Jim Casada

A sportsman’s Rx for the mullygrubs

Venison is a sustainable meat and perfect way to beat the mullygrubs, mountain lingo for times you are “ill tempered, sulky, despondent, vague or unwellness.”
Venison is a sustainable meat and perfect way to beat the mullygrubs, mountain lingo for times you are “ill tempered, sulky, despondent, vague or unwellness.” MCT

The word “mullygrubs” – sometimes spoken as mollygrubs –is likely missing from the vocabulary of most readers.

It’s a quaint example from what is sometimes called mountain talk. The “Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English” defines it as “ill temper, sulkiness, despondence, vague unwellness.”

My Grandpa Joe often used the word, most commonly in February. “The miseries or mullygrubs will lay holt on a body,” he would say. “No wonder February is the shortest month of the year. If it was as long as the rest of ‘em we wouldn’t be able to stand it.”

Now Grandpa was apt to gild the lily a bit at times, being a firm believer in the adage suggesting that “’tis a poor piece of cloth that can use no embroidery,” but when it came to February and mullygrubs. he pretty well had things figured out.

Grandpa was as full of tricks as a pet ‘coon, and he had plenty of ways to warding off late winter blues. Thinking back on those days,I realize he pretty well had things figured out. Here are his nostrums for outmaneuvering the mullygrubs along and a a few of my own.

Grandpa loved to plan future hunting and fishing trips as well as reminiscing about those from the past. He called this “dreamin’ and schemin’,” and a good session of planning, or reliving past experiences, certainly can be a picker upper.

He also enjoyed browsing the sporting goods section of the two big mail-order catalogs of his day,Montgomery-Ward and Sears & Roebuck. To my knowledge he never bought a single item from either, obtaining his few simple outdoor needs from a small local store. But he could look at a picture of a dandy little .22 and talk about how it would wreak havoc on squirrels.

Today we can walk in his footsteps, not only in catalogs but in stores. Within a 50-mile radius of Rock Hill there are multiple “big box” businesses devoted to the outdoors and a number of truly impressive local establishments with enough displays to interest any avid hunter or fisherman. There are also many trade shows, conventions, and exhibitions held at this time of the year. There’s no lack of sporting “eye candy” available to us.

Grandpa wasn’t much of a reader, I never saw him read anything but the Bible. To my knowledge, he never did any cooking. Yet those are two areas where sportsmen can find indoor escape when the outdoors is a rainy mess and gloom is a regular companion.

Reading options are almost limitless.

I’ve been busy selecting stories for inclusion in a quail-hunting anthology. Given the fact that quail huntingtodayis but a pale shadow of what it once was, such works are doubly appealing.

South Carolina’s own Havilah Babcock tops the list.Any of his five books offers pure delight.

David Henderson lived in Charlotte, and several of his works – most notably “Sundown Covey” and “Covey Rise and Other Pleasures” – are dandies.

A number of the stories in Robert Ruark’s “The Old Man and the Boy” deal with quail hunting.

“A Quail Hunter’s Odyssey” by Dr. Joseph Greenfield, of North Carolina, Lamar Underwood’s anthology “The Bobwhite Quail Book;” and Nash Buckingham’s works are timeless tales.

On the cooking front, whipping up a hearty soup, putting a stew in the crockpot to simmer through the day, or experimenting with what hopefully is a freezer full of venison from a successful fall deer season, have their appeal. There are few things more satisfying than sitting down to a fine meal featuring game you have killed, cleaned, and cooked.

Anything from mustard-fried venison steak to chicken-fried venison, from an old-fashioned vegetable and deer meat stew, to a cheeseburger venison pie, is delectable and sho-nuff comfort food. Add things such as wild turkey tenders, fried quail, or a fish dish for variety, and suddenly the mullygrubs don’t seem quite so oppressive.

All it takes to defeat depression is traveling one or two of the roads mentioned above, and if weather permits, taking a long walk or getting out for some late-season squirrel hunting will stir the sportsman’s blood. It’s always helpful to recognize the opening of spring turkey season isn’t that far down the road.