Jim Casada

Looking back over more years than my mind sometimes wants to embrace (though my body tells me there have been a lot of them), I realize I’ve been the recipient of many wonderful gifts. Here are some of those blessings which, collectively, have molded and made me as a writer.

*By nothing more than an awesome accident of birthplace, I was born and raised in the heart of the Smokies, and the region long ago laid a firm hold on a corner of my soul. I proudly call myself a son of the Smokies, carry the label of hillbilly as a badge of honor, and am blessed by a lifelong love affair with my highland homeland.

*As my father once, said, “Son, you’ve had a marvelously misspent life.” He was referring to the fact that I’ve been privileged to hunt, fish, and travel all over the world in search of stories, all the time doing something I loved.

*Daddy and my paternal grandfather, Joe Casada, were great tellers of sporting tales and a fair share of any ability I have in that regard is directly attributable to them as mentors. Both also loved hunting and fishing and shared that passion with me in a most meaningful way.

*I was blessed with a mother who tolerated endless outdoor excursions, small game and fish cleaning in the kitchen sink, served as a sometime chauffeur to destinations too far for walking or biking, cooked everything I caught or shot, and always had an encouraging word or a bit of praise to offer.

*Several teachers recognized some small spark of promise in a youngster absolutely entranced by the natural world and the environs of southern Appalachia and gave me encouragement. I owe all of them a lasting debt of gratitude.

*One of the abiding joys of my years is being able to share with others some of the feelings, experiences, and love of place which loom so large in my life. That’s a big part of what this website is all about, it’s the whole thrust of my monthly newsletter, and I feel privileged to be able to bring things that mean so much to me into print. If I am able to convey some tiny portion of the love I have for sporting literature, the natural world, hunting, fishing, gardening, cooking, and the like to you, I’ll be happy. If those efforts bring a ray of sunshine into your world, I’ll be happier still.
About Jim Casada
 

About Jim Casada

Jim Casada, who was born January 28, 1942, is a son of the Smokies. He grew up in Bryson City, NC and cut his sporting teeth hunting and fishing in and around this small mountain town. He says “a corner of my heart” still belongs to the high country. Jim...
Books – New, Old, Rare
 

Books – New, Old, Rare

Fellow lovers of sporting literature: The list below offers a wide variety of books which I have been involved with as an author, co-author, editor, compiler, or contributor. In addition there are a number of other lists featuring books from my vast personal collection or in subject areas where I...
Services provided by Jim
 

Services provided by Jim

Editorial Services Jim Casada can offer a wide variety of editorial services that bring meticulous attention to detail as well as knowledge of the subject to the task. In addition to being an experienced, widely published writer, he has an impressive editorial background as well. He can provide a wide...
Free Newsletter – Recipes, Books, Jim’s doings
 

Free Newsletter – Recipes, Books, Jim’s doings

Each month Jim sends out a newsletter which provides a mixture of nostalgia, reflections on his blessed boyhood growing up in the Great Smokies of North Carolina, shared memories of some special times and characters in his life, musings on the season and seasons past, a few recipes, some information...

July’s Enduring Joys

As I so often do in this newsletter, I’m going to take the opportunity, once again, to indulge in reminiscence and rumination. Many of you seem to share my affinity for these longing looks backward to a world which we have, sadly, in all too many ways lost. Maybe it’s just my age, but it’s going to take a heap of convincing to get me to admit that those simpler days and simpler ways of a half century or so ago weren’t better times. I know for sure that growing up in a home without a television, with a party line phone shared by three other families, lacking a freezer, and even having a wood-burning cook stove until about the time I reached by teens was a blessing. Similarly, I don’t think my character development was harmed by the occasional dose of “hickory tea,” and there’s no doubt that mowing grass with a push mower, hoeing endless rows of corn with Grandpa Joe, helping him slop the hogs and feed the chickens, or listening to old men tell tales at the local gathering place known as Loafer’s Glory enriched my life as opposed to leaving me overworked or oppressed.

My allowance started out at a dime a week and went up to a quarter at the age of twelve, but it wasn’t an automatic thing. I was expected to lay kindling and paper in the wood-burning stove each night so it would be ready to light the next day, and helping with the dishes was another “given” indoor chore. Outside Daddy saw to it that I started mowing our lawn at an early age, and Momma expected (in truth, demanded) help with the flower beds she so loved. Any extra chores, such as caddying for Daddy when he played golf on Sunday afternoons or picking blackberries when they were in season, did earn some extra pocket money.

I never had much of it but a little went a long way. Any time I had a dollar bill in my pocket I considered myself temporarily rich. After all, I could watch a fine Western matinee at the local theater on a Saturday afternoon for a dime, and for another dime buy a fountain drink and either popcorn or a candy bar. If I was especially flush with funds a quarter would allow me to go to one of several local establishments and purchase a milkshake made with real ice cream, a hamburger with all the fixings, or a warm fried pie with two scoops of ice cream. A dime would get you a double-scoop ice cream cone or a fountain drink at any of the local drug stores (there were three of them even though the town’s population wasn’t too much over a thousand) was a nickel. A bottled coke cost the same for my early years but in my teens it went to seven cents and then a dime.

That home provided so many summer memories, and after wandering down side paths on family background, as I am wont to do, I’d like to resurrect some of the more meaningful of them. Here’s a sampling.

Sitting on the back porch in the evening, as the day cooled into darkness, and performing chores as a family (often with extended family being present). That might involve stringing and breaking beans, shelling field peas, peeling peaches Mom had bought for next to nothing because they were bruised or a bit past their prime, shucking and silking corn, or similar chores. Sometimes there wasn’t any work but just rocking and relaxed conversation with aunts and uncles.

Visiting my grandparents (who lived about a mile and a half away) and working in the garden with Grandpa, fishing with him in the river that ran in front of their home, or just piddling at things such as whittling, making slingshots, working on some project connected with the pig pen or the chicken house, or merely talking and rocking. Grandpa was a great teller of tales and I could listen to him for hours.

Fishing by myself or with a buddy. From the age of twelve or so, Momma and Daddy would let me venture out to nearby Deep Creek or Indian Creek on my own, and the hours I spent there remain some of the most meaningful of my entire life.

Occasional feasts of watermelon and, more infrequently, home-churned ice cream (see watermelon-connected recipes below).

Wonderful meals of fresh vegetables. Dinner (and for those of you not familiar with culinary terminology in the southern Appalachians, that’s eating at mid-day) was the main meal of the day. Regular items on the menu included corn on the cob or cream-style corn the mountain way (see recipe below for “fried corn,” the term Momma always used); green beans, field peas, or lima beans cooked with a hefty chunk of streaked meat (also known as fatback, streak-of-lean, side meat, or salt pork); fried or stuffed squash; fried okra; sliced cucumbers (Daddy detested them and said he wouldn’t eat anything a hog wouldn’t touch, but he grew them to keep Momma happy); fresh tomatoes (Momma always took the time to peel the big ones, although tommytoes were just a bite-size bundle of deliciousness eaten whole); greens; cornbread; and sometimes but by no means always, a meat dish. This was usually pork chops and invariably, on Sunday, fried chicken. I doubt if Momma ever heard Bobby Bare sing “Chicken Every Sunday” but she would have appreciated the sentiments of that song’s lyrics.

Fried trout were on the menu with some regularity once I got big enough to go fishing on my own. The most common meat, however, was pieces of streaked meat fried until completely crisp. It may have been way too salty and too laden with fat to be healthy, but my gracious was it good. There would be fruit of some type, with canned apples or possibly fresh applesauce from June apples being the most common, and the normal dessert was cobbler (blackberry, apple, peach, or other fruits). Momma wasn’t real big on pickles but Grandma Minnie’s table always featured a variety of them such as watermelon rind pickles, bread-and-butter pickles, pickled okra, and pickled peaches.

Supper (the evening meal) would usually be leftovers, sometimes nothing more than cornbread crumbled in cold milk, or if you were so inclined to “fix your own” there was always the option of a tomato sandwich, a fried baloney sandwich, or my favorite, a thick slab of streaked meat tucked inside a slice of cold cornbread. Occasionally Momma would make what she called “hamburger gravy” (see recipe below), and there would usually be cake, fried pies, or leftover cobbler to suit the sweet tooth. Beverages for dinner and supper were milk or ice tea infused with sprigs of mint that grew just outside the door to the porch. That mint is still there, having survived and indeed thrived for three-quarters of a century or more.

Family picnics. We never, throughout my entire youth, went on what would be called a real vacation. Looking back, I suspect it was out of the question money-wise. However, there were family reunions (I’ll be going to the current rendition of the Casada family reunion later this month) and frequent gatherings of the immediate family. Several of Daddy’s siblings and their spouses lived locally, and one aunt who tragically lost her husband in an airplane crash visited with her daughter for a couple of weeks each summer. I loved those gatherings because they featured wonderful food, fellowship, and a sense of family togetherness I think is all too often missing in today’s world. Sometimes they would be at the home of a family member but the ones I liked best, and they continued well into adulthood, involved driving to a picnic area in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park where you could count on it being pleasantly cool in the evening.