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‘Chicken Stew’ by Shane Brown


I’m up this morning milking cows but all of my mind is on something else.

I’ve got Bubba leaning up on my shoulder as I stand down in the pit of the milk parlor with the first set of cows I milk finishing their feed.

I’m drifting in memories.

Bubba just wants milk or a scratch on the head, but I don’t give him either. Still, he remains propped up with his nose on my shoulder as I stare past what I’m doing. I’m still doing my job step by step as Billy Ray and Paula taught last summer, but my timing is slower and my thoughts just aren’t in this milk parlor. I have my work ethic and I do care about the job they provide me every Saturday morning, but I am full with suspense for tonight.

This morning, about 18 years ago, I woke up and looked out my bedroom window. Dad was in the front yard, building a fire around two large black cast iron pots that would hold his chicken stew that he learned to make from his mom, my Memaw.

His chicken stew was an all-day preparation of heating, cooking, boiling, spicing and tasting – all so he could feed family, friends and loved ones. Family and friends drove across town and county – and even counties – to attend Dad’s Chicken Stew Parties.

Mom and Dad prepped the food and partied all day. Close friends came early with coolers full of beer and eagerly empty stomachs to lend a hand in moving tables, unfolding chairs and stirring the stew pots. Some smoked a cigarette and bull******* a joke or told a funny story around the fire as it boiled our supper.

The Chicken Stew Parties were long days of work for the chef and his cooks. They had certain ingredients to use and steps to follow; all this work came before the guitars were brought out and the beer was drank or laughs shared and memories made. Later, as the stew was eaten, the dogs played. Children ran throughout the night, dodging parents and structure. Jokes, laughter and smiles were glued to faces. No one had a bad time.

It was a damn good chicken stew, and a hell of a party.

The release party for Larry Brown Ale was this past weekend at the Delta Steak Company in Abbeville. Yalobusha Brewing Company has honored my Dad and us all who loved him with such an amazing blend to a brown ale to remember his legacy with. Both sides agreed on a party to celebrate him and the new beer that is now being distributed in north Mississippi. After agreeing to the party, ideas quickly started flowing through minds as phone calls were made and plans secured. I was asked to play music for the event and I requested one more idea: a chicken stew.

I remember sitting there playing last Saturday night, trying to focus on chords that my fingers were finding on my guitar and the words from my head along with the cheat-sheet that I use just below my microphone. I looked out across the crowd. The crowd is almost shoulder to shoulder. The place is packed and I see smiles, laughter and good times; wonderful memories for the ones I see and for me.

I also looked up and saw family. My uncle, aunt, cousins and some of their babies. I saw my friends and I saw faces I don’t know, too. Most are eating a bowl of my Dad’s Chicken Stew that Allen made directly from Dad’s and Memaw’s recipe and some are holding a Larry Brown Ale in their hand. That sight was a flashback for me, but it’s a reality too. The people are real, the stew, the beer, the laughs, the atmosphere…

I saw Andy, who owns Yalobusha Brewing Company, walk in and he smiled and stared at the crowd. I noticed Allen and Erin, who own Delta Steak Company, smiling in the corner. My Mom’s face was glowing and so was my brother, and my sister, Heather, and well, everybody.

I wrapped up and picked all my music equipment up with some friends and a cousin – I didn’t want to leave just yet. I was comfortable where I was at and with the people I was with. I was happy to have another chicken stew. We all held Larry Brown Ale in our hands this weekend, but we where holding him in our hearts. What a damn good Chicken Stew!

Shane Brown

Shane Brown is a HottyToddy.com contributor and the son of noted author Larry Brown. Shane is an Oxford native with Yocona and Tula roots. Shane is a graduate of Mississippi State University. He has two children — Maddux, age 9, and Rilee, age 7 — and makes his home at “A Place Called Tula.” He can be reached at msushanebrown@yahoo.com.

Copyright Shane Brown, 2015.

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