A sordid tale of Cookery, villainy, deception, and opossums
I am not a Viking. I lack the taste for violence, the desire for blood and guts and sweat and tears, the drive necessary to subdue lesser men, to take what is theirs and make it your own, to use wealth and hardened steel to make peasants do your bidding. I am not a Viking, but I’ve wrestled with them and lived to tell the tale I’m about to tell.
Being of European ancestry it’s likely that I have Viking blood coursing through my veins, share at least a bit of their DNA, but reject any affinity for the raping and pillaging they are so widely known for. I do not identify with the colonial inclinations of either the British or Roman empires, nor with the marauding hoards of the Nordic clans. I do not belong to a conquering clan, but rather to the poets and romantics of the Emerald Isle. I am a lover but have also been known to rise up when challenged. The Irish are peaceful people until we are not, and then you might find yourself taking an eternal nap in a bog of peat, such as it is.
I am Irish by heritage and until the New World of the Americas opened its doors to us, we never went farther than the shores of our own island, usually not much farther than the corner pub, and rarely outside our own village. We fought only with the neighboring clans of our own people and even then, they were more like friendly skirmishes than anything you might consider prolonged. We sang songs and wrote poetry about our own kings even though we were rulers of little more than sheep and hills of green.
In the early days, before he launched Viking Ranges, a company that makes luxury kitchen decor, John Jacob, Jr worked for the circus as a carnival barker. Born in Greenwood, Mississippi, young John dreamed of being a big-shot like his pappy but knew he didn’t have the book learning to make it out of the backwater town he’d been born into. So when the circus came to town, he kissed his mother, shook his father’s hand, and rode off into the wild blue yonder, never to return, or so he thought.
His was to become the life of the flimflam man, a grifter, and a charlatan. He stole from unsuspecting rubes and conned the wealthy benefactors that crossed his path, through the elaborate facade of a shiny appearance, and a silver tongue.
But as all good things must end, it wasn’t long before life on the road got to young John, so he married Maggie, the bearded lady who’d taught him how to cook, and they settled back down in Greenwood, Mississippi, in the house he’d been born in.
Both his parents had died in the years since he’d left, having gotten themselves mixed up with a band of snake-wielding Anabaptists that was to become the cause of their early demise. The way they told it, it was all part of a tent revival with a newly ordained preacher who apparently didn’t know his way around copperheads as much as they’d been led to believe at the time. John Jacob, Sr. and his mousey wife Shirley were the victims of an overactive imagination and a serious lack of understanding when it came to modern toxicology. Fortunately for John Jr, his parents died in their first attempt at salvation and so hadn’t had time to give away his inheritance to the grifting, itinerant preacher. He was able to move directly into the old homestead without much fuss at all.
You’re probably wondering how I come to have a tale about a young grifter from a backwater town in Mississippi with a sordid past, and I agree it seems fairly far-fetched and little to do with Nordic hoards, but it’s all true, cross my heart and hope to die. You see, it all began with opossum pie and ended with a birthday present for my wife some thirty years later.
To be continued…