When I was a kid I spent many a day on my grandparent's cattle farm. My PawPaw wasn’t what you would call a sweet man. If you wanted to learn how to feed the chickens, maintain the catfish pond, fix a tractor or watch a calf be born my PawPaw was your man. If you were looking for snuggles and bedtime stories, well then... an old blanket and Matlock re-runs would have to work. He had strange ways of showing affection. As an adult, I realize that showing me when the blackberries were ready or letting me take the steering wheel on small gravel roads was his way of showing love.
One of his ways was naming cows after family members. You would think that this would be an endearing habit and it might have been if my PawPaw hadn’t been such harsh man. It also would have helped if someone had informed my 5-year-old self that this was a common practice.
There I would be eating my breakfast and he would come storming in the kitchen cussing about Jenny. “That damn Jenny, she’s a bitch! She better watch it or she will be supper tomorrow!” I didn’t know what my Aunt Jenny had done but I genuinely feared for her safety. Imagine my confusion when overhearing conversations about castrating Ryan or that Michelle had blackleg. Sitting there staring at my cousin waiting for her leg to start changing color or wondering if I should warn Ryan about this castration thing (I wasn’t quite sure yet what it was but I knew it didn’t sound good.) It all came to a head when he came in yelling about Jolie going in the catfish pond again. PawPaw was yelling through the house “Damn it! I am not going to get Jolie again. She so dumb I should just let her drown and let the catfish take care of her dumb ass.” I had tried fishing earlier that day and was desperately trying figure out what I had done wrong. Did I leave my pole? Had the rules changed about fishing the pond? What did I do? Do I run into the woods and try to survive till my Daddy came to pick me up?
Before I could stop myself, I burst into tears and this got his attention. PawPaw wasn’t a big fan of any kind of fit throwing and all crying was put in that category. “Mais, what's dis all about? Why you crying those big tears like a baby?” Through snot and tears, I tell him “I’m sorry, I don’t want to be eaten by the catfish." He looks at me for a second and then breaks in the loudest laughter I had ever heard. After he catches his breath he says, “Girl, you wouldn’t feed a baby catfish” and walks out the kitchen. For weeks every time he saw me, he would immediately burst out laughing. Thankfully one of my cousins finally felt sorry for me and clued me in. Just in case you were wondering Jolie did finally reach her demise in that catfish pond, she really was pretty dumb.
So for Mothers Day I will celebrate by making this decadent steak dish in honor of the other Jolie. May she always bring my PawPaw laughter even in heaven. I am sure if he ever looks down and gets a glimpse of me he has a good chuckle at my expense.