There’s only one brand of sardines for crackers

Published 12:01 am Sunday, May 1, 2011

“Ode to the King? What King?” some readers may be saying (if their paper uses my titles). Well, there is a reigning King out here at Brownspur, especially during the summertime.

I was raised up being an outdoors person, like most of us were. Actually, that’s Biblical, if you look it up. Not only were Adam and Eve rambling around nekkid in the Garden of Eden, but Jesus Hisownself was bad to hop in a fishing boat, and at one point he obviously caught some fresh fish from the bank and invited the disciples to come ashore for a meal, right? Some modern Bible scholars even believe that when the Lord fed the 5,000, that the “loaves and fishes” were actually a box of crackers and some cans of flat sardines.

In my first book, “The Flaming Turkey,” (now in audio book form at there is a chapter of poetry in which son Adam is interviewing St. Peter at the Pearly Gates about any changes that his admitted-thru-the-Gates forebears and Uncles may have brought about, and then asks, “What’s for lunch?”

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“Sardines and cheese and crackers,” says St. Peter, “is my hunch. All we ever used to have was manna, milk, and honey. Tonight’s menu’s supposed to be fried catfish and smoked bunny!”

When Big Robert and I would head out for a day’s hunt in the woods or fields, or embark in a fishing boat on the lake, we’d invariably stop by the plantation Store (now our Brownspur guest house) and snag a couple of cans of flat sardines, a tin of crackers, some R.C.s, and a wedge whacked off the ever-present hoop of cheese. My sire was also partial to a potted meat that he called “Polish Ham,” like shoe polish. If the sardines were King Oscars, all was well with the world!

So when a friend called to say that he might be coming up to the Delta soon, I invited him to give me a holler when he got close, and we’d have a “Jungle Lunch” out by the Swimming Hole: sardines, crackers, cheese, and bellywarsh. I promised that the sardines would be King Oscar’s, and that the cheese would be smoked Gouda.

Both of them washed their Jungle Lunches down with beer sodas, though, but I’ve stuck to R.C.s. Big Robert helped to found AA in Mississippi, and his mantra to me and Brer Beau was, “Neill, men CANNOT drink,” so we don’t.

I understand that there are other brands of flat sardines in the world, and if you like a different kind than King Oscar, that’s your little red wagon and you can pull it if you want to. Gene at the Stop’n’Shop orders mine by the case, so if you happen to be close by Brownspur at lunchtime, we’ll have the Best, okay?

Not being a compooter-literate person, I do not know exactly who King Oscar was, nor what other triumphs he had in his reign besides canning the absolute best brand of sardines. We kept a Norwegian exchange student for a year here at Brownspur and Johan claimed Oscar as King of Norway, so that’s good enough for me. The mainmost thing is, the potentate flat-out knew his little fishes. Although here in the South, we don’t tell the storekeeper, “I want a flat can of sardines.” It’s supposed to be, “I want a can of flat sardines, please.” There is a difference.

I ain’t knocking your brand atall, now. I’m just saying that out here at Brownspur we have high standards for many things, and one of those is flat sardines. If you want to eat lunch out at the Swimming Hole, plan on having King Oscar sardines, although if you want to bring your own special pepper sauce to sprinkle atop them, that’s okay by me. I’ll try some of yours, Leroy.

Hallelujah, it’s time for Jungle Lunches out by the Swimming Hole!

Robert Hitt Neill is an outdoors writer. He lives in Leland, Miss.