What’s This in My Soup?

Dave Skyberg

Don’t ask. That’s what Sourdough Sam would always say. And just between us slurpers— I’m Rusty Rudy Rolloff by the way, nice to meet’cha— that was probably a good idea. Oh, don’t get me wrong. Sam’s soup was always hot and yummy. We just weren’t sure what the heck he put in it every day.

He would never tell us what the soup was. It was just “the soup.” And we were happy to have it. After all, the winters are long and cold, and loggin’ is a hard job. Sam’s soups and stews were just the ticket for warmin’ up your belly and your spirits, especially when you had a big hunk of sourdough bread to dunk in it.

It got to be kind of a contest sittin’ around the mess tent table. We’d all stir it up and stare into the soup and try to recognize the little bits and pieces floating around in there. There’s a carrot! That’s a pea! I think that’s an onion! Veggies were pretty easy to figure out.

And then there was the meat. Or at least we were pretty sure it was meat. What’s that white stuff? Tastes like chicken. But everything tastes like chicken. Turtle, lizard, garter snake. Nobody knew. And Sam wasn’t talkin’.

What’s that brown stuff? I’m bettin’ it’s beef. Could be venison. Might be bear meat. But then again, it could be gopher, groundhog or some other varmint. Sam was right. It was best not to ask, as long as it tasted good.

But then there was the broth. There was just somethin’ about the taste of that broth that nobody could put a finger on. Even if it was a creamy soup, that taste would still be there, teasing us in the background. Was it coffee grounds? Eggshells? Worshty-sheer sauce?

That broth was the real mystery. We figured meat was meat, it was just that darn broth! We had to find out.

Sneaky Pete Polaski came up with a plan. Sam always made the soup around midnight, so it would be good and brewed and bubbly the next day. If we could just get a peek at what he was puttin’ into that broth... we were itchin’ to find out.

This was the plan. Right around midnight, me and Pete would pretend to get into a ruckus right outside the cook shack where Sam was makin’ the soup all by his lonesome. Sure as shootin’, he’d run out to yell at us and shoo us off to bed.

Now here’s where the plan gets good. Skinny Jimmy Jenkins would be crouchin’ under the cook shack porch, and when Sam came out to bust up me and Pete, Skinny would sneak inside and hide in the broom closet. Now there’s a knothole in the broom closet door, and Skinny would surely be able to see what Sam was puttin’ in the soup. It was a great plan!

Well, we were gettin’ a little nervous as midnight rolled around. Sam was a big fella and tough as they come, so me and Pete laid low behind the cordwood, and Skinny was already under the porch. Pretty soon we heard Sam comin’ down the path, whistlin’ his favorite tune. We heard the cook shack door open and close and the light came on in the window. It was now or never.

Me and Pete got right outside the cook shack window and pretended to mix it up.

“You’re just a big dumb dummy!” I hollered at Pete. “Oh yeah?” Pete hollers back, “Well take this!” and Pete up and smacks me right in the kisser with the coal shovel. CLAAAANG!

“Jeepers, Pete,” I says, “that wasn’t in the plan...” and the next thing you know, old Sam came runnin’ out the door and kicked us both in the rear end, grabbed us by the ears and shooed us off to our bunks. He was really mad, and we sure hoped he didn’t find Skinny hidin’ in the broom closet. He’d break Skinny in two!

Sure enough, Skinny had snuck into the cook shack and sqeezed into the closet, peekin’ through that knothole.

Sam came back inside and started the big soup pot full of water on the stove to boilin’. Now since Sam was such a big guy, Skinny couldn’t see exactly what Sam was doin’, but he was choppin’ and slicin’ and stirrin’ up a storm in that soup pot.

Oh no! What if all this hullabaloo was just for nothin’! What if Skinny couldn’t see what goes in that darn broth! And what if he got caught! He was sweatin’ bullets! And that’s when Sam went outside.

Did Skinny dare go take a peek? Sam would thrash him good. And then Skinny heard Sam splittin’ kindling out at the woodpile. Now was his chance if there ever was one!

Skinny slowly opened the closet door... CREEEEEEAK... and tippy-toed over to the stove. He bumped his knee on the butcher block, but he didn’t dare make a peep. Inch by inch, he sneaked over and peered into the boiling pot, smothered in a cloud of steam. He couldn’t see a thing!

But he couldn’t stop now. He had to know! Ever so gingerly, Skinny took the big wooden spoon and stirred it around. He felt something— something big and floppy! Tremblin’ like a treed possum, he shut his eyes tight and slowly lifted out the spoon. He opened his eyes and...

SOCKS! Sourdough Sam’s dirty socks! EEEEEWWWWW!!!

Well old Skinny dropped the spoon and skee-daddled out the back door, tippin’ over the cupboard in the process and makin’ the biggest ruckus you can imagine. Sam burst into the cook shack in a fury, ready to rassle a bear! Good thing for Skinny, he was long gone, halfway to Hibbing!

Sam never did find out who was in the cook shack that night, but by gum, we found out what his secret soup ingredient was. It wasn’t pretty, but it sure was tasty, and we slurped it up every day without sayin’ a word.

Now if we could only figure out what that meat is...