By David Crane
Hopefully, by the time this is published March will come in like a lamb and stay lamb like throughout. Winter wasn’t that bad, but it seemed to drag. We have spring clothing in the store and are ready to display it!
I had a great trip to Outdoor Retailer in Denver, where I reconnected with our long-time vendors and found a few possible new ones. And I also survived three days of skiing in Winter Park.
There are a few changes around the store this month. Our long time security specialist, Fred Baysinger, passed away. He had been providing the store with our alarm system and expansion into cameras since 1972. That was the year Uncle Bill finally put in a system after a break-in. The thief took a multitude of long guns and occupational shaving mugs that were displayed on the wall above where our groceries are stocked now.
When the sun hits the wall just right, you can still see the outline of those guns. They were never recovered, but the criminal was caught on other charges (murder!) and put to death by the State of Missouri. Before his sentence was carried out, he confessed to his other crimes, of which, the robbery at the store was one.
Uncle Bill and Fred designed a basic system that was monitored at Bill’s house with a direct phone line. This eventually morphed into the professionally monitored system we have now. With Fred’s passing, we are looking to revamp everything. We will have new alarms and a multitude of cameras in high definition, still professionally monitored and available to us at all times online. It is unfortunate that we have to spend so much money on systems to help keep people honest, but I doubt human nature will ever change.
The other improvement in the store is a new VOIP phone system from 8×8. Please have patience with us when you call as we learn all the tricks. This way, we shouldn’t ever have a busy signal and will be able to have messages delivered to our email.
It sounds funny that we, a 130+-year-old country store, are adding all of these “modern” conveniences, but to stay relevant in an ever-evolving retail landscape, we too must move forward.
And lastly, we said a sad farewell to Katerina in February. She graduated early from Columbia College and has moved to a “real” job in Columbia with Veterans United. She worked with us for eight years, and we hate to see her go.
Sassafras Trees May Already Be In Your Backyard
by Nadia Navarrete-Tindall – Native Plants Specialist
An interesting fact about sassafras is that besides being related to spicebush, another native, it is related to the tropical avocado. They all belong to the Lauraceae family. Another important fact is that they are host plants of the spicebush swallowtail caterpillar.
Sassafras trees can be small, but also can grow up to 30’ tall when grown as individual trees. They are easy to identify at any time of the year. In winter, one can break the green twigs and recognize a characteristic sweet fragrance reminiscent of old-fashioned root- beer, which is also no coincidence because roots of sassafras were used to flavor root-beer in the old days. In the fall, the leaves can be very colorful, from bright yellow to orange-red to russet, all in the same tree. Gorgeous!
According to Euell Gibbons in ‘Stalking the Wild Asparagus’, sassafras is one of the most widely known trees and played an important role in the early history of America, being one of the first exports from this country. In the 1500s, it was sought after for its medicinal properties, but because it was so plentiful and became so well-known, its monetary value decreased.
Traditionally, the root is harvested in the early spring. It is washed, cleaned, cut in small pieces to fit a pan and simmered gently in water until the color of the water is a bright, delightful rosy-red color. It can be served hot or cold and sweetened to taste. These same roots can be simmered up to 3 times. Missouri native Sue Bartelette, remembers when her grandmother would fix sassafras tea at the end of winter for a ‘spring tonic’ to ‘thin’ the blood from the sluggishness of winter.
There is concern that sassafras has stimulant properties in large doses, but in reasonable amounts, it is a wholesome and palatable beverage according to Gibbons.
Sassafras is valuable in Creole cuisine which utilizes young, dry, crushed leaves to add flavor and a thickening agent to gumbo. This is the ‘file’ (pronounced ‘feelay’) in file gumbo. Be sure to only add it to your gumbo at the very end of the cooking stages as it can get very thick.
This tree is widely distributed in Missouri and is commonly found in fences as a thank you note from the birds feeding on the sassafras fruits. I had sassafras tea for the first time about 5 years ago during a visit to my late friend Mary Glasper and her husband’s small farm in Haywood City in the Bootheel. Sue and I showed them that some trees growing in their yard were sassafras! They were unaware that sassafras trees were right in their backyard. We gathered roots; Mary prepared the tea for us and served it with cookies. Later that day, she told us that having sassafras tea with us that day brought wonderful childhood memories.
Dixie Biscuits (Buns)
by Jewell Windsor
- 1 cup hot mashed potatoes
- 1 cup potato water
- 1 scant cup of lard melted (Crisco)
- 1 cup cold water
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 2 pkg of yeast
Mix sugar, potatoes, and potato water. Add melted lard, cold water, and yeast. Let stand in for 2 hours in a warm place so the lard won’t set up. Add 2 eggs and 1 tbsp of salt beaten together. Add enough flour to make a stiff dough (about 7 cups). Make into rolls to keep in the refrigerator until ready to use. After rolls are made, let rise for 2 or 3 hours before baking.
Bake in a 350-375 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes.
Around the Neighborhood
On Tuesday, March 17th Marlene’s Restaurant will be serving Corned Beef and Cabbage for St. Paddy’s Day.
The Williamsburg Villager is provided by Crane’s Museum and Shoppes. Please submit any announcements to David Crane at Crane’s Country Store located next door to the museum by the 15th of each month to ensure publication.
Annual subscriptions are available for a $12.00 donation to the museum.
Crane’s Museum & Shoppes 10665 Old US Hwy 40 Williamsburg, MO 63388 877-254-3356 www.cranesmuseum.org
Crane’s Museum is a Regional History Museum located in Williamsburg, MO. We invite visitors of all ages to enjoy a step back in time. Enjoy breakfast or lunch in Marlene’s Restaurant, shop for gifts at Town House Treasures, or get ready for any season at Crane’s Country Store’s Clearance and Closeout Shop.