I suppose it should come as no surprise that I'm a World War II history buff since I live in a portion of North Texas that gave birth to some of that era's most significant historical figures.
Members who were front and center to what Tom Brokaw, the New York journalist, Montana rancher, dedicated hunter and fisherman, and guest on Outdoor Channel television show Buccaneers & Bones, has described so well as America's Greatest Generation.
Chief among such men was Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Denison, Texas-born, native who was a future U.S. President, the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe, the headman of the D-Day invasion force and a five-star U.S. Army general.
Other notable figures from the World War II era hailing from my Red River backyard located north of Dallas include Bonham resident Sam Rayburn, the legendary Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives during the war (and the man for whom one of Texas' biggest and best largemouth bass lakes is named).
And of course, there was Lt. Audie L. Murphy, a Farmersville resident and frontline soldier who ended up being the most decorated American military man during the course of the war, all prior to embarking on a Hollywood movie career in the years that would follow.
With that background noted, you can perhaps understand why my interest was piqued greatly when the following information surfaced when looking for a story, one about the favorite recipes enjoyed by a variety of Outdoor Channel television personalities and show hosts.
It came by way of an e-mail from Jared Wiklund, a public relations specialist with the Minnesota-based Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever, two of my favorite conservation groups.
When I asked if Wiklund had any favorite holiday recipes he would be willing to pass along – particularly any involving ring-necked pheasants – he was quick to send a reply.
"Pheasant sandwiches!" Wiklund quickly texted back. "I think I have a perfect fit for you, (something) that we just ran in our latest (Pheasants Forever) magazine."
Moments later, I was in total agreement with my pheasant hunting friend, smiling as I saw the editorial results he so graciously provided.
Since I don't think that I can improve on this recipe's back-story or its presentation in the PF magazine, here it is in its entirety, courtesy of Jared Wiklund, Editor Mark Herwig and the many other fine and hardworking folks at Pheasants Forever:
WWII South Dakota Pheasant Sandwiches
A Minnesota farm boy gets on a Chicago-Milwaukee train in the dark of night the winter of 1943, heading to the west coast where he will board a crowded troop ship to join the fight against the fanatical, but crumbling Germans, Italians or Japanese. He’s away from home for the first time and is tired, scared and hungry. Later, the train pulls into the station at Aberdeen, South Dakota.
He gets out with hundreds of other young men for a stretch. Then, he notices a line gathering. He joins the line and soon a hearty pheasant salad sandwich is handed to him along with other homemade goodies such as pie, cookies, milk and coffee to wash it all down.
This actual scenario played out many times at the Aberdeen train station from August 1943 to March 1946 when 586,000 servicemen and women were fed - mostly donated food - by local volunteers from 40 area communities.
At first, ham sandwiches were served until local farmers began donating pheasants. Pheasant hunts were later organized and the Chicago-Milwaukee Railroad transported the birds to what became known as The Aberdeen Pheasant Canteen.
Even Supreme Allied Commander, and later president, Dwight D. Eisenhower was served at the canteen. In a touching gesture, a table was always set for the soldiers who never came back, killed either in Europe or Asia.
Here’s the recipe for the Pheasant Sandwiches. I made this and it is great! –Editor Mark Herwig
Upland Bird Sandwich Recipe
Total time: 15 minutes
- 3 cups finely chopped cooked pheasant meat
- 2 hard-boiled eggs, finely chopped
- 2 grated carrots
- ½ a medium onion chopped
- ½ cup finely chopped celery
- 2 teaspoons sweet pickle relish
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Mayonnaise or salad dressing to taste to hold it all together
- Sandwich bread or bun
- Mix all ingredients (except the bread) together in a bowl. Chill.
- Spread chilled pheasant mixture on sandwich bread or bun. (I used garlic salt and put honey mustard on the sandwich for more flavor.)
As you enjoy this historic delight, think of the men and women who died and suffered to defeat tyranny and provide the freedom and prosperity we have today.
As I said, there isn't much that I can do to add to what Wiklund and the folks at Pheasants Forever have so kindly provided.
Because in the end, what a fascinating story it is about one of the most momentous and turbulent times in our nation's storied history, a period of years where all gave some and some gave all.
While Memorial Day is often a time of family gatherings and backyard cookouts, in my humble opinion, it should also be one of somber reflection. A day where Americans from one shining sea to the other should pause and reflect on the heroic sacrifices of so many as this important holiday arrives on the annual calendar.
And as you do so this year, if you have a few pheasants leftover in the freezer as the current version of the holiday weekend arrives, why not pull them out, prepare them as instructed by Pheasants Forever editor Mark Herwig and enjoy something delicious and unique from the usual routine of grilled burgers?
All while tipping a glass of iced tea or your favorite beverage in a remembrance toast to those who have served our great land over the years under the chief idea that freedom is never really free.
As you do, you'll be remembering a few soldiers getting on a train, men who were partially fueled by a South Dakota pheasant sandwich.
A Greatest Generation born dish born straight out of the hunting heritage found deep within the American Heartland.