil

Large slicing tomatoes

2 cups sharp cheddar cheese (Cabot’s Seriously Sharp is a good choice)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

¾ cup real mayonnaise

Pre-bake individual phyllo shells. The number can vary, as can the amounts given below, depending on how many servings you want, but one pie per person is your guide. As the shells are baking, slice tomatoes fairly thin and lay them atop paper towels. Lightly salt the tops and let sit ten minutes before patting dry. Shred the cheese, adding salt and pepper to taste (remember that the tomatoes have been salted and even though patting will remove some of it a salty tang will remain). 

Sauté sliced onions in olive oil. Mix mayonnaise with the cheese. Begin with a layer of tomatoes, then one of the cheese mixture, then onions and basil. Continue layering until each phyllo shell is filled to the top. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or until done.




1 stick butter

1½ large sweet onions pureed in a food processor

 ¼ cup fresh garlic, minced

1½ teaspoons dried dill

¼ tablespoon kosher salt

1/8 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper

9 cups tomatoes (crushed or diced—that equates to two 28-ounce cans plus one 14 1/2–ounce can—tomatoes you have grown, frozen, and thawed out are ideal for this recipe)

3 cups water

2 cups heavy cream (a pint of half-and-half with some whole milk added will work)

Place butter, onions, garlic, dill, salt and black pepper in a large covered pot. Sauté on low heat until onions are translucent. Add tomatoes and water. Simmer for one to two hours. Remove from heat and blend in cream. 



Cut a small cross or plus sign at the bottom of several dead ripe tomatoes and then dip in hot water for 15 to 30 seconds. This will loosen the skin and allow you to peel it away with ease. Cut out the core and quarter the peeled tomatoes. Set aside briefly while you prepare okra pods by cutting away the stem area. Pods can be cut into one-inch slices or left whole. Combine with the previously prepared tomatoes in a large cooking pot, add salt to taste along with a couple of slices of fried streaked meat (if desired), and simmer slowly (do not overcook, because everything will turn to mush). This dish does not look particularly appealing, and for some folks the slick or slimy nature of stewed okra is a turn-off. Visual aesthetics aside, this is a grand vegetable dish. Leftovers can be used as the starting point for a big pot of vegetable or vegetable-beef soup.



Slice away the bottom quarter of a large tomato and carefully remove any core that remains in the large section along with enough flesh to leave a cavity that will hold an egg. Place the tomato “container” atop a greased baking sheet or pan and carefully break a small or medium egg into it. Bake at 350 degrees until the egg sets to a point just short of the consistency your desire. Remove from the oven, sprinkle liberally with sharp, shredded cheddar cheese, then place back in the oven until the cheese melts. Eat piping hot.



Slice away the bottom of tomatoes and then sprinkle liberally with a mixture of Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs. You can buy crumbs but heels from a loaf of bread, given a quick whirl in a food processor, are much cheaper and work just as well. Bake at 375 degrees until the cheese/bread topping begins to turn brown and eat hot from the oven. If you have them, try leftover biscuits or crumbled cornbread as your crumb base.



In the heat of summer, when tomatoes are abundant but thoughts of dealing with an oven or stove, cause dismay, here’s a grand way to use fresh tomatoes.


2 or 3 large tomatoes, diced (a ulu is ideal for this task)

¼ cup finely chopped chives

½ cup chopped pimento olives

1 minced garlic clove

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

3 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Combine the ingredients in a plastic or glass bowl, whisk gently,  and let stand in refrigerator for 30-45 minutes.

NOTE: *Fresh mozzarella makes a nice addition to the salsa and it is an ideal accompaniment to grilled burgers.



Years ago a cousin, Joyce Casada Bryant, brought this dish to a family reunion. It drew rave reviews in a setting where a whole bunch of splendid cooks annually vied to outdo one another.


1 refrigerated pie crust

8 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese

2 tablespoons chopped basil

4 large tomatoes, cored, peeled and sliced ½ inch thick

1 large Vidalia onion, sliced

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper

1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil

Fit the crust in a pan and spread the cheese over the crust. Sprinkle with basil and then top with slices of onions and tomatoes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and then drizzle with the olive oil. Bake for 30 (or a bit longer if the pie is “shaky”) minutes in a 400-degree oven. Slice and serve.

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