We were coming to the end of our time in South Dakota. My husband, Art, interviewed in Oregon where we stayed at a church elder’s home. His house was surrounded by trees, where mists settled into lower winding paths, softening their edges. It lent a postcard quality to the place. One night we were treated to an all church get together. Our host’s sister made a huge tomato based stew, full of eggplant, peppers, zucchini, green beans, onions, and carrots. Someone else baked crusty loaves of homemade bread and supplied butter. It was a very pleasant time. The stew was good, we were still slightly sleepy from jet lag, the house was warm, and conversation mellowed into a soft hum. It wasn’t until we settled into bed later that night I realized there was no meat in the stew, and remembered the stew maker was between jobs.
A Depression era actor, when he finally got a gig, invited all his friends over for soup. He supplied the soup-bone, pot and water, and everyone else brought a vegetable gift for the pot. Some were pilfered, some purchased. One latecomer found her onion arrived too late. Everyone had eaten, and the pot was empty. Feeling sorry for her, the host revealed his secret. Instead of a soup bone, the pot contained one very well-scrubbed rock.