I don’t know about all of you, but I am astonished at how high the food prices have risen. Even only a few basic staples in the basket shoots my bill skyward. So you know that all the local food banks are overwhelmed by families and individuals in need. Sarah Black is giving everyone a chance to contribute to the food bank in her new state by donating the proceeds of her story, Wild Onions, at Amazon. I will let her tell you in her words.
And while you are reading this story (and helping feed those in need), don’t forget about your local food banks too. Our help is needed everywhere! Thanks, Sarah!
Eat! Eat! Welcome Back to Idaho, and a New Story by Sarah Black
Now we’re settled in Boise, the kid and I have resumed our volunteer jobs at the Idaho Food Bank. Mostly we’re sorters. For a two hour shift, we take bulk food, such as dried peas or instant mashed potatoes, and portion it into person or family sized plastic bags. Sometimes we have barrels of donated food from food drives, and we make up family food boxes. Each box should hold some canned veggies and fruit, some canned meat, rice or pasta, bread, etc. It always seems we run out of canned fruit first, and some boxes don’t have any canned tuna or chicken at all. We also make up backpacks—these backpacks go home with kids on Friday from school and have enough food for the weekends, though the word is the kids usually share with their younger sibs.
I’m obsessed with feeding everyone, have been for years. It seems pretty normal to me. I remember my great aunts and grandmother cooking for hours, in steaming hot kitchens with no AC in south Texas, southern Louisiana, hair frizzing madly in the humidity, but nobody went hungry and nobody went home without some food to hold them over for the trip. Nothing fancy, but beans and cornbread can feed a lot of kids. Food, and feeding people, was something of a holy calling for the women who raised me. The stories from the Dust Bowl, the Depression, when we lost our farm and could no longer feed ourselves from our own land- these stories cast a long shadow over my family. The old men were still talking about what had happened, what they should have done, when I was a kid.
And of course I read The Grapes of Wrath when I was 16, an impressionable age, and this story echoed the family stories I’d heard growing up, about losing the land, being hungry, not having any way to feed the kids. It’s been a long time since anyone in my family went hungry. In fact, I’m writing this with a peanut butter and jelly, Fritos on the side, at my elbow. But I remember the stories I’d heard growing up. And I saw an echo of those stories when I first came to Idaho, back in 2007.
I went to work as a Nurse Practitioner in a clinic that served people experiencing homelessness. That’s the politically correct way to say it. We used to say, poor people. Hungry people. Hungry kids. People with no food, and no way to get food. So this idea of hunger, for me, went from old family stories from 1935, to a person fainting in the lobby of my clinic from hunger, or a kid coming in for shots, telling me he’d had a ketchup sandwich for supper but no breakfast yet, because they were still waiting for the week old muffins at the shelter.
The Idaho Foodbank is a cheerful place. There is usually a waiting list for volunteer jobs, and for the most part the people in these volunteer jobs are not working off their court-mandated community service. I like working there, trying to make a little food stretch a long way. But food is expensive and healthy food is even more expensive.
What I decided to do, to celebrate moving back to Idaho, is to donate a story to support the Foodbank. I published a story of mine called Wild Onions, set in Salmon, Idaho, at the Kindle store on Amazon. This story was originally published in a print anthology called Scared Stiff by MLR Press. The list price is $2.99. For each book sold, I’ll donate a meal to the Foodbank. On November 1, I’ll report back here the number of meals donated and books sold.
I’ve put some pictures up of the Salmon River, and the beautiful Idaho backcountry, and my kid on a camping trip. He and I have put away some hot dogs and marshmallows roasted over a campfire. I will only say, and I have said to him, that I am now officially too old to crawl into that tiny tent and sleep on the ground. But I’m not too old to help out at the Foodbank. I hope you’ll help me buy some healthy food in time for the holidays, to share a little in the land of plenty.
Here’s the link to Wild Onions: WILD ONIONS
THE YEAR was 1882, and the last of the native tribes had dropped to their knees and slipped on their yokes under the boots and guns of the US Cavalry. The Blackfoot were the last, and then the buffalo hunt failed. The vast plains were barren and empty, and the people began to starve. Desperation spread like poison across the land. Evil men, seeing their chance, fed on the hunger, ate the clean hearts of the people. The blood that was spilled in 1882 has not been avenged today. The ghosts are waiting for someone to set them free.
Robert looked over to the corner of the porch. Their old fishing poles were leaning against the screen. He carried them back to his chair, started untangling the nylon fishing line. Val’s pole was for serious fishermen, a supple thin Orvis fly rod with a reel full of braided yellow nylon. His pole was cheap, from Wal-Mart, with a soft cork handle and a reel with a sticky thumb button. Val laughed when he saw it, said it was for little boys fishing at reservoirs.
He put Val’s pole back in the corner, carried his down the slope to the river bank. It took him a little while to find his balance again. He didn’t try to get into the water. That would probably be too much for his shaky leg. But after a few casts he got his rhythm again, let the weight fly out low over the water.
There was a splash a bit upriver, and a moment later a young man appeared, walking down the middle of the shallow river from rock to rock in green hip waders, dressed in the dark green uniform of Fish and Wildlife. He had a fishing pole over his shoulder and a woven oak creel. From the weight of it on his shoulder, Robert could see he’d had some luck. He was Indian, Blackfoot, maybe, and his long hair was tied back at his collar. He raised a hand in greeting.
Robert nodded back. “Evening.” He reeled in his line, and the man watched the red and white bobber bouncing across the water in front of him.
The man’s face was impassive, but he blinked a couple of times when he watched the line come out of the water, bobber, lead weight, no hook. No fish. “I guess I don’t need to ask you if you have a fishing license,” the man said. “Since you aren’t really fishing.”
Robert nodded to the creel over the man’s shoulder. “Looks like you’ve had some luck.”
The man eased the basket off his shoulder, dipped it down into the icy river water. “Yes, I sure did.” He slapped the Fish and Wildlife patch on his uniform shirt. “Course, I don’t need no stinkin’ license! Just another example of the generalized corruption of the Federal Government.”
Robert grinned at him. “Wonder how many times you hear that in the course of a week? We must be in Idaho! I’m Robert Mitchell.”
The man reached for his hand and they shook. “I’m Cody Calling Eagle.