Estelle Morse's Recipe For Raccoon Stew

Estelle Morse's Recipe For Raccoon Stew

A Story by drcornelius

Humorous story of a hunting accident


My brother wasn’t big on visiting hospitals.  The last time he was in one was when our dad was to have surgery and my brother and I showed up to donate blood.  When finished we were walking down the hall and all of a sudden he lost track of his legs. They just sort of folded up under him and he slumped to that spotless, highly-polished, hard floor.  Yup, he passed out right there in the hall under those endless rows of fluorescent lights. A nurse came running and put something under his nose that made him come around. That was when we learned about his aversion to the sight of human blood.  

This time his reason for setting foot in a hospital was to visit me.  I asked him if he was feeling kind of faint. He told me as long as he kept looking at the trees through that window on the other side of my bed he was okay.  There was no blood in sight and he was safely planted in a chair. No need to rely on his legs. He kept apologizing for the accident.

Whoops, that’s the end of this story.  I seem to have gotten ahead of myself.

We lived in central Michigan, out in the country.  Although we didn’t have a farm, we had some woodlands and a meadow and we did many of the things farm boys did back then.  One of those was to put fresh game on the table for supper. We hunted ducks on the river, pheasants in the cornfields, rabbits wherever we could find them, deer in the woods and even harvested frogs from the marsh, for their legs, with our BB guns.  One animal we had never hunted for food was raccoon. There were a lot of raccoons in the area and we wondered if they were edible.

To find out, we went over to see Estelle Morse, a neighbor lady with a heart full of love and a mouth full of gums.  The two things she loved doing most were talking and feeding people. We went to ask her about cooking raccoon. Mrs. Morse was in her 90s back then and had seen and cooked just about everything wild.  She told us “Sure enough. Raccoons make really fine eating. You soak it overnight in milk to get the gamey taste out and then cut it up and cook it all day, nice and slow, just like you’d cook any stew.  Just keep a small wood fire going in the kitchen stove. They’re especially good served with sweet potatoes. Goes together like cows and udder.”

That’s all we needed to hear.  The only thing keeping us from going out hunting was not knowing whether we needed a hunting license for raccoons.  Turns out we could hunt them any time of year without a license as long as we were hunting on our own property. Everything was set.  It was early November so most of the leaves were off the trees and if we were able to tree a racoon we would be able to see it and shoot it while it was up in the tree.  It’s a whole lot easier to do it that way than to try to talk the raccoon into coming down to get shot.

At first mom wasn’t too keen on the idea of making a raccoon stew but we were able to convince her since we had Mrs. Morse’s blessing.  She wasn’t about to let word get out that she disputed the word of Mrs. Morse when it came to cooking wild game. Mom made it clear that the skinning and cleaning part was to be our responsibility.  It’s not that mom was squeamish about such things. After all, she was the one who taught us to skin and clean the rabbits. I think maybe her reluctance was based on the thought of having to stare into those cute, masked eyes of the dead animal but we didn’t argue.  If it was easier for her to deal with cut up pieces of meat than to stare down a dead raccoon, we understood that.

Now, generally, you use shotguns for small game and a rifle for large game, like deer and bear.  For you non-hunters out there, shotguns shoot a bunch of pellets about the size of a BB whereas a rifle shoots its load all in one big hunk of lead.  One big hunk of lead would do a lot of damage to a rabbit whereas several small pellets, although deadly, would do less damage. Of course, the rabbit might find it difficult to admire the distinction.  

Anyway, we were fresh out of shotgun shells so we decided to get the rifle off the rack and use it instead.  This particular rifle was a World War II relic British Enfield 303. The bullets carried 180 grains of lead, almost one half ounce.  That’s a lot, especially for a critter as small as a raccoon. Hey, we were teenage boys. Teenage human boy animals have never been known to excel at cautious well-reasoned judgements.

The weather was cold and the sky was gray, the way it usually is in Michigan during November.  We set off into the woods with Brownie, our trusted mutt. We hadn’t been out for more than about an hour when, sure enough, Brownie treed a raccoon.  It was up in a poplar tree about thirty feet off the ground. That raccoon had picked a secure location in a crotch where the tree forked into two equal parts.  Now this wasn’t a particularly big poplar tree. Must have been about six inches in diameter just below the crotch, whereas each of the two parts after it forked must have been about four inches in diameter.  

That raccoon was laying in the crotch of the tree looking down, supremely confident that he was safe for this showdown.  He had engaged in conflicts with dogs before and was pretty sure they were not known for their climbing prowess. Seems he had a negligible understanding of the weapons of World War II.  

Experienced hunters that we were, we had a plan.  My brother would shoot the raccoon from his side of the tree and when it got blasted out of that crotch it would be on the other side of the tree where I would be waiting.  I had picked up a stout hunk of wood to use as a club. That would be in case the rifle shot wounded but failed to kill the raccoon. What we neglected to plan for was the possibility that the tree, not the raccoon, would become wounded and would fight back.

The shot was low.  Not my brother’s fault.  He was shooting near vertical, not horizontal.  That makes a difference. That 180 grain piece of lead hit the tree right below where it divided into that crotch.  The lead projectile began to expand upon impact, for that is the nature of lead when it hits a solid object. It tore wildly through tree fibres as though they weren’t even there.  As the lead expanded, still more tree fibres were shredded. Well, this tree was only going to do so much shredding before it decided to fight back.

Trigger Warning: Violence is about to occur resulting in injury and suffering.

We heard a loud Cracking sound followed by the top of that tree heading for the earth.  Now, of course, it fell away from the force that caused its injury, that would be my brother’s side.  Which means it fell on my side of the trunk. First I felt that raccoon smash solidly onto my head and shoulders.  After that I don’t remember anything until my mom and my brother laid me, ever so gently, in the backseat of the car to take me to the hospital.  There was a bandage around my head and I noticed my brother was avoiding looking in that direction. Both of my arms hurt like hell and someone had bound them to my sides with what appeared to be a torn up bedsheet.

It turns out that treetop, now in the shape of a V, hit me in the head and knocked me out cold.  After it bounced off my head it yoked me breaking both of my arms and that’s why I’m lying here in a hospital bed with my brother next to me apologizing for the accident.  The doc put splints on both arms and a non-bloody bandage on my head. They’re going to keep me overnight for observation.

Oh yes, the last my brother saw of that raccoon it was high-tailing through the brush.  Probably wanting to get home and write down this story from his point of view before it escaped his mind.

If you ever want to fix up a raccoon stew, this is how you do it, according to Mrs. Morse.

1 raccoon cut in pieces and soaked in milk

1 cup carrots

1 large onion, diced

1 tart apple, diced

1 ½ cups mushrooms

2 cups chicken stock

1 bottle beer

1 1/2 tbsp flour

1-2 tbsp olive oil

4 cloves garlic

2 sprigs rosemary

10 sprigs thyme

small bunch parsley

Cook it slow and gentle all day long on the back of the stove with just a little wood fire.  Serve with homemade dandelion wine (Don’t forget the sweet potatoes).

© 2018 drcornelius

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I love your seemingly wandering story & the way it loops back to the hospital scene as if by accident. Your storytelling is top-notch when writing in this down-home style reminiscent of twisting oral yarns. I love the way you get a little technical when it comes to guns & other details of country life that many people might not be aware of -- just the right amount of detail. I love factual correctness in a story, too. It's like a freakin' turn-on, I get so tired of vague storytelling. This is a great story, but I won't be having any raccoon stew! *wink! wink!* Fondly, Margie

Posted 1 Year Ago

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Added on May 31, 2018
Last Updated on May 31, 2018
Tags: Hunting, Raccoon



Sarasota, FL

Poet, song writer, dream chaser, and retired psychologist. I thrive in the mountains of northern New Jersey during the summer and Sarasota Florida during the winter. more..