The following piece originally appeared on April 2, 2009, when Generation Bubble was in its infancy. In honor of tomorrow’s holiday, we revisit Glemie “Coon Man” Beasley, one of Detroit’s most culinarily innovative citizens, to learn how he manages lean times. Happy Thanksgiving!
April is the cruelest month — for varmints.
Via Cryptogon comes this story in the April 2 edition of The Detroit News. It concerns one Glemie Beasley, a sort of modern-day Robinson Crusoe, only without the island — or even the isolation.
Not content to wait on the fickle largess of auto traffic, Beasley takes a Bush-Doctrine approach to roadkill. Armed with a .22 rifle and some faithful hounds, he reaps the Motor City’s brownfield bounty:
Beasley, a 69-year-old retired truck driver who modestly refers to himself as the Coon Man, supplements his Social Security check with the sale of raccoon carcasses that go for as much $12 and can serve up to four. The pelts, too, are good for coats and hats and fetch up to $10 a hide.
Apparently unfazed by this unfortunate sobriquet, “Coon Man” Beasley observes a credo as simple as his diet. “Coon or rabbit. God put them there to eat,” the story quotes him as saying. He then adds this sobering reflection on factory farming practices:
“Men get hold of animals he blows them up and then he blows up. Fill ‘em so full of chemicals and steroids it ruins the people. It makes them sick. Like the pigs on the farm. They’s 3 months old and weighing 400 pounds. They’s all blowed up. And the chil’ren who eat it, they’s all blowed up. Don’t make no sense.”
Michael Pollan couldn’t have put it more pithily.
Don’t be fooled, though; Beasley is every bit as much the shrewd entrepreneur as folksy food activist:
A licensed hunter and furrier, Beasley says he hunts coons and rabbit and squirrel for a clientele who hail mainly from the South, where the wild critters are considered something of a delicacy.
But the demand for such gustatory delights, at once exotic and familiar, presently lags behind the supply; meaning Beasley needn’t wander far from his modest Motown digs in order to scare up grub, provided he observes existing ordinances:
Hunting is prohibited within Detroit city limits and Beasley insists he does not do so. Still, he says that life in the city has gone so retrograde that he could easily feed himself with the wildlife in his backyard, which abuts an old cement factory.
The one-two punch of de-industrialization and real-estate devaluation, though it dealt grievous injuries to the city’s two-footed denizens, has, strangely enough, set Detroit on a path toward becoming a veritable bushmeat Eden, a development Beasley enthusiastically endorses:
“This city is going back to the wild,” he says. “That’s bad for people but that’s good for me. I can catch wild rabbit and pheasant and coon in my backyard.”
Yet Beasley’s flinty self-reliance belies the fact that he has his eye on ancillary markets. Witness this video, in which Beasley instructs viewers on the finer points of barbecuing raccoon: