Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Good Steak Diet

Two sisters are Vaudeville contortionists. My grandfather is the brother of these two sisters . . . this is not a riddle. It’s the family history on my Mom’s side.
So the two Hubbard sisters met the two Pingle brothers and there were two weddings. Then everybody eventually moved from Los Angeles up to a remote ranch in southern Oregon, near Butte Falls.

My mom was seven during this move from L.A. to a ranch in the boonies. I remember when I worked on a haying crew one summer in high school and tried to explain to my mom just how hard this line of work was. She nodded and said she sure was proud of me for being so tough. Years later, my Auntie Ella showed me a photo of my mother working on the haying crew at the Mill-Mar Ranch. Mom was eight years old in the picture, and the haying was being done with a team of horses. I, uh, try not to complain to Mom anymore about much of anything.

Mill-Mar was a dude ranch originally, then later shifted to a working cattle operation. Mom told me a clear memory of hers when they first arrived at the ranch was her dad and uncle cutting and peeling logs to build new bed frames. I was out at the ranch some years ago, visiting my Uncle Morley and Aunt Julia, and asked if any of those log beds were still around. There were a few still in the barn, Morley said. So my mom got a log bed frame for Christmas that year and, if I remember right, her eyes got a little leaky.

Morley fed me a steak for dinner during that visit. He was probably in his late-eighties or early-nineties then. He told me his good health and longevity had a lot to do with eating a good steak nearly every night. I went back to visit several years later and he fed me another good steak. I’m now inclined to think of red meat as a health food, because although Morley Pingle just passed on, he was 99 years old.

I’ve known other rancher folk who didn’t seem to pay attention to the usual rules of being healthy, but still ended up that way. One robust old-timer in Wyoming outlined his health plan to me, which involved large quantities of beef, a daily shot of whiskey and pinches of Copenhagen, which he was sure possessed medicinal properties. I know he was wrong, but you try telling that to somebody who can still beat you at arm-wrestling when other people their age are in a nursing home.

I suspect the real common denominator among these folks who seem to get around the regular laws of aging is hard work and plenty of it. It’s too bad. I like the idea of a medium-rare steak with grilled onions every night. I’m less crazy about the notion of bucking hay bales or whatever else it takes to work that meal off every day.

Otherwise I’d be writing a best-selling fountain of youth cookbook and fitness program that’s mainly just a collection of recipes on how to prepare a good steak. I might do it anyway. I’ve heard of some diet plans out there that don’t make nearly as much sense as eating a good steak every night. And I don’t remember those diets having a spokesman that lived to be 99.

My Aunt Ella is 94 and not too long ago I watched her prove that she can still stand on her hands. She and her sister Julia, Morley’s wife of 70 years, trained from an early age for their work as contortionists. Ella is rightfully proud of still being able to stand on her hands, but don’t bet her any money. Rather than raising her feet in the air while balancing on her hands, she bends down and places her hands beneath her feet. Technically, that’s standing on your hands. And I know some folks half her age who couldn’t pull that off.

So watch the bookstore for my upcoming book revealing the secrets to long life and flexibility through cattle ranching and Vaudeville contortionism. In the meantime, Vaya con Dios, Uncle Morley.