Dad’s Mulligan Stew
By Scott Anthony
My dad is what you’d call an optimist. He can usually find something good about nearly any situation. He talks of growing up during the depression with fondness, even though he and his family sometimes didn’t have enough to eat. One of his favorite maxims is one that his own father used to shout across the room from time to time. ‘If the wolf comes to the door, invite him in, we’ll have him for supper!’
For me, this is an important thing to remember, because I cannot think of any days when I have truly gone hungry.
While there have been difficult days, and hard work to do, I don't think
the majority of people who were born in this country after the depression years have had to deal with something as basic as the lack of sustenance and the crush of a severely faltering economy.
Dad tells me stories about fetching horse apples from the street where the
junk man had passed to give to their mother for her prized rose garden. The
days when his family of 8 had to survive on government cheese and hand outs
from neighbors. He recognized even then that they were better off than
others: they had a house to live in.
He had one story that I like to think about where he met a hobo down by the
river outside of Portland.
The hobo said, 'Say, sonny, you want some
mulligan stew?.. I make the best in the world!’
If this story was reported today, the ending could easily have been tragic,
but this was the 30's and there were so many more individuals out there who
were truly, simply down on their luck. My Dad, at 10 years old, responded
enthusiatically and the man said, 'Ok..go fetch a potato, a carrot, and an onion and meet me back here.'
Dad ran home, on a mission now, and dug a potato and a carrot from the side garden, inside the house, he found an onion in the pantry. He ran back down to river where the hobo had prepared a small cooking fire with a can of water bubbling away on top. Dad watched as the man deftly carved up the vegetables and dumped them into the water. He produced a small shaker of seasonings and a spoon and stirred in the contents.The stew was done in a few moments.
According to Dad, the hobo was true to his word.
This was the best mulligan stew he’d ever tasted.
The neat part of the story for me is that the innocence, the trust was here and it
made for life lessons for my Dad that he never forgot and ones that he
passed on in his business dealings and in teaching his sons.
Make do with what you can get your hands on.
Do not instantly distrust everyone, give them a chance.
Be nice to people, you could learn something.
The Mulligan Stew
It was a hot summer's day in the jungles
And the sun burnt the sand on the ground;
The Mulligan stew, it was boiling
And it bubbled a most pleasant sound.
We had postponed our breakfast and dinner
In our efforts to get over the road,
And each bo looked hungry and weary
As coucht to his stool like a toad.
Our friend, Checkers Gilbert, was talking,
As he pusht a few sticks on the fire,
Of the days when the road was hard travelin' -
Great Scott! but that guy was some liar!
To begin with, he was a machinist,
A barber, a plumber, and cook,
An agitator poet, and tinner,
And said he had once wrote a book.
He told of the burgs he had discovered
From Maine to the Oregon woods;
He had bummed every guy up in Portland
and made them come across with the goods.
He had bummed the coast clear down to 'Frisco|
And had starred where the bathers all roam,
For he had saved about a dozen from drowning
But had left all the medals at home.
Well he cut up the spuds and the onions
And shoveled them into a stew;
He stirred them around with a paddle,
Then he added a carrot or two.
And then he began on a story
Of days when the railroads were few
And how he had whipt, single-handed,
Three bulls and a manifest crew.
We sat there like humans, half-living
On the stew pot we centered our gaze
And we wished that the cook-up was ready,
For we were all hungry as bears.
But checkers keeps right on talking
Of days when the West was so wild,
And how he had killed a whole wolf- pack
To save the young life of a child.
Now checkers, he was a good fellow,
As far as good fellowship goes,
But he will never again be a hero
Or kill any more of his foes.
He is sleeping at peace in the valley,
O'er his head grow the laurel and fern;
He shall ride no more rattlers or ponies-
For he let that damned Mulligan burn!