Aunt Fina´s Elk

A third, and last, story from my mother-in-law´s memoir.

Coming home from the forrest after picking berries.
"My aunt Fina and her husband, August Wikström, once brought home an elk. As it happened, August had been out in the forrest hunting during a time when the elk was not fair game. But, since he had a large family and difficulty supporting it, he couldn´t resist - he met the elk, and he shot it. Whereafter he went back to the village to get help to bring it home. But the villagers watched him, and he couldn´t go back. So, my aunt went to my father and told him about it. He followed her home and asked his brother-in-law where this elk was located, went out into the forrest, cut the elk up and brought it home. I imagine he did this during the night, so he wouldn´t be seen. The meat was then salted and stored.

Then, there was the question of how to get the meat to August and Fina´s, without the envious neighbours finding out. What my aunt did, was to tell everyone in the village that her cows had run dry, all at once, "so now I´m waiting for this one cow to calve, so we can get some milk again! But my brother Gustav has promised that we can have some milk from him". After that she came every day with the milk bottle to my mother and father. But it wasn´t milk she brought home in her bottle, but elk meat! No one would have suspected my father of poaching, but August Wikström was, as far as I can figure, a notorious poacher. He did it out of necessity, though. He had consumption and couldn´t work a full day in the forrest to support his family.

Cleaning out the kitchen.
Actually, no one strictly adhered to the regulated hunting seasons. We had more respect for hunger. My father shot grouse when the breeding was over. But he never shot them, and he never let the dog run free, when they had fledglings. We had many kinds of grouse around our farm. Sometimes people came and shot them just behind our barn!

My mother told me that the grouse were salted into something called fjärding, a cask containing a fourth of a barrel. She put the meat in there and made a strong, salty pickle that she poured over it. Then she covered it with a wooden cross and a large stone to keep the meat under the surface. It kept fresh in there for ever, more or less. I remember that cask very well.

Once, the forrest officer came to visit just as she was planning grouse for dinner. Anyway, she made her supper as planned, watered the grouse to extract some of the salt, fried them and invited the officer to have chicken dinner with the family! The forrest officer ate with great relish. Of course he recognized the grouse, but just said "what a tasty chicken!". They were indulgent with those who only shot bird for household requirements. But if you were selling, you´d be in trouble if they found out. I like that order, that people who live in the forrest can use it as a pantry and take what they need. Nowadays forrest birds are in decline, and I imagine it´s all the pesticides being used everywhere."

Gustav, Anna´s father, in his workshop making a new boat.

All the photographs were taken by Anna´s much older half-brother Engelbert, who had a camera as early as the 20´s, and clearly had an interest in capturing not only special events in the family´s life, but also everyday chores and life in general. There are only very few of his images in the family archives, but I imagine, if his collection of photos remain among his descendants, it must be a real treasure.

1 comment:

  1. "if his collection of photos remain among his descendants, it must be a real treasure."

    oh, yes! there's nothing like a photo to bring a story to life. your mother-in-law's stories are also a real treasure: a family history and a look into another time.