Marian Allen Sunday Snapshot: The Froot-Loops ™ Of Autumn Posted on November 14, 2021 by Marian Allen A WRITING PROMPT FROM ME TO YOU: Favorite cereal (no, Froot-Loops ™ is not mine). MA Share this:EmailFacebookTwitterPinterestLinkedInMoreRedditTumblrPrintPocketLike this:Like Loading... Related About Marian Allen I was born in Louisville, Kentucky, but now live in the woods in southern Indiana. Though I only write fiction, I love to read non-fiction. The more I learn about this world, the more fantastic I see it is. Marian Allen's Google profile
Michael HodgesNovember 14, 2021 at 8:28am
I’ve had many cereals, with looped froots and wheats that shed cream, puffs of cocoa and smacks of sugar. I’ve had many breakfasts, so many of them made of Not-Cereal: eggses and toasts and fritters, and goats (yes, breakfast goat, a wondrous thing as the desert sun threatens from beyond Iranian mountains and soldiers grumble at their misfortune).
But staring at the Froot Loops of Autumn, I think of one breakfast in particular, itself made of fine ingredients: Autumn, and Shame, and Fear, and Determination. And Wisdom. And wet snow, lots of wet snow.
Also, burned bacon and eggs. Dreadful, and glorious.
At the age of 15 I got my first real lesson in just how little I knew of life. It’s a tough pill to swallow when you’re at the age you know everything. (Honestly, back then I knew everything and nobody wanted to listen. Today I’m an idiot but people keep asking me questions. The world is a mysterious place.)
It was squirrel season and I wanted not only to go squirrel hunting, but to be a man. A very manly man, rife with self-sufficiency and woodland skills, a veritable Dan’l Boone as it were. So I made plans to go hunting and to enjoy a very manly breakfast in the forest, the way REAL hunters do (y’know, in books and movies, or on television, where I had learned how things really operate).
With a cheap Boyscout aluminum cooking mess and a thermos, I prepared my kit the night before. When Zero-Three-Thirty rolled around with its cantankerous alarm, I rolled out of bed excitedly, prepared to successfully hunt and then prepare my very first all-on-my-own woodland breakfast of bacon, eggs, and very manly coffee with plenty of sugar.
In darkness I trekked two miles through semi-melty snow as the temperatures twitched and fluttered back and forth, above and below freezing. And finally reaching my destination, I set up my spot. One quick cup of coffee to help warm me where I lay quite foolishly on the ground in my overalls and multiple layers of flannel and thermals, jeans and t-shirts.
The squirrel hunt itself was meaningless, if I’m honest. I didn’t care whether I got a squirrel or not. No, hobbit-like I was infinitely more excited with anticipation for breakfast than I was with hunting; and when it was finally light enough I set about the real business of the day.
What I didn’t know was that the business of the day was about Wake-Up Calls and Harsh Reality.
You see, cooking your breakfast in the forest requires FIRE. And yes, I had a book of paper matches; and yes, I’d watched my father build countless fires in the woodstove that rested safely in our kitchen.
Fire in the wet, wet woods when one has no real experience with fire — this is another matter entirely.
Wet sticks, just sticks at random with no real understanding of tinder or kindling… and damp grass, because don’t you use some grass for something or other when you start a fire?
Ten frustrated minutes later, having gone quite unsuccessfully through match after match, I had two matches left and was staring at the safely-nested eggs in my mess… the three proud strips of bacon now appearing woeful and wilted in their plastic sandwich baggie. More painful than the rumbling of my empty stomach, more painful than the seeping, creeping cold of my damp boots and wet overalls, more painful than anything imaginable was the awful shame, the humiliation inherent the idea of returning home with either the eggs and bacon I’d taken with me, or the lie of success when in reality I had thrown them away in order to avoid laughter.
I sat there a while. Quite a long while, in fact, wondering what to do. Finally I made a decision, one that was the first step in actually becoming a man: the act of FINDING A WAY when a way must be had.
Stripping down every single layer of clothing I had — boots, because things had to come off and wouldn’t fit over them, my overalls, multiple layers of socks over and under thermals, past shirts tucked this way and that, I finally made it down to the one item I could manage without for a few hours: my underwear. Standing there all but naked in the December forest, miles from anyone, I shed my skivvies and donned everything else as quickly as I could manage, embarrassed and frustrated with myself, but also semi-proud of having come up with a solution.
The only way it could have been worse would have been if my idea failed. Fortunately, it did not. In short order, having managed to light my underwear on fire, I had enough of a blaze going to pile on more damp, smoky wood and build enough of a pathetic little campfire to crack eggs and burn them because I hadn’t the sense to burn my bacon first in order to render some grease.
I ate burned eggs that stuck viciously to the pan. I ate burned bacon that did much the same, coming out a kind of semi-rubbery charcoal. And I drank my coffee like a Man, a damned manly Man if ever there was one.
But I also began the road to Manhood a bit differently, because I knew how close I’d come to total failure. There was no one else there to laugh and point, no one to judge; but I knew. I could have ditched everything and gone home, lied about it even if only to myself. But I’d have known. Instead I found a way, and I recognized both how little I actually knew, and the need to learn more if I ever wanted this desperate struggle to become a tangible, secure reality.
Since that day I’ve made Fire a bit of a study. I won’t pretend expertise; there are people out there who know things about fire-making and -building I likely never shall, But I’m no slouch. A woman once watched me prepare a fire in a pit and remarked “That looks more like an act of art or passion than it does just somebody throwing a fire together.” I take pride in preparing a fire, maximizing heat, minimizing the effort of lighting. I’d rather take ten minutes getting a fire ready to use one match than to take five half-arsing it and another five plus several matches trying to light.
And it all started with breakfast in the autumn.
Marian AllenNovember 14, 2021 at 10:47am
You have THE BEST STORIES!! <3