When I first moved to South Georgia from Texas years ago, I was single and had in tow the proudest achievement of my life: my daughter, Emily. She was a beautiful, gangly, tomboyish daddy's girl - still is - and we were pretty much inseparable. As it turned out, I guess I was an OK dad, but I never was much of a mom. Domestic chores weren't my thing; I mean, if the rig was greased and the oil changed, what's a few beer cans and dirty clothes around the place, in the grand scheme of things?
As far as diet was concerned, if it wasn't wrapped in plastic and I had to cook it, it was gonna be pretty basic. Number one bachelor recipe: Microwave 'til hot.
Emily got buggin' me about havin' something home-cooked like the other kids had, so I figured it was time to invest in the whole pots-and-pans-and-plates thing. I looked around at some yard sales until I found some gear that fit my criteria, namely, they had to be cheap and clean - no sense in starting off having to do k.p. for somebody else. I got about 40 clean plates for $2, some pots and other stuff. (We had plenty of plastic forks from the local burger joint, and Emily and I both had pretty good pocketknives.) Forty plates will last quite a while before ya hafta either wash 'em or buy more! I ruined a couple cooking pots before I got the hang of it.
Turns out, if you put the actual beans or whatever in the pot and cook them, the pot becomes completely unusable again until it's either washed or replaced. Sometimes even the dog can't get it clean! The solution was elegantly simple, and I don't know why the great culinary schools don't teach it: Fill the pot half full of water and bring it to a boil. Then just open the can and set the beans in there and boil away. After about two beers, the beans will be hot and the pan still will be useable. Some people just try to make things too hard.
I figured out a way to have supper ready when I got home from the rig: I had an old Ford Inline 6 rig-tender that we drove back and forth. We were working a job about an hour-and-a-half out of town, and I built a bracket on the exhaust manifold that could hold up to four 12-ounce cans of whatever the “entrée” was. By the time I got in, if everything was right, I'd have piping-hot corned beef hash, fresh off the manifold!
The initial adjustment took a little doin'. It seems that those cheap cans will explode if they get too hot. Then we had to fall back on the old stand-by - that jar of pickled eggs behind the seat. It took a while for the CBH - corned beef hash to you non-roughnecks - smell to leave that truck. I don't think my boss ever figured out why that truck always smelled like a cheap café when it warmed up! Makes me hungry just thinking about it.
Along about this time, Emily was going to school about a mile or so from the house. I always offered to drive her but she preferred to walk. I think it had something to do with the service truck and my driving style: I'd pull up at the school and find a long line of mommies unloading their kids out of their mommy-vans. I could have unloaded an arthritic elephant in less time, so I just went around the other way, went in the “Exit-only/Do-Not-Enter” drive, and pulled right up to the door! After nearly dying of terminal embarrassment a couple times, Emily decided that a mile or so wasn't that far - heck, our driveway in Texas was nearly that long.
On the way to school was a convenience store where Emily would stop and get breakfast. I tried to teach Emily to eat a “balanced” diet - namely, something to eat and something to drink - so she got a Twinkie and a Yoo-Hoo.
This is where she met Lottie. They both are the kind of people who never met a stranger and hit it off pretty well. After a certain amount of natural, feminine grilling, Lottie found out that I had some qualities that she was looking for in a man: Namely, I was single, had a job and rugged good looks in a Hagar-The-Horrible sorta way. This led to the inevitable feminine plotting ….
One day after school, and after Lottie got off work, Emily took her to our house. They spent several hours cleaning the “boar's nest” before I got home. One thing about our house: It was in a tract subdivision and most all the houses looked alike. Sometimes, if I didn't count how many from the corner, I would pull into the wrong driveway.
I got out of the truck, walked in the house, and nearly died of embarrassment! I had walked into the wrong house! I was backing out, hoping not to get shot when I noticed some stuff put up on shelves that looked just like MY stuff. I looked a little more and, sure enough, it was my stuff! What the heck? Had a reverse burglar broken in and instead of plundering my TV, actually had cleaned the house? About that time, Emily and Lottie came in from the back yard. Introductions were made, and the rest is history - or at least another story.