Billy Edd Wheeler, playwright, poet, songwriter, and performer, grew up in the coal mining town of Highcoal, West Virginia, a town he often fictionalizes for the setting of his works.

In addition to writing several country music hits such as "Jackson", Mr. Wheeler has had many plays produced. His outdoor musical drama, The Hatfields and the McCoys, which plays at Beckley, West Virginia, is high acclaimed. Mr. Wheeler writes that he was "raised on milk gravy. It will stick to your ribs better than anything I know. (Some people who were poor growing up remember this gravy without the milk.) We were poor, but fortunately we had the milk for it. We'd have it several times a week for breakfast, sometimes with fried potatoes. We had eggs only once or maybe twice a week."

The method for the milk gravy, he says, was obtained from his grandfather, who made it on the caboose when he worked for the C & O Railway. Flour, water, evaporated milk, salt, lots of pepper, and biscuits

Leave a good amount of bacon grease in the skillet, along with any brown cracklings from the bacon itself. Let the skillet stay hot as you sprinkle in the flour. Brown the flour until the skillet almost smokes. When you almost think you have burned the flour, keep stirring it in with the grease. It shouldn't be too thin or too thick. Only practice can tell you how much flour to put in.

Then add water, cutting down the heat slightly. Stir vigorously, mixing the water into the browned flour and grease, until it is quite thin. It will take a lot more water than you think. When you have a pretty good stand of gravy mixed, add the evaporated milk; stir it in well; add some salt and a lot of pepper; then let it simmer until it gets back to the thickness you want. Surprisingly, it doesn't take but a minute or two.


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