What Wild Game Did We Country Folks Eat?

Reader Contribution by Arkansas Girl
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Now, this can get a little weird, and some is based on fact (what I know) and some is based on what I read or heard. I read in a Western novel that long time ago, pioneers who settled the West ate pigeons. Even for this ‘ol country girl, that’s a bit far-fetched, but if someone said they ate pigeons, I can’t argue with her, but when I see the street pigeons in Los Angeles, I think I’ll pass.

Anyway, what wild game did we (rural Arkansas folks) eat? As a child, I remember hearing about hunters capturing and killing deer, but I don’t recall ever eating any of it. I also heard about people eating bear meat. I never ate any, but they say it has a sweet taste. I heard of people eating just about every kind of wild animal or reptile that exists in the rural USA. Does anyone really eat rattle snake? I heard that once the poison is removed from the fang (or wherever it is), the snake is edible. No thanks! My grandmother said that people ate raccoon. No thanks again. And opossum. No thanks three times. I know my grandparents ate opossum, because once I rushed into her kitchen, saw this small animal (with the baked sweet potato slices encircling it) and asked her what it was. When she said “opossum,” I picked the potatoes from around the carcass, ate them and waved the creature goodbye. The reason I couldn’t eat it is because it was claimed that this rodent is a scavenger that eats dead corpses in the cemetery. Can you imagine that? So, for that one, I said a big NO THANKS!.

I don’t doubt that in the early years when this country was being settled that families didn’t eat whatever they could find. While we may think of some creatures as distasteful, I guess if you get hungry enough, anything might taste good.

Once we were walking through the woods with our neighbor, Mrs. Brown. We helped her catch this water turtle which she took home, prepared, cooked and we all ate it. From what I remember, it tasted like my version of “wild chicken.”

The only wild animals/reptiles that I recall (in our part of the country) were black panthers, bobcats, fox, raccoon, opossum, skunks, armadillo, rabbit, squirrel, turtles, and snakes. Bears, wolves, coyotes, and deer came along long after I was grown. We didn’t eat “all of the above.”

So, on that note, “What’s for dinner tonight?” Not sure yet, but thankfully, none of the above!

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