The oilpatch is a tough place to work though sometimes it has its rewards. Last month, while working on a well in Logan County, Oklahoma, completion unit owner Juan cooked shrimp, beef and sausage fajitas for everyone. They were, I can attest, wonderful. Eric'sWeb
As is much of the rest of the country, Oklahoma is in the throes of a major drought and heat wave. I wouldn’t complain, except I read somewhere that, as Americans, we have the absolute right, nay, the duty to carp about the weather. Not that difficult when you’re trying to fit in your daily walk and it’s still ninety degrees at midnight.
My new motto is “embrace the discomfort.” Not that it provides much protection from the heat, but at least it’s a strategy. Not everything is going badly. My magic moonflowers are blooming again for the first time since 2007.
My mom died in 2007 and Marilyn insists that she hexed the moonflowers. When my parents lived here with us, starting in 2005, the vines behind my swimming pool teemed nightly with fragrant and beautiful moonflowers. Moonflowers only bloom at night, and only for one night. Still, we’d have seventy to ninety blossoms every night. This year’s moonflower crop began blooming on the 14th, the day before July’s full moon.
I don’t know if Mom hexed the moonflowers or why she would have hexed them. I suspect other causes. Whatever hexed them apparently expired because I counted seven blossoms tonight. The blossoms aren’t as full and fragrant as in years past. With this weather, how could they be? I’m just glad they’re back.
Turkish publisher ARVO BASIM YAYIN has reached an agreement with author Eric Wilder to republish four of his novels, beginning in September 2011.
ABY will translate the books into Turkish, a language spoken by eighty-three million people, worldwide. The first translation will be A Gathering of Diamonds. ABY will print one-thousand initial copies and also release the the ebook version in Turkey. Diamonds will be followed by Ghost of a Chance, Big Easy and Morning Mist of Blood.
Mama Mulate lives in a lower-middle class neighborhood in New Orleans, not far from the Mississippi River. A jungle of garden plants covers her front porch, banana palms and dieffenbachia, melding with the fragrance of bougainvilleas draping from the ceiling in wicker baskets.
Pink hibiscus blossoms and purple morning glories cram the well-tended beds beside the small porch, a small vegetable garden growing on the side of the house. They only provide a clue as to what is behind the ten-foot stockade fence surrounding Mama’s house.
When you walk out the back door, you find yourself on a multi-tiered redwood deck that encompasses a thousand, or more, square feet. Wind chimes, Japanese lanterns and voodoo vevers hang from the rafters over the covered portion of the deck.
Mama’s backyard is a landscaped work of art. Cobbled paths pass pools of koi, rock and water hyacinth. Mirlitons and moonflowers climb the back fence. She grows vegetables and herbs in her raised beds.
A Tulane University English professor, Mama often hosts poetry and book readings in her backyard, her students enthralled by the music of Billie Holiday, piped from hidden speakers. A botanist, herbalist, practitioner of Vodoun, and one wonderful Creole cook, no one ever leaves hungry, either physically or spiritually.
Mama Mulate has a natural connection with her Tulane English students, often hosting poetry readings and literary events at her home in urban New Orleans. When she does, she always provides home cooked delicacies such as her famous Creole catfish bites. Bite into one yourself and you’ll see (and taste) why they’re famous.
Ingredients • 1 pound catfish fillets, poached
• 6 Tbsp. butter
• ¾ cup flour
• 2 cups milk
• ½ tsp. salt
• ½ tsp. black pepper
• ½ tsp. dry mustard
• ½ tsp. Jamaican allspice, ground
• 1 ½ cups bell pepper, finely chopped
• ½ cup green onions, finely chopped
• ½ tsp. Tabasco
• 1 ½ cups bread crumbs, fresh, plus more for coating Bites
• Vegetable oil for sautéing
Directions Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan. Add the flour, stirring constantly (2 to 3 minutes). Add the milk slowly, continuing to stir until the cream sauce is thick (10 to 12 minutes). Add salt, pepper, mustard, and allspice, mixing well. Flake the catfish fillets into a bowl. Add the cream sauce and the remaining ingredients, mixing thoroughly. Form bite-sized balls with the fish mixture, coating them with more bread crumbs. In about ½ inch of vegetable oil, gently sauté the bites in a heavy skillet, until they are browned.
Fresh from the war, I started graduate school at the University of Arkansas. Separated from polite society for almost two years, I was trying desperately to regain some of its social graces. My new thesis advisor, Dr. K, reminded me as much every day.
Dr. K had an idea for a thesis project in the Ouachita Mountains. Arkansas is one of the most geologically diverse areas on earth. Almost every mineral occurs there naturally, and many other minerals are found nowhere else. Dr. K, a brilliant man, was a graduate of Cornell University and to say that I was a bit intimidated by him would be an understatement.
I wasn't the only person returning from Vietnam. There were half a dozen of us, including an ex-Green Beret. Dr. K and I were walking down the hall one day when we came upon Mr. GB, his back to us and obviously in deep thought. When Dr. K tapped him on the shoulder, he wheeled around, coming up with a vicious blow to the good Dr's groin and laying him out on the hallway floor. When Dr. K regained his senses, and his breath, he dragged himself off the floor.
I understood GB's motivation. It took me months to keep from hitting the ground whenever a car backfired near me. Still, I fully expected Dr. K, the chairman of the department of geology, to lower the proverbial boom on the ex-green beret. Instead, he began speaking in a soft, friendly tone.
"I realize where you just came from and how horrible it must have been, but you're back in the States now. I'm going to let what you just did pass this time, but sometime in the future I'm going to tap you on the shoulder. If you ever lay a hand on anyone ever again, for any reason, you will be dismissed from the Arkansas geology department and you won't be welcomed back.
I was with Dr. K the next time he came up on Mr. GB from behind. Believe me when I say, I wouldn't have done what he did. He tapped Mr. GB's shoulder and stood there, waiting for the inevitable reaction. As if in slow motion, Mr. GB bent forward, almost touching the floor, and then began his karate twirl. This time he stopped abruptly before he ever made his turn, his deadly blow pulled before ever making contact. When he saw Dr. K, he began to shake uncontrollably.
Dr. K nodded, smiled slightly and said, "Welcome back to the world."
In southwest Arkansas, just south of the Ouachita Overthrust, is a geologically complex area known only to a few lucky people. Before I ever set foot on the terrain, I got a lesson in life from an amazingly complex person that understood the human heart as well as he knew the heart of the earth.
Being a voodoo mambo, Mama Mulate knows how to prepare and mix the necessary potions and poultices of her craft. Yes, she’s very good at casting spells and removing hexes. She’s also a wonderful cook and grows her own vegetables and herbs in the garden behind her house. She’s not only good at growing them, she also knows how to use them to make the most wonderful Cajun and Creole dishes. Here is her recipe for Cajun seasoning, a necessity in Cajun and Creole cuisine. Try it, and prepare yourself for the compliments you’ll receive.
• 1 Tbsp Jamaican Allspice, ground
• 1 Tbsp garlic powder
• 1 Tbsp onion powder
• 2 tsp white pepper
• 2 tsp black pepper, ground
• 1 ½ tsp cayenne pepper, ground
• 2 tsp thyme
• ½ tsp oregano
• ½ tsp marjoram
My brother Jack was born on July 3rd and he and I loved fireworks. We both wanted to be soldiers and we practiced war our entire childhood. Because of our obsession, our favorite holiday was the 4th of July. The one I remember best is the first one I can remember.
While growing up in small-town Vivian, there were no city ordinances barring the use of fireworks. Every manner of explosives was sold including M-80s and two-inchers. Jack and I are both lucky to have all our fingers as we later experimented with everything to which we could strike a match.
My friend Timmy Jon and I even mixed our own batch of gunpowder and almost burned up the house with it. The first 4th that I can remember we made do with firecrackers, bottle rockets, sparklers and Roman candles.
Every 4th, Mom, and Dad would buy us about ten dollars worth of fireworks. Ten bucks doesn’t sound like much but you could pop lots of firecrackers for that amount in the fifties and sixties. We always began the fireworks as soon as it was dark enough.
I don’t remember how old I was my first 4th though I was old enough to feel the excitement of impending danger. With our dad’s help, we began lighting sparklers, popping firecrackers and launching one bottle rocket after another. We soon got down to the good stuff.
“Hold it in the air and shake it,” My dad directed as he lit my first-ever Roman candle.
I can still remember the percussion and slight recoil as incandescent flame burst from the coiled-paper barrel of the explosive device.
I couldn’t count at the time but I had a seat-of-the-pants feel for how many fiery rounds the candle contained. When the eruptions of flame and smoke finally ceased, I held the spent rod in my hand, inhaling acrid smoke and burned powder. It’s an odor I’ll never forget.
My redheaded brother Jack was next at-bat and he had mischief in mind before my dad ever lit the candle’s fuse. Mother Mavis was standing behind us in the open door of our house. Soon after the candle started spitting fire, Jack began pointing it at anything that caught his fancy: a tree, the family car, me, and finally the open door of the house.
Dodging the oncoming fireball, Mom screamed and jumped off the porch. Jack put at least three fireballs through the door and into the house, luckily catching nothing on fire. When he finally threw down the spent Roman candle my dad just shook his head, grabbed the remaining fireworks and carried them into the house. Mom followed him, but not before unloading verbally on Jack.
Mom and Dad did not say much about the incident, giving Brother Jack the benefit of the doubt that inexperience and lack of good sense caused the accident. After living in close proximity to him until I was fifteen, I know better. He went to sleep that night giggling about scaring Mom and Dad and getting away with it.
The 4th of July means a lot more to me than just fireworks and hot dogs and we should all reflect on the sacrifices this wonderful holiday symbolizes. My favorite holiday still remains on the 4th of July, and the one I like best is still the first one that I can remember.
Born near Black Bayou in the little Louisiana town of Vivian, Eric Wilder grew up listening to his grandmother’s tales of politics, corruption, and ghosts that haunt the night. He now lives in Oklahoma where he continues to pen mysteries and short stories with a southern accent. He is the author of the French Quarter Mystery Series set in New Orleans and the Paranormal Cowboy Series. Please check it out on his Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iBook author pages. You might also like to check out his website.