As I’ve said in previous posts, at one point in my travels I settled in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. My husband at the time worked as a pipe fitter at a refinery about 45 minutes drive from the house. With him working long shifts, I was left to create my own entertainment. Summer months there it was on average 105 degrees outside and 98% humidity, so after cleaning and walking the house for a few weeks (I became an excellent house walker, I highly recommend it), I needed to think of something to occupy my time. Since I didn’t know many people in the area the idea of getting a job seemed to make sense. The construction jobs were temporary in nature. Consequently, I didn’t feel right taking a permanent job knowing I would only be short term. Soooo, I signed up with a local temp agency. Within two days they called offering me a secretarial job at a local feed and grain. It was a three month assignment assisting in the office. Well, to say that the care and feeding of farm animals was not strongly stressed in my educational background would be like saying that Mick Jagger is eye candy. No letters please, I love the Stones. Smile.
What the hell. Life is short and in my world all new experiences welcomed. I accepted. The following Monday I found my way to their office, which was located directly across the street from the stockyards.Being a true animal lover does not eclipse the fact that a large group of farm animals placed in a stressful situation generate a serious amount of ammonia. Whew, or pew being the more appropriate word.
Meeting my supervisor, Link, and the rest of the staff I was given a mini-tour of the facilities. Out front loomed huge grain elevators with chutes pointing down toward the yard. Behind the elevators a large warehouse dominated the yard. Doors open, huge pallets were stacked everywhere and the area was buzzing with sounds of forklift motors and trucks loading and unloading. Quite impressive.
The office itself housed around twenty employees set up in cubicles. In addition to this, on one side of the building there was what looked to be a booth of sorts which could double for a box office at a movie theater. After an hour of minimal training the realization that this box had something to do with why I was there began to sink in. Link explained that there would be a more detailed training period the following day but at the moment he was “busier than a cat covering it up”. True story, like I said you just can’t make this stuff up.
Next I was set up in the box office window. It was equipped with a lengthy list of products for sale, a cash register and a metal handle, not unlike a gear shift, with push buttons on it. There was one flat window directly in front of the cash register with one that slanted out on either side. My instructions were to wait for vehicles to drive up and then move the lever forward whereupon the box office with me in it would propel us into space to take customer orders. Kind of like a McDonald’s only mobile and for cows. The list of products was done is sort of code. Dog chow might look like “DCHW”. Great. The cash register had corresponding buttons, also in code. Not only didn’t I have a clue at the time what was the breakfast of choice for livestock, but I had to break the code it seemed before I could place the order. Could I have gracefully ducked out the back door at that point I would have and never looked back. Intuition told me this was not going to end well.
Somehow I got through the day. Back and forth I drove in my little window. Understand now, these were very thick southern accents coming at me through a grainy speaker asking for products that I had no idea what they were. They could have been speaking Klingon.
Not being a quitter, I went home that night, had several fortifying glasses of Chardonnay, and showed up the next morning asking for more. The stockyards were open that day so the first flatbed truck that pulled in had two newly purchased calves in the back. One of them leaned over the rail, placed a very generous and gooey tongue on the side window and offered a long lick along the glass to announce his arrival. Jeez.
Later in the day a pig farmer showed up. Usually you can tell they’re coming from a mile or two away. No offense. He had two very large pink porkers in the back who cast their well lashed eyes on my moving box office with some suspicion. Behind him he had a ranch hand driving a much larger truck, I assumed to transport their order. He asked for a large amount of what sounded to me to be “hog cone”. Looking at my coded list, there was only one code that even vaguely resembled that, it said “Hog Conc”. Feeling confident, I pushed the corresponding Hog Conc button on the cash register and slicker than ordering a Big Mac and biggee fries, sent them on their way to get their order loaded.
Shortly thereafter this same farmer accompanied by the back manager showed up in the office. This guy was obviously not happy. He had that “damn northerners, not worth killin”, look on his face. After much waving of hands, flapping of overall bibs and speaking in tongues it was concluded that he had a truck full of whatever this hog concentrate was when all he had asked at my window was a dang old load of corn. Speak up!
They were a great group of people to work with. All the farmers were interesting and funny, for the most part at least. The hog farmer never exactly warmed up to me after our initial encounter, and always checked his receipts. This story must have been repeated a hundred times since I worked there. It’s my mothers favorite among my travel stories.
Check out this video for an interesting take on shucking corn. Cool idea.
Fresh Asparagus and Mushroom Quiche
1 9″ pie shell, cooked as directed on package for filling
2 Tbsp. butter
1 bunch of fresh asparagus
1/2 cup mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/2 cup green onions, thinly sliced
1 1/4 cups half and half
2 Tbsp. freshly chopped parsley
1/4 tsp. dry mustard
4 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cups Gruyère cheese, shredded
2 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. white pepper
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. each dried basil, oregano and rubbed sage
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Clean and trim woody ends from asparagus. Chop all but 5 spears into 1/2″ pieces.
Melt butter in large skillet over med. heat. Add chopped asparagus and spears, onions and mushrooms. Saute until asparagus is crisp-tender. Pluck out five whole spears and set aside.
Place chopped asparagus, onion and mushrooms in bottom of prepared pie shell.
In mixing bowl combine beaten eggs, half and half, cheeses, parsley and seasonings. Mix well. Pour over chopped asparagus/onion/mushroom mix. Bake 35 mins.
Remove from oven and place reserved 5 spears across top. Return to oven and bake another 15-20 mins. or until golden brown and toothpick comes out clean when inserted in center. Allow to cool 10 mins. before serving.