- When grilling a steak from a deer, I think about that morning in the deer woods, it is special.
- Cooking a wild turkey in my smoker, my mind travels back to a spring morning, a beautiful sunrise, the gobbles.
- Saying grace before meals, among other things, is a way to remember God and share special blessings with your family and friends.
By Larry Whiteley
When I was growing up on the farm, saying grace was something we did before a meal. Our food back then came from my grandmother’s garden or wild plants around the farm. She gathered eggs from the chickens she raised. On special occasions, she would kill one and fry it up. Grandpa raised hogs and butchered them himself. He cured the meat in a smokehouse and milked the cows by hand. Almost everything for every meal came from that old farm. It was important to thank God for what He had provided us.
Today when our family gathers for Thanksgiving and Christmas meals, one of us says grace as we all hold hands and bow our heads. We don’t always do that at other meals when we are all together.
Saying grace before meals, among other things, is a way to remember God, not our credit card, provided the meal. Even if you are not a believer, saying grace recognizes the people whose hard work brought food to your holiday table, daily meals at home or eating out: farmers, grocery store clerks, friends, relatives or restaurant chefs. If you are a non-believer, I would be happy to tell you about a true story that can change your life.
Several times I have been asked to say grace at luncheon meetings, banquets, or church. As a believer, it is an honor to do that. I always hope that what I say will touch the hearts of those listening and get their eyes on God instead of the depressing evening news or what they are seeing or reading on their smartphones.
I will admit that I don’t say grace before every meal. At home, it’s just my wife and me. We usually don’t. When I go through McDonald’s for a biscuit sandwich to eat on my way fishing, I don’t. When I stop by Arby’s for a roast beef sandwich after a morning hunt, I don’t. I should be thanking God before every meal, but I don’t, even though I should. I don’t know anyone that does.
It is much easier to say grace over the game I have harvested or fish I have caught and prepared for a meal. Maybe that’s because I have a close connection to them, as grandma and grandpa had on that old farm. It is hard to have that feeling with pizza out of a box, roasted chicken in a plastic container, a hamburger and fries in a sack, or store-bought groceries.
When grilling a steak from a deer, I think about that morning in the deer woods. I remember the beautiful sunrise peeking up over the hill. I remember the frosted field, the crows calling, the birds fluttering through the trees, the squirrels running around looking for nuts, and the bobcat walking by.
I remember when that deer first appeared. The deer never even knew I was there in the tree. I remember kneeling beside it, laying my hand on it, and thanking the deer for giving its life to feed my family. I remember looking up and thanking God for my time in his creation. I remember field-dressing it and thinking this deer would feed the crows, turkey vultures, coyotes, raccoons, opossums, and other animals. When I eat any part of that deer, I say grace.
If I am cooking a wild turkey breast in my smoker, my mind travels back to a spring morning and another beautiful sunrise. Birds were singing while crows were talking to each other as always. Everything was green, and wildflowers were blooming everywhere. I heard turkey wings flapping when they flew down from their roost. My hen decoys were poised and ready in front of my hiding place. My Jake decoy was near the hens and close enough to make a gobbler want to come in and kick his butt for trying to mess with his ladies.
A gobble came from over the slight rise to my left. I gave a soft purr with the mouth call I hoped would say to him, “Come on in. I am ready for you.”
He answered me with a booming gobble. My heart rate increased dramatically. I never made another call because he quickly appeared over the rise. He fanned his tail feathers and puffed out his chest. It was his way of saying, “Look how handsome I am.”
Then he saw the Jake decoy. He immediately went over and attacked it knocking it to the ground. The gobbler stood there over the battered fake Jake and strutted out for the ladies again. When he came out of his strutting display, my shotgun boomed. He flopped around for a minute or two. The hens disappeared over the rise. It took one gobble, two struts, and a gobbler was on the ground. It is not always that easy, believe me.
I smooth its bronze feathers in the early morning sun and thank it for feeding my family. The gobblers fan, beard, and spurs hang on my wall with others. The smoked turkey breast is another reminder of a great day in the turkey woods. There was no hesitation in saying grace when I sat down to eat it or the morel mushrooms I found that day.
It is the same with fish I catch. I don’t lay my hand on them and thank them for giving their life to feed my family like I do turkey and deer. But when I fry, grill, or smoke the fish I caught, I remember when I caught them. I see the sun or the moon reflecting on the water. I see the eagle sitting in a tree. I see the deer at the water’s edge. I hear the water lapping against the boat or rippling down the stream. I hear my lure hit the water.
When I am out on a camping trip, I feel close to God. My meal may not be fish or game, but I try to say grace over my camp meal if it’s just a hot dog grilled on a stick. As I sit around the campfire, watching the flames flicker and dance with nature all around me, I look up and say thank you.
When I take the life of a game animal or fish, I don’t take that lightly. I remind myself it is through the gifts He gave me to be a hunter and a fisherman that I was able to take the game or catch the fish. I will always be thankful to God for the great outdoors He created for me to enjoy my camping, hunting and fishing. I will always try to remember to say grace before a camp meal and before I enjoy eating the wild game or fish that I have prepared at home for a meal. Saying grace is the least I can do for all God has done for me.