February 25, 2015

Back in 1994 I self-published a collection of family recipes - some of them dreamed up by my mom and dad, some by me, some by my wife Melissa - and sold it locally at the Johnston County Fourth of July Festival and the Chickasaw Festival. Some of the recipes were silly things I came up with as a kid babysitting my younger brothers during the summer months; others were recipes that a lot of thought had been put into. I published 1,000 copies and sold all but the two that I kept for at home (one to place on the bookshelf, the other kept in the kitchen to actually use). Every now and then someone who bought one of the books will ask me if I plan to ever do a second one. I definitely could - I've got enough recipes to fill several, truth to tell - so some day maybe I will. In the meantime, I thought I'd share here several of my own personal favorites from that 1994 collection:

Dad’s Hamburgers With Tomato Soup Gravy

Mix a little salt and pepper and chopped onion into hamburger meat and form into patties. Put the patties into a skillet and cook lightly on each side.

Pour tomato soup over the patties and add one can of water for each can of soup used. Add salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

Turn the patties over and let simmer for another 15 minutes. Best served with buttery mashed potatoes and corn.

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Oobleck Stew


2 pounds beef stew meet (cubed)

2 26-ounce cans Spaghettios (plain variety)

2 19-ounce cans Hormel chili (no beans)

2 15-ounce cans Van Camps Pork & Beans

(don't drain; remove the little piece of pigfat, though!)

2 29-ounce cans sweet corn (drained)

Cavender's All-Purpose Greek Seasoning

1 large package finely grated Cheddar cheese

1.) Place Spaghettios, chili, beans and corn in large sauce pan. Heat mixture over medium heat, stirring well. Sprinkle lightly with Greek seasoning.

2.) While chili mixture is heating, place meat in a skillet or on grill and cook thoroughly. Sprinkle lightly with Greek seasoning.

3.) Drain grease from meat and add meat to chili mixture. Continue stirring over medium heat until well mixed. Spoon into bowls and top with grated cheese to serve.

(Note: The name “Oobleck” comes to us courtesy of the late, great Dr. Suess, who coined the term to refer to a “messy mixture.” The name seemed appropriate, all things considered, but this particular messy mixture actually makes a pretty decent kid's meal – especially on a cold winter night.)

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(Something my brothers and I liked to make when we were kids)

1 pound hamburger

1 small can tomato puree

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 can pork and beans

1 small onion, finely diced

Crumble hamburger in skillet and brown. Add diced onion and salt. Drain off any grease and add puree and beans. Cook over low heat for 1/2 hour. Serve with crusty rolls or garlic bread. Serves 4-6 people.

(NOTE: Long-time fans of Charles M. Schulz’s “Peanuts” comic strip might recall that Lucy sometimes used to sell something called "Glop" to the other kids in the neighborhood back in the 1960s. The rest of the time she sat around offering psychological advice; don’t those kids believe in simple lemonade stands?)

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The Original Small Family Hamburger Pie

1-1/2 pounds lean ground beef

8 servings instant potato flakes

1 egg

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

2 tablespoons minced onions

1/4 cup ketchup

1 cup milk

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Mix together half of the instant potato flakes with the meat, egg, salt, pepper, onion, ketchup, and milk. Spread mixture into an ungreased 9-inch pie pan. Bake uncovered in a pre-heated 350-degree oven for 35-40 minutes.

Prepare the remaining potatoes (four servings) as directed. Top baked meat with potatoes and sprinkle with cheese. Bake for another 5 minutes, or until the cheese has melted.

Variations to this can be prepared as follows:

Taco-Style Hamburger Pie - Substitute Taco Sauce for ketchup in the meat mixture, and add 1/8 teaspoon of chili powder to same. Substitute  more taco sauce for potatoes as topping, and substitute Monterey Jack for cheddar cheese.

Pizza-Style Hamburger Pie - Substitute Pizza Sauce for ketchup in the meat mix. Top with more pizza sauce instead of potatoes, and finish with Mozzarella cheese instead of cheddar.

German-Style Hamburger Pie (My Dad's Favorite) - Top with sauerkraut and Swiss cheese instead of potatoes and cheddar. Actually, I’ve never known anyone other than Dad to like this particular variation, but you never know…



February 19, 2015
...Long story short, I had to get a new computer in order to post updates, because the one I've been using at work uses an older operating system and is apparently no longer compatible with the Yola website. (Actually I had to get a new laptop for at home anyway, but that's another story....)

Anyway, I'm back after far too long an absence. So first things first: When things went "kerflooey" I was two posts away from completing my participation in the "Spohn Challenge," which asks participants ...
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September 17, 2014
(Note: This week’s entry in the "Spohn Challenge" project was written in the form of a historical text. The idea was to create a tale that combined elements of Tolkien-like fantasy with the legends of Robin Hood or Zorro. I don't know that the attempt has been particularly successful, but I had a swell time writing it anyway and in the end that's what matters, I think...)

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(HISTORICAL NOTE: The following is an excerpt from Book 5, Chapter 14, of ...

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September 8, 2014
(Note: Now that we're back on track, here is the latest entry in the weekly "Spohn Challenge" project...)

Jack Ramsey stirred in his hospital bed, opened his eyes and looked up into the face of the beautiful woman who - even though he knew he hadn't deserved it - had promised to love, honor and cherish nearly six decades before. 

It had been a long journey together, and he understood that for him that journey would soon be over. He understood it, but he didn't much like it. It wasn't the leav...

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September 5, 2014
And here we have the third and final set of "Spohn Challenge" stories that I was forced to post elsewhere while having issue with this site over the course of the summer. This set brings up up to this week's entry (No. 48), so barring any recurrence of the glitches that gave me such fits, next week we'll be picking up back on schedule as far as the stories being posted here as opposed to on my Facebook wall.

So let's get started, shall we...?

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September 5, 2014
Here is the second batch of the "Spohn Challenge" entries I wrote and posted on Facebook while I was having technical problems here:

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Five years ago, when a fellow named Jackson Talbot first moved into town and opened his Crimson Jack’s Naughty Nighties Emporium over on the west side of town, a few of the women in Jillian’s neighborhood took part in a series of demonstrations organized by a small group of well-meaning litt...

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September 5, 2014
Well, it seems that the technical problems that have kept me from posting updates since earlier this summer have finally been resolved. So I thought I'd better post the entries I'd written for the weekly "Spohn Challenge" project during that time so they'll all be here in one place. (During the duration I posted each new story on my Facebook wall in order to stay on schedule and not forfeit my participation in the project.) Some of the stories are longer than others, so I'm splitting this upd...
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"For Every Dream That Took Me High..."

June 18, 2014
(Photo: Me at Byrd Park in Kankakee, around 1977 or so.)

I have been a fan of the late Harry Chapin since the first time I heard his brother Tom singing songs that Harry wrote on the ABC-TV program "Make A Wish" when I was a kid back in the early 1970s. A few years later I heard songs like "Cat's In The Cradle" and "WOLD" on the radio, and I was hooked; I was one of those who unashamedly shed a tear when I heard the news of Harry's death about a month and a half after I graduated from high sch...

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June 16, 2014
(NOTE: This week's entry is another faux newspaper story...)

From the Sipokni West Dispatch, March 26 2009:

The Brownsberg Town Council has appointed a local resident to help the community overcome what some residents have reportedly described as its “inferiority complex” with regard to nearby larger communities.

Yvonne Gordon, a resident of Brownsberg since 1993, has been named to spearhead a town council initiative aimed at injecting a greater sense of style and sophistication into com...

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June 9, 2014
(NOTE: Here's another entry in the weekly "Spohn Challenge" project that reads like it should be part of a longer story. As Michael Nesmith once said: Someday, baby, someday...)

“Can I help you, ma’am?”

Evelyn Drake jumped in spite of herself. She hadn’t expected the stockboy to sneak up from behind her like that. Well, maybe he didn’t really “sneak”, exactly; not exactly fair to lay all the blame at his feet, not when she’d been the one whose thoughts had been elsewhere. 

Even s...

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About Me

John Allen Small John A. Small is an award-winning newspaper journalist, columnist and broadcaster whose work has been honored by the Oklahoma Press Association, the Society of Professional Journalists, the Associated Press, the National Newspaper Association, and the Oklahoma Education Association. He and his wife Melissa were married in 1986; they have two sons, Joshua Orrin (born 1991) and William Ian (born 1996). Mr. Small is the News Editor and columnist for the Johnston County Capital-Democrat, a weekly newspaper headquartered in Tishomingo, OK. He obtained his nickname, "Bard of the Lesser Boulevards," from a journalism colleague - the late Phil Byrum - in recognition of the success of his popular newspaper column, "Small Talk." (In addition to the many awards the column itself has received over the years, a radio version of "Small Talk" earned an award for "Best Small Market Commentary" from the Society of Professional Journalists in 1998.) John was born in Oklahoma City in 1963; lived in the Bradley-Bourbonnais-Kankakee area of Illinois for most of the next 28 years (with brief sojourns in Texas and Athens, Greece, thrown in to break up the monotony); then returned to his native state in 1991, where he currently resides in the Tishomingo/Ravia area. He graduated from Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School in 1981, and received his bachelor's degree in journalism from Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais in 1991. The years between high school and college were a period frought with numerous exploits and misadventures, some of which have become the stuff of legend; nobody was hurt along the way, however, which should count for something. In addition to his professional career as a journalist he has published two short story collections: "Days Gone By: Legends And Tales Of Sipokni West" (2007), a collection of western stories; and "Something In The Air" (2011), a more eclectic collection. He was also a contributor to the 2005 Locus Award-nominated science fiction anthology "Myths For The Modern Age: Philip Jose Farmer's Wold Newton Universe," edited by Win Scott Eckert. In additon he has written a stage play and a self-published cookbook; served as project editor for a book about the JFK assassination entitled "The Men On The Sixth Floor"; and has either published or posted on the Internet a number of essays, stories and poems. He has also won writing awards from the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the National Library of Poetry. He is a past president of the Johnston County Chamber of Commerce in Tishomingo; was a charter member and past president of the Johnston County Reading Council, the local literacy advocacy and "friends of the library" organization; served as Johnston County's first-ever Americans with Disabilities Act coordinator in 1994-95; served two terms as chairman of the Johnston County (OK) Democratic Party; and has taught journalism classes for local Boy Scout Merit Badge Fairs. He is a member of the New Wold Newton Meteorics Society.
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