A Dream Deferred

What happens to a dream deferred?
 Does it dry up
 like a raisin in the sun?
 Maybe it just sags
 like a heavy load.

Langston Hughes wrote these lines in 1951 and I’ve been thinking of them a lot this past couple of years. I started out thinking of them in relation to the situation I was in, which I wrote a bit about in a piece on the Bubblews site: I Was a WalMart Cashier.

However, those thoughts would always lead me to my Dad and his deferred dreams. While my situation was temporary and an aggravation, my Dad’s dreams seemed to have been snuffed out, one by one, as a young man. I’m sure when he began working in the oil fields as a young husband and father, he had no idea that he would be doing that hard, physical labor his entire life.

He came of age during the depression and was of draft age when World War II came around. Since his older brother enlisted in the Air Force, Dad was given an agricultural deferment because he was needed on the farm. His older brother’s experience led him to bigger and better things after the war and he never returned to the farm and only rarely returned to Kansas to see the family.

As the war ended and Australia opened up to immigration, Dad thought about moving there. Instead, he married my Mom and by 1946 had the first of six children.


Clyde Martin with an Ayrshire calf.

As a young couple, they started a dairy operation with an Ayrshire herd, only to have that dream dashed when, after a particularly rainy season, mastitis spread through their herd. State health regulations forced them to sell the herd as butcher cattle at a loss.

For a short time, he and a younger brother operated a gas station, but it wasn’t bringing in enough income to support two young families.

That’s when Dad took his first job in the oilfields. Although by the time he retired, he had advanced to supervisory positions such as tool pusher and production manager, most of his career was spent doing the dangerous, back-breaking work of a roughneck.



Clyde Martin, just home from work and still in his oil stained clothes. Gail holding Shannon, their youngest child.  Around 1959.


Later in life, he suffered greatly from the pain of old injuries and severe hearing loss from working around the loud drilling machinery all his life.

I’m glad my Dad had a good, long retirement before he passed away at age 87. He made up for lost time in those years. He and Mom bought a small RV and some vacation property on a fishing lake, they gardened and canned and enjoyed the farmers’ market, Dad became a bread baker extraordinaire, they read lots of books and watched lots of baseball and ice skating on tv, they enjoyed their kids and grandkids, and they traveled. The dream was no longer deferred. Rest in peace, Dad.

(This tribute to Clyde Martin was first published on Bubblews by Karen Kolavalli. The site is now defunct, but it seemed appropriate to republish it here as Dad’s birthday approaches.)


Make Salmon Patties

They say to eat more fish. Fresh salmon can be expensive. Here’s an easy way to add fish to your menu plan without a lot of expense or trouble. These salmon patties are made very much like potato cakes. Mom (Gail Lee Martin) used to make them for us in her cast iron skillet.

Can of salmon (photo courtesy of Amazon)

Can of salmon (photo courtesy of Amazon)


Things You’ll Need:

  • can of salmon (pink is OK and cheaper)
  • saltine crackers
  • 2 farm fresh eggs
  • dash of pepper
  • iron skillet
  1. Put the canned salmon, including the bones, skin, and liquid, into a bowl. Stir it to separate and fluff it. Use a fork to crush the small bones that are in with it.
  2. Beat the two eggs with the fork, and mix them in with the salmon.
  3. Crush some crackers and mix with the salmon and egg mixture. The amount to add depends on how soupy it is. The crackers absorb the excess salmon broth and eggs.
    Once it thickens enough with the crackers, form it into patties.
  4. Heat up an iron skillet on the stove top so it’s sizzling. You can grease the skillet with a butter wrapper to use up the remnants of butter or margarine. It’s OK to use a cooking spray instead, but it won’t have the same flavor.
  5. Start the salmon patties or cakes to cooking in the skillet. Reduce the heat and cook until they brown on the one side. Turn them over and brown them on the other side.
Gail Martin's frying pans

Gail Martin’s frying pans

Tips & Warnings
  •  Keep canned salmon and a box of crackers in the pantry so you can make this at any time.
  •  You can substitute other kinds of canned fish for the salmon. Cod fish is available in cans.
  •  Be careful not to splatter yourself with hot grease when putting the cakes into the skillet.

Comments from the eHow Website

Parollins said on 3/12/2009 – My Mom makes these and now I do. I make them with potato pancakes and it’s the best. I add dill to mine too. Love this article.

Wordstock said on 1/17/2009 – I love salmon patties, but didn’t know how to make them. Thanks!

Cherst1031 said, on 9/5/2008 Thanks for the info on Salmon Patties, I have the ingredients, I just wasn’t sure how to make them. Now I will give it a try, sounds delicious and healthy!

Vanillatte said on 9/5/2008 – Oh, Wow! I love salmon patties! Will have to make these soon. Great article!

(this article first appeared online at eHow in 2008 – written by Gail Lee Martin)

How to Eat Well Using Nature’s Bounty

How to Eat Well Using Nature’s Bounty By Gail Martin

Nature provides free food that most people don’t slow down enough to even see. There are wild food and unpicked crops going to waste. Having grown up in the 1930s, we hate to see food being wasted. Here are our methods for using these wholesome and free foods in meals.


  • basket to gather fruit in
  • fishing equipment and bait
  • bucket for berry picking
    • Free Mushrooms – Maybe your grandmother gathered edible mushrooms and green plants that spring rains made plentiful. Even here in town, I can make our meals colorful and different by picking Inky Cap Mushrooms to add to soups, scrambled eggs, and gravy. The come up in the same spot in our yard after a rain.
  • Wild Plants – I also pick Poke, Goose Weed, and Lamb’s Quarter and cook them like spinach. Don’t eat the beautiful poke berries as I understand the seed is poisonous. Just pick the leaves.

    Wild poke berries and leaves. Only the leaves are edible. (photo by Virginia Allain)

    Wild poke berries and leaves. Only the leaves are edible. (photo by Virginia Allain)

  • Free apples – When we drive around town or in the country, we watch for fruit trees that aren’t getting picked. Maybe the owner is elderly and can’t climb anymore or it might belong to a career person without the time or interest. I knock on the door or call the person and offer to pick their fruit for them on a fifty/fifty basis. Half for them and half for us, for our effort. Sometimes they say, just go ahead and take it all. Even fallen apples make great applesauce or get baked into pies. We return year after year with the same offer. Sometimes they even call us to say the tree is ready for picking.

    Look for apples going to waste. Offer to pick them. (photo by Virgina Allain)

    Look for apples going to waste. Offer to pick them. (photo by Virgina Allain)

  • Nuts – The same technique works for getting free nuts. People often don’t want to be bothered gathering them. We would collect bushels of black walnuts which are quite laborious to hull, crack and pick out the nutmeats. The results are worth it. Some of the nuts we made into candied nuts for Christmas gifts and even sold them packed in decorative tins.

    Black walnuts collected by Gail and Clyde Martin (photo by Gail)

    Black walnuts collected by Gail and Clyde Martin (photo by Gail)

  • Gooseberries – As a child, I went camping with my family near the river. We would gather mulberries and tart gooseberries. These made a good dessert when cooked together to go with the fish we caught and we never got tired of eating them. Lots of people use them for making pies.


  • Catfish – I still love eating fried catfish. Mother always coated the fish fillets with flour and fried them in lard in our biggest iron skillet. Sometimes at night we would catch bullfrogs and their hind legs were good eating too. We mostly lived off the land as we had no refrigeration when we were at camp in those days. When I look back at those wonderful carefree days I don’t envy the fancy campers or motor homes. I’ll bet they don’t experience half the thrills that I had with my parents in those long ago summers on the Cottonwood River.

    Clyde Martin with catfish caught at Sugar Valley Lake. (photo by Gail Martin)

    Clyde Martin with catfish caught at Sugar Valley Lake. (photo by Gail Martin)

  • Carp – In our retirement, my husband and I fished a lot using a boat and also from the shore. One fish that others don’t keep is carp because the many bones made it impossible to eat. We found that we could pressure cook it in canning jars (bones and all). Then we use it like salmon for fish cakes.

    Clyde was so excited about the 30 pound grass carp that he cut off Gail's head in this photo. (photo by Clyde Martin)

    Clyde was so excited about the 30-pound grass carp that he cut off Gail’s head in this photo. (photo by Clyde Martin)

Tips & Warnings

  • Always ask before gathering fruit or nuts from a tree in someone’s yard or farm.
  • Even tart fruits like gooseberries or sand plums make good jellies.
  • Don’t pick wild plants in areas that might be protected (like a park) or where chemicals are used (like near a golf course).
  • Get positive identification on mushrooms before eating any. Some edible ones look very similar to poisonous ones.

(article by Gail Lee Martin, first published on eHow in 2008)

Gail and the Broken Glass Chimney

At Home on the Prairie by Gail Lee Martin

My daddy worked for Phillips Petroleum Company back in the twenties and thirties. All their employees were furnished housing complete with natural gas heat and lights. I remember Mother lighting kerosene lamps but there was a gas light fixed high on the wall in each room. They all had glass chimneys that tended to get smoky inside no matter how low you turned the flame. The gas light made a hissing noise and Daddy always had to light it as Mother was too short.

One of the first chores I remember getting to do was washing the glass chimneys because my hand was the smallest. I had to be careful so as to not drop and break them. That made Mother unhappy. I recall one time I did drop a chimney. I tried to pick up all the pieces quickly so Mother wouldn’t know about it.

In my hurry, I cut my hand bad. Mother had heard the noise and knew just what had happened as mothers seem to. The scolding I expected turned into an expression of concern about where all the blood was coming from.

I can still trace the scar on the palm of my hand. I have another long scar on the same hand but that is another story to tell.

Gas Lamp Card
Gas Lamp Card by Sloppydesigns


(This story is published online at Gail Martin’s stories on the Our Echo website. You can read more of her stories there)