The old smokehouse

By TIM BEELAND,

The remains of the old smokehouse sit just beyond our kitchen porch — The Kitchen Porch Cafe at Delialand it has been dubbed. The smokehouse was one of the victims of Hurricane Katrina when she unleashed her wrath on this area. The storm took out most of the trees around our house and laid part of a huge pecan on top of Smokey. Now 15 years later, after some land clearing and further decay, we’ve decided to take the old building all the way down.

It’s a shame.

For years — my entire childhood in fact — there was no porch outside the kitchen door. Just a solid wood door and a screen door with about a three foot drop to the ground.

My Granny and plenty of folks before her would open the door in winter and summer to let the heat of the kitchen out and after dinner was over and the dishes were done the dishpan of dirty water would be tossed out that door as well.

In the late 90’s we built the first ever little porch out there with steps down to the ground. It was more for the purpose of walking outside than sitting outside for a dozen or so years, and then a couple of years back wife Danny and I built a larger porch as an outdoor kitchen of sorts. Hence The Kitchen Porch Cafe name.

But back to the smokehouse.

Although it was orignally built as a place to cure meat — and cure meat it did — it has served a variety of different purposes over the years.

Back in the day...

The days when we raised and butchered hogs the saltbox inside the smokehouse created the best country cured ham around and casings of smoked sausage and shoulders kept us all full and happy through the winters.

The lid of the saltbox now serves as a table top on our back porch — Herbie’s Hideaway — named for my grandfather. I hope to be able to salvage the remainder of the box very soon. It’ll be a tricky endeavor. To get the lid I had to slither in on my belly like the resident king snake. To get the box, I hope to remove what is left of the wall in the back corner where it lies. There is some salvageable, very old, very pretty, wood I hope to do something with as well.

Last week I pulled a big old pressure cooker lid out of there and plan to invert it on top of a cedar post saved from one of the downed trees, and make a bird feeder for the red birds that call our place home.

When it comes to calling a place home, the smokehouse has been just that to all sorts of critters large and small. Currently an armadillo hangs out in there when it’s not rooting up the yard — something that is about to come to an end one way or another if you know what I mean.

Stray cats like to check the place out on occasion and for years it served as a buzzard roost and we watched as a pair of the big birds raised many a family. They always lay only two eggs and nurture to adulthood two of the ugliest and meanest chicks ever seen.

The buzzards finally tired of the smokehouse — likely because it is now down to pretty much the roof and the back corner where that box is — and they moved their nursery to the a horse stall in the big barn. The majority of that barn, by the way, succumbed to high winds several yeas ago and about all that is left of it is the back corner where those buzzards hang out.

One of the last years that my grandmother was alive we held a family reunion in the side yard of Delialand — the name Danny and I gave our place in honor of my grandmother, Delia Mae Lang Hudson, when we took up residence there. My uncle, Jimmy, served as MC, I suppose you could say, and the smokehouse served as the stage as he read the family history he had compiled.

For as long as I can remember there was a basketball goal, minus the net, above the door of Smokey and in the sultry summers there is no telling how many games of H-O-R-S-E and Around the World were battled there by a host of cousins.

In more recent years — even with the tree on it — the smokehouse served as a storage room for all sorts of things and all sorts of things are currently crushed beneath its timbers. I know there is a croquet set in there and I can see the old basketball in a big aluminum pan between some of the rotted boards of a wall.

I forget what all else might be buried there but we’ll find out before long. Before long old Smokey will be gone, but the memories, ahh the fond memories, those will carry on.

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