Caesar's Meat

Readers of these pages may recall J. Frank Dobie's Texas stories of pet rattlesnakes and "cold-nosed" hounds, but his twenty-five year-old cow is apparently intended as fact, not fancy

“Upon what meat doth this, our Caesar, feed, That he is grown so great?” Ignorance prevents anybody from answering categorically, but I would bet a silver dollar against the hole in a doughnut that Caesar did not feed on milk-fed turkey or battery-fed chicken or baby beef or any other form of flesh which, after it is cooked, can be eaten with a spoon as easily as with knife and fork. A cowboy said he would as soon ride against the wind with a funnel in his mouth as try to make a meal of Post Toasties. There is probably as much food value in Post Toasties as in a chicken that never has exercised. A strong meat, a nourishing meat, has fibers in the muscles. Fibers in the muscles are made only through a certain amount of exercise. There is as much difference between the spooned-up substance of a denatured chicken and a chicken that has run around a farm rustling some of its food as there is between mutton roast and snails. A friend has been spoiling me by bringing eggs from free-running chickens on a farm, not from cooped-up hens. These eggs are fertile as well as fresh. I can smell, taste, feel the virtues in them, in contrast to the minus qualities of lily-white infertile hothouse eggs.

Antonio Fierro tie Blanco begins that rollicky narrative entitled The Journey of the Flame by saying that it was an old Spanish custom for a man, when he had reached the age of one hundred, to call all his relations together and narrate to them the highlights of his life. When the Flame reached one hundred he felt so good he didn't call his parientes together, but at the age of a hundred and three he felt himself weakening and sent out the call. If, as he explained to the clan, he had fed on bull meat throughout his life as he had fed on it when he was a boy, he would not be slowing down so now. There might be something to what he claimed. It is a great mistake for people to think that the doctors have prolonged vitality. They have prolonged the average span of existence by saving babies from death; they have added little to positive living.

For me, at least, the evidence is strong that vitality is being depleted by lack of the kind of meat that the Caesars used to feed on. Contrary to the beliefs of many, it is not the oil companies that have for the last several years been prospering most; it is the pharmaceutical companies, now selling tons of tranquilizers to put into cattle on feed so they won't stir around and walk off tallow. The feeders want these cattle to get fat and weigh high, even if the fat and flesh are flabby. Neither the manufacturers of tranquilizers nor the feeders give a whoop whether the cattle have any fibers in their muscles or not. I put muscleless, fiberless, tranquilized beef in the same category with spoon vittles.

A long time ago in any country town you could smell a butcher shop afar off, not because the meat was tainted but because it was strong. Back in the old range days, a steer wasn't really beef until he was four years old or more. When a person gets matured beef, not too fat, with fibers in the muscles, he has something fit to make a Caesar conquer. The Madero Revolution that began in Mexico in 1910 didn't end until millions of acres were virtually denuded of cattle. Before the state of Coahuila, which joins Texas, was restocked, I was on the Rio Grande one time with a Big Bend country rancher. He had some mares over on the south side of the river and wanted to see a ranchero living on the Mexico side. Panthers were eating up all the colts. This ranchero wasn't at home. He had been trailing a ladino (outlaw) steer for several days to shoot him and get his meat. While we were there, he came in with it. A person could smell it from nearly as far as he could hear the pack horse hitting the rocks with his feet. We ate some of that meat, maybe eighteen years old. It was strong enough to need some chewing, and it was worth chewing on.

Graves Peeler, who ranches down in the brush country of lower Texas, has, I think, a better herd of authentic Longhorn cattle than any other individual in the United States. Last year he killed a twenty-five-year-old cow, a red with black nose, black tail, and black hoofs. She was in good condition for her age, Graves Peeler says, but “rough, like all old cattle and old people. She had lost her girlish figure, but by no means her activity. She had been eating prickly pear (with the thorns singed off) seven or eight months out of each year for the past thirteen years of drought. She was gentle enough to eat soft ground feed that the milk cows ate, but could never resist the temptation to try hooking any dog that came in sight of her.”

Graves Peeler let a butcher in Pleasanton have the meat, and about this time a friend from another county who had had a bad heart attack came through and asked the butcher for aged beef. His doctor had told him to eat protein in the form of red meat. The butcher showed him the carcass of the Graves Peeler cow. The man took home twenty-five pounds. He old Graves Peeler later that the meat made him feel so good that he wished he had bought the whole carcass. He said it was tender.

I have to argue against myself in setting up the panther, now generally and pompously called “mountain lion” as an authority on the best meat to eat for gaining strength. When a panther kills, he doesn't carry on any of the butcher-shop cuts. He rips an animal open and feasts on the insides, particularly on the fat of the intestines and the kidneys. I am not sure, but I think he also eats the intestines themselves. That's what the Indians, who had all sorts of meat to choose from, preferred. A doctor has told me that the core of vitamins and proteins in grazing animal is located in the innards.

A lot of the best meat on earth goes to waste every deer-hunting season. The traditional custom is to take hams and backstraps and let ribs and the meat around the lower parts of hams and shoulders go. The lower leg meat is all muscle and is full of juice. I believe there is no better-tasting or more nourishing meat than the ribs of a big fat buck roasted over coals. It doesn't need salt, pepper, or any oilier seasoning. All it needs is to he done to a turn; the juices keep inside it.

I cannot prove that wild meat has something that domesticated meat doesn't have in the way of vitamins and nourishment. I only know it has always tasted better to me and has made me feel more thrifty. I am pretty sure that a pound of fat wild turkey is worth more to the body than eighteen pounds of much-advertised milk-fed turkey. As the old saying goes, “You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.” You can't grow a Caesar out of the equivalent in food value of air swallowed through a funnel.