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By Staff | Feb 27, 2015

My wife says that when we first met one of the things she found attractive was that I had been pre-trained.

Specifically, she found it appealing that I had grown up in a family of five sisters and had thus been exposed to the lofty standards of behavior that females expect, such as no spitting in the house and closing the bathroom door before you settle in to make a boom-boom.

In addition to such things, we boys (I have two brothers) were also taught how to cook and do laundry. If you were a male growing up on our dairy farm, you had to possess a Swiss Army knife-like skill set, capable of sorting cattle in the morning, clothes in the afternoon.

I’m not complaining. On the contrary, learning how to perform domestic chores came in handy when, for a few years, I led the life of a Norwegian bachelor farmer.

It was useful to know which household tasks – such as extinguishing a grease fire – required immediate attention and which jobs could be put off until later.

For instance, who, exactly, cares about the petrified spaghetti that has glued itself to the couch cushion? It’s not as if the President is going to drop by.

One of the earliest domestic lessons I learned was how to whip up enough pancakes to feed 10 people.

It somehow became a tradition at our house to have a Sunday evening supper of pancakes and bacon. Perhaps it was a subliminal echo of Sunday morning church services with its Communion wafers and syrupy wine.

When Sunday evening’s milking hit the halfway mark, I would be sent to the house to construct a pancake supper. Our pancake recipe is a snap: Two of everything except for the sugar, which is a third of a cup.

Getting the batter right is an art. Too runny and your pancakes will be thin as Bible leaves; too thick and your flapjacks will be tough and doughy and will have approximately the same density as lead.

We had a massive cast iron griddle that could accommodate six pancakes at a time. Gauging the proper griddle temperature is a marriage of magic and science.

When a droplet of water (or spit; not that I would know anything about that) hisses and bounces across the griddle, it’s ready.

As the pancakes piled up in quantities that were measured by the foot, I was also frying mounds of bacon. One spring, Dad took a skinny old sow to the butcher shop and she bestowed us with strips of bacon that were nearly a yard long and lean as shoe leather. Just as tough, too.

The objective was for supper to be on the table by the time milking was finished. We could thus be done eating by the time Bonanza came on.

Bonanza was a popular television series about a single dad who was struggling to raise a family under difficult conditions. And by difficult I mean on a replica of the Old West frontier as envisioned by Hollywood set designers.

Bonanza detailed the travails of the red-blooded, all-American Cartwright clan. Its rugged, steely-eyed patriarch was portrayed by Lorne Greene, a Canadian actor who was of Russian descent. The Cartwrights employed a cook named Hop Sing, a Chinese gentleman who neither hopped nor sang.

Our pancake supper would be narfed down swiftly and our family would gather around the TV. We didn’t want to miss a millisecond of our time with the Cartwrights.

The cast of Bonanza were all guys, so there was a lot of manly action such as fistfights, gunslinging and posse chasing. Despite the distinct lack of feminine influences in the Cartwright household, none of the guys ever sat on the couch and clipped their toenails with a hedge trimmer or excavated navel lint with barbecue tongs.

They were a pretty genteel bunch.

A female love interest would occasionally pop up on the show, but the gals never stayed for long. Ben, the paterfamilias, had buried three wives; perhaps the ladies got wind of this and wisely decided that attempting to domesticate the Cartwright guys wasn’t worth the risk.

After Bonanza was over, we might enjoy a dessert of root beer floats. This was an era before fat or cholesterol or even calories had been discovered.

All that domestic training had molded me into a pretty impressive package by the time I met my wife. I think I sealed the deal, though, when I invited her out my farm one evening and whipped up a romantic meal of pancakes and bacon.

And root beer floats for dessert.

Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at jjpcnels@itctel.com.

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