Mail Call: September/October 2007

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Elwin Trump
Big Red dutifully devours his breakfast bun outside the deli in Scio, Oregon.

Something to Crow About

One day in 1998, a Rhode Island Red rooster appeared on the streets of Scio, Oregon (population 625). They’re not real sure how he got there, but the most popular theory is that he rode into town in the back of a pickup. The rooster, affectionately called “Big Red,” moved into the warehouse of Heikkila’s feed store and proceeded to claim the town – and the town also claimed him. Big Red was at times referred to as the mayor, town mascot or leading citizen. He even rode in a special cage during the parade at the Scio’s annual sheep dog trial days.

I heard about Big Red from folks around the countryside who noted that CNN and Fox News as well as newspapers from everywhere had been in Scio to interview him.

I had to go meet this star, too. I arrived at Heikkila’s about the time they were unlocking the sliding door at the loading dock. I asked, “I hear you have a rooster around here called Big Red?”

“Yeah, sure do,” the man replied. “He’s just inside.”

“Suppose I could get some pictures of him?” “Well, that will be no problem,” he answered with a laugh. “He’ll come right out and pose for you.”

And sure enough, the rooster trotted up to me on the dock. Like a model on a runway, he turned this way and that, almost as if to say, “OK, do your thing.” The warehouse man said, “You’d better hurry, though, he has a date with the bakery delivery truck at the deli up the street. They give him a roll, and he doesn’t want to be late.”

Big Red posed for half a dozen shots before darting down the stairs and across the street, with me following behind. As he rounded a corner, the bakery guys spotted him with a loud, “Ah, there he is!” Big Red paddle-footed right up to them and got his roll with a little tiny dish of water – in a ritual that was repeated daily.

I marveled to a couple of folks, “It’s amazing that the local cats haven’t done him in by now.” To which they replied, “Well, a few have tried, but they found out they weren’t big enough. He’s pretty formidable with those big spurs and that huge wing spread. Cats take off in the other direction when he’s around.”

Last summer Big Red’s luck ran out. One afternoon, while walking home to the feed store, he was mauled by a dog that leapt out the window of a parked car.

He staggered a few steps to the vet’s office and collapsed, making it as far as the examination table.

Big Red’s passing was reported far and wide, and while the community mourned the loss, his inspiration lives on.

Elwin Trump
Wymore, Nebraska

GRIT Goes to College

As a long-time reader, I wanted to drop you a note about your July/August 2007 article on War Gardens during World War I. The timing of that article could not have been better as I am teaching U.S. History this summer and the issue arrived the day before I was scheduled to deal with World War I. I was able to use the article’s information to augment the materials I already had, such as Germany’s attempt to use sawdust as a food supplement. I was wondering if I might get permission to supply my students with copies of the article each time I teach the course?

David Bibb
University of Great Falls
Great Falls, Montana

You made our day, David. Feel free to distribute copies of the article to your students. – Editors

Rural America Makes Connections

Thank you for your story about in the January/February issue of GRIT.

I have been online dating for almost two years without really finding my match in life. I live in a rural town of 600 people in South Dakota. After reading your story, I logged onto and put up a profile. I met a few guys on there, but about a month ago, Steve sent me a flirt. After talking every day since then and a 540 mile one-way drive from him just for a night to meet me, I’m hooked on this guy! Wedding bells aren’t too far into the future! Thank you, GRIT and!

Andrea Thiele
Bridgewater, South Dakota

Herbal Oil Shelf-Life

The new copy of GRIT looks great!

I noticed in the June/July Recipe Box that there were a couple of recipes for herbal oil, and I think it’s important for your readers to know that herbed oils made with fresh herbs need to be used within two to three days to avoid the chance of botulism poisoning.

Susan Belsinger
Brookeville, Maryland

Thanks for the heads up, Susan! According to the USDA’s National Center for Home Food Preservation (, “Oils may be flavored with herbs if they are made up for fresh use, stored in the refrigerator and used within 2 to 3 days. … Fresh herbs must be washed well and dried completely before storing in the oil. The very best sanitation and personal hygiene practices must be used.” – Editors

Finding Neolithic Cattle

I just wanted to let you know that Kerry cattle weren’t derived from ancient Britain but brought to Ireland from the Mediterranean Basin by the Neolithic migrants who sailed up around Spain and moved in here way-back-when. We called them the Firbolg, because they arrived with leather bags of earth, seeds and plants on their backs. Good farmers.

Lucille Redmond

We’re glad to know this, Lucille. And even happier to know GRIT is being read in Ireland! – Editors

Finding Friends with GRIT

I wanted to let you know how I found my childhood friend through GRIT magazine in 1993.

We went to grade school together from 1936-1942, and I always wondered about her. I subscribed to GRIT and read one day how people were searching for and finding friends and relatives.

There had been a flood in 1942 where we lived in McClure, Illinois. The whole town had been covered with water. My grandmother and I moved away, as did my friend and her family. I never knew where they went. Later I found out she was a school teacher in Carbondale, Illinois. So, I wrote in to GRIT about her, and fortunately one of her student’s parents saw the article. Lo and behold, she wrote me a long letter, and I answered it. We’re now in our 70s.

Thanks so much. Unfortunately we don’t have any school pictures because everything was destroyed in the flood.

Catherine McMillan
Battle Creek, Michigan

Concrete Miscalculations

The article of mine (“Build a Killer Barbecue” in the July/August issue) sure looks good in your magazine!

When I read the article over, however, I noticed that a zero had been dropped. A single bag of concrete mix was recommended; in fact that number should be 10 bags not 1 bag.

Tim Carter

Very sorry about that, Tim. We hope none of our readers discovered that the hard way. – Editors

Share Your Thoughts

GRIT welcomes letters from our readers. If you would like to comment on an article, share your opinions, or send a letter with photographs to GRIT, Mail Call, 1503 S.W. 42nd St., Topeka, KS 66609, or email us at