1st Story: The Folly of Precedent
Some weeks ago I told you my “lead goat” story. The story of how mankind just like sheep will follow a “Judas goat”, as some call it, into hell or high water just as it has been doing for thousands of years and will, no doubt, continue to do so into infinity.
In my previous story which I called “Precedent, the lead goat of mankind”I told how man in his eagerness to follow a leader oft times establishes. a precedent, foolish though it may be, that he will most likely pursue throughout his lifetime.
In this story I quoted a portion of a very old poem and today I am using the entire poem to tell about the foolishness of some of those man made precedents.This old poem came to my attention some 70 years ago and to me it is not so much a poem as it is the story about the price man sometimes has to pay for his lack of lack of foresight and his inane desire to “follow the leader.”
This poem, as I found it, had no title and listed no author and while I will not claim authorship of the poem I have given it a title of my own which I think is quite fitting, so read ye now this very old story like poem which I call:
THE FOLLY OF PRECEDENT
“One day, through the primeval wood,
a calf walked home, as good calves should,
and made a trail all bent askew,
a crooked trail, as all calves do.
And then a wise bell-weather sheep
pursued that trail o’er vale and steep,
and drew the flock behind him, too,
as good bell-weathers always do.
“Since then three hundred years have fled
and I infer the calf is dead,
but from that day, through dale and glade,
in that old wood a path was made
where many men wore in and out,
and dodged, and turned, and bent about,
and uttered words of righteous wrath,
because ’twas such a crooked path.
“That forest path became a lane
that turned, and bent, and turned again.
The crooked lane became a road
where many a poor horse, with his load,
toiled on beneath the burning sun
and traveled some three miles in one.
“The years passed on in swiftness fleet,
the road became a village street,
and this before men were aware,
a city’s crowded thoroughfare.
And soon a central street was this
of a renowned metropolis,
where men, two centuries and a half,
trod in the footsteps of that calf.
“Each day a hundred thousand rout
followed that zigzag calf about,
and o’er that crooked journey went
the traffic of a continent.
A hundred thousand men were led
by one calf, near a century dead.
They follow still that crooked way
and lose a hundred years per day;
such is the reverence that’s lent
to well established precedent.
“For men are prone to go it blind
along the calf-paths of the mind,
and labor on from sun to sun,
to do what other men have done.
They follow in the beaten track
now out, now in, now forth, now back,
and still their devious course pursue,
to trod the paths that others do.
But—how the old wood gods must laugh,
who saw the foot prints of that calf,
Ah; many things this tale might teach
if I were called upon to preach
( Author Unknown)
Some people eat to live and others live to eat and to such people a restaurant in Texas without chicken fried steak and cream gravy on it’s menu will have a limited Texas clientele. Texas kids were reared on this food and it just doesn’t seem right for them to go against their raising. Apparently the Chinese have learned this truism: “A cowboy’s woman may like Chinese food, but that cowboy wants his steak and gravy.”
Since I, like the cowboy, do not especially care for the Chinese cuisine I was pleased to find chicken fried steak and cream gravy on the menu of the Chinese restaurants we patronize. So, while their cream gravy may be a bit Chinese in it’s flavor it is nevertheless on their menu and available for the connoisseur of Texas tastes.
Not knowing the history of cream gravy I would suspect that it became popular as a “poor folks” food because it could be cheaply and easily made and because it compliments so many other foods such as cornbread, biscuits, potatoes, steak and bacon. And don’t forget that it is powerful good for those who love to sop. As a matter of fact I like it so well that I use it on many other foods including Fritos, and combined with battered deep fried mushrooms it becomes the outstanding dish made popular by a San Antonio restaurant chain.
Because of it’s popularity I notice that cream gravy has become a standard in most all restaurants and always has a place in the cafeteria and buffet food lines. Like grits in the south, cream gravy is there for you whether you want it or not.
My first experience with grits came when ordering breakfast at a stopover in Alabama. When the waitress set my order in front of me I grumpily asked “What’s that stuff” pointing to a pile of white mealy substance adjacent to my ham and eggs. “Oh, that’s grits” replied the smiling waitress. And being of a tight-wad nature I said “I didn’t order that stuff”. “Oh” grinned the southern beauty, “You don’t have to pay for that—it’s a compliment of the house.” Well, I ate the stuff, liked it, and have been eating it at every opportunity since. However, I must say that it cannot hold a candle to cream gravy, because who ever heard of putting grits on biscuits, potatoes, or chicken fried steak.
FOOTNOTE: Some time ago I saw on TV that cream gravy has become so popular that you can now buy “Cream Gravy Mix” in grocery stores. Furthermore, I have a friend who says she likes cream gravy an about anything but doughnuts.