Steve Madewell

Pedestrian Ramblings

It is mid July. One of my friends Bert Carlisle always used to say that after the fourth of July the summer was winding down. For me it is just arriving. It is very hot outside. I was in my late twenties when I realized that July was the hottest month of the year. Up until then I had mistakenly blamed August for my summer misery. Generally speaking I don’t like hot weather, or should I say in my younger years I didn’t like hot weather. My disposition seems to be turning ever so slightly. Due to the day’s hot temperatures it seemed like a good night to cook outside, and it just so happened that I had venison roast thawed in the refrigerator. So after a brief bath in a bit of olive oil and some seasonings, it has made it’s way to the grill and I am killing time while the roast cooks. I simply can’t do a roast on the grill with out thinking of Gary Pack. Gary and Linda were friends of ours when we were down in Greene County Ohio. They split up shortly after we moved to Geauga County and we lost touch. I think Gary spends some time in Costa Rica every year but other than that I haven’t a clue what he is up to now and I don’t know what has become of Linda. Gary had an amazing comprehensive ability. He was one of few people that I have met that can read some thing and then just do it. He had gotten into deer hunting somewhat late in life, and at that point in history the deer population had not yet exploded in the eastern United States. It was a big deal just to see a deer in the early 80’s in Ohio, especially in the southwest part of the state where we lived. Working as a Ranger Naturalist (bar musician) I was never really “fiscally solvent”, and Mj and I were always scavenging just to eat. I really mean it. Before the kids came along, well actually let me rephrase that, when the kids were still little there were times we collected returnable pop bottles for the refund to buy bread and eggs. That is when we coined the term bottle assets. As long as we had returnable pop bottles under the kitchen sink we had “bottle assets”. So yes things were a little tight and I’m sure you get the picture. Whenever I got a deer, it was a wonderful thing, and we were committed to making every meal count. It wasn’t long until Mj and I had both developed some very good approaches to cooking venison I had also learned some very important rules for dealing with venison. First deer fat and marrow tastes bad and goes rancid quickly. Second, when the meat is over cooked it gets tough and tastes gamey, and finally how you butcher a deer is pretty important. We concluded that when prepared properly venison is so delicious that it was really a travesty to grind any meat into burger. Ironically, many people we know think that is the most practical way to prepare a deer because they don’t like the taste of the steaks and the roasts. So they grind the whole thing up and use it in chili and spaghetti sauce. It was early January when Gary stopped by my office to tell me that he had killed his first deer. He had shot it with a muzzle-loading rifle and was on his way to the butcher. I asked him how he was going to have it butchered, and of course he said he was going to have it ground up into burger because he didn’t care for the taste of venison other wise. I told him that was a huge mistake, and that I would bet a pay check that he wouldn’t regret following the directions I was about to tell him. Gary by the way paid more in taxes every year than I grossed in annual income so the bet meant a heck of a lot more to me than it did to him. Much to his chagrin and with a great deal of persuasion on my part, I had convinced him to give the butcher my instructions. A few weeks later Gary and Linda were over at the house for dinner and I knew that Gary’s deer was still at the butcher. Ohio typically has what is called the January thaw and we were enjoying the warm weather we were grilling hamburgers on the grill. Before everyone sat down to eat I slipped back outside and threw a venison roast on the grill and covered it. The charcoal had burnt down and there was a nice, very low even heat. A few hours later I grabbed a saltshaker and a sharp knife and ask Gary to “Come check this out”. It was well past dark by this time and Gary couldn’t see what I was carving on, or how rare the meat was. I will never forget his response, as he tasted it. He couldn’t believe it was venison. So he called for Linda and Mj and the three of us stood in the dark and ate the roast as I carved it into bite size pieces. It is funny how certain memories come to mind from such events. But I am thankful that they do. Yet another reason for me to be grateful for the deer I killed this year and the memories that it has brought back to me tonight as I have prepared it. The roast should be about done.