Nature Takes Its Course

February 09, 1994|By HELEN CHAPPELL

OYSTERBACK, MARYLAND — Oysterback, Maryland.--I tell you, sometimes it's awfully hard to be the voice of sanity in an open-air insane asylum like Oysterback.

I'm not worried about competition from the Boone Bros' new business. Would you worry about a place with a sign out front that says Boone Bros We Fix & Road Kill Cooked Here Cafe? I, Desiree Grinch, proprietor of the Blue Crab Tavern (***, Guide Michelin) think not.

Ever since Mike and Gabe Boone reappeared from Uranusville Marsh after going underground or somewhere in 1969, they have managed to keep themselves real busy with that old junkyard and trash emporium they opened up over to the old Esso station at Tubman's Corners. If your '78 Pacer blows a rod or you're in search of a box of mayonnaise jars for your tomato canning, you go see the Boone Bros. But I love to listen to Gabe play that trumpet, all those old riffs blowing out across the fields and the river, floating off into the woods like shards of forgotten ghosts.

Doreen, who, as you know, runs Doreen's Curl Up 'n' Dye Salon de Beaute, says they're kind of like scavenger beetles, and serve a valuable function in the post-consumer junk chain. Everything the Goodwill won't even think about taking ends up at their place.

But you really have to think twice about going over there to eat dinner with them. People who eat off their traps are one thing; people who eat road kill just aren't to be trusted to work within the recognized gastronomic framework, if you know what I mean and I think you do. Preparing game you've trapped or shot is fine, and I think I do a mighty nice applewood-smoked Canada goose, myself. But eating an animal that has met an untimely end on Route 50 under the wheels of a Chinaberry Poultry Farms 18-wheeler is a mite more chancy, especially in warm weather.

For people who have been out of the world for almost 25 years, it seems like the Boone Bros are learning the ways of the '90s real fast. The minute they found out what yuppies are, and that yuppies will do anything as long as someone says it's trendy, they introduced their road-kill menu to an unsuspecting world, and on the weekend, you will see all the trend-sucking dilettantes and their BMWs and Miatas lined up three deep around that old garage, sampling Gabe and Mike's blacksnake stew and near-deer pie.

Hagar Jump, who would know, says she saw Madonna and her entourage around there last week, sucking up sweet and sour toadfish and atmosphere. I say Madonna is so passe she'd go to the opening of a door to get publicity.

Now everyone over to Tubman's Corners is real upset, because it's been peaceful around there since the cops busted that chop shop that used to be in the old Esso. Everyone thinks they're in an episode of the Beverly Hillbillies or something. But then, those

are the same people who think Eastern Shore folk say ''arsters'' for ''oysters,'' and I'll tell you: I have never heard an Eastern Shore native say ''arsters,'' just the foreigners. If you get my drift.

Anyway, now the boys tell me they are working up the Boone Bros We Fix & Road Kill Cooked Here Cafe Cookbook.

''I hope we can get it done before we have to discorporate and go back to Uranus,'' Gabe told me the other day.

''Yeah,'' Mike says. ''We have to get a load of crabcakes up to the Mother Planet. We're due for our 10,000-light-year oil change on the truck.''

Helga Wallop, who edits The Bugeye, knows a good thing when she sees it. She's photocopying the cookbook for them at 25 cents a page. She says the Small Mammal Divan recipe isn't half bad, but you ought to stay away from the Cooper's Hawk Pate.

I'm not calling the health department. I'll put that cookbook right up on the counter for sale. This is too interesting to fool with. Every once in a while, you catch a train that you've just got to ride to the end of the line, just to see where it stops. Nature's just got to take its course, but I want the make and tag number of anything I eat over there.

P.S. I wouldn't touch the field greens, if I were you.

A book of Helen Chappell's Oysterback Tales will be published in the spring by the Johns Hopkins University Press.

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