I can see myself standing on a busted-up beaver dam on a narrow creek arm of a well-known North Texas reservoir, about to catch a big crappie.
The other details of this long-past spring morning remain just as sharply focused: the red-and-white jig dropping into the brushy tangle at my feet, the thumping gulp of the crappie, the chill of the dawn.
My most profound recollection of that day happens later on, in my parents’ kitchen. My fishing buddy and I, both famished teenagers, filleted that fish (the only one we caught), rolled it in cornmeal and fried it in bacon fat with sliced potatoes. We ate it with ketchup, along with the bacon.
It was an epiphany. We could, even with our limited resources and knowledge, make something delectable from the chaos of nature. It took me a good part of a lifetime to realize it wasn’t the excitement of catching the fish or the great meal after that was so compelling, but both acts taken together as a complete and productive endeavor.
Time spent outside in pursuit of wild dewberries, crappie, crabs, hogs, mushrooms, doves, flounder and deer now occupies the bulk of my brain-space. We live in a state not only bountiful but imbued with rich traditions of enjoying those treasures.
Whether you are new to the realization that Texas harbors an incredible array of wild edibles or your family has utilized this bounty for generations, there’s never been a better time to gather your own food for the supper table.
After all, this is your inheritance to steward, protect and collect — turns out, you can have a hell of a good time doing it.