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Over Here: 87 - Fruitful

...Grape jam was Grandpa's favorite. Grandma liked her special grape and raspberry strudel. Either one was fine with me...

Ron Pataky continues his life story.

The only "heroes" a kid generally had in those days slept under the same roof as he did. This tended to muck up the whole hero/villain continuum, as whether Grandpa was a hero or a villain depended on what had happened that day. He was a hero the time he managed to string a fence I swore could never have been strung. He was a villain when he failed to understand the necessity, given our total lack of equipment, of using driveway gravel for batting practice, smacking his valuable load, stone by costly stone, into the field across the way.

He was definitely a hero on those unbelievably cold winter days while we were still quite young, when he would gently say something like, "You boys stay in today" and then do the entire milking himself. I did find early on, though, that, while heroism didn't actually last that long, the taint of villain-ism, on the other hand, tended to stick around for a while. Shakespeare, I'm told, had something to say about that.

We had a small orchard, in which one could find wormy apples, a few pears, and a peach tree. No peaches, mind you. Just a tree. Well, I take that back. The tree would sprout a few peaches (or wherever trees do with peaches!), but they never grew larger than, say, a walnut (not the husk, just the walnut!). And they were considerably harder! There's no question at all but that I'd have substituted them for driveway gravel had there been a few thousand or so. Unfortunately, they were as scarce as they were hard. The tree might produce, oh, a dozen or so of the chartreuse ball-bearings annually; but a farm wife could do better than to center a canning career on tiny, green, hard, tasteless examples of classic early petrification. It was as if the peach pits had suddenly appeared from the blossoms, turned a crappy green, and decided they'd done quite enough at that point.

We had two pear trees that bore fruit when they were good and ready. Mostly, we had apples - maybe twenty trees, maybe three varieties. (This was Johnny Appleseed country, you know, so who could tell for sure just how those trees got in that field! Certainly, they predated by at least half a century Grandpa and Grandma's arrival on the property in 1918.

Maybe it was Daniel Boone kin who planted them? Kentucky isn't that far away! Or maybe their presence in the early 1940s was due to a one-time disinclination on the part of a young George Washington to chop down a tree-ancestor or two? The mind of a kid is simply not as fettered as are the minds of his elders. In any event, except for liking the trees, I didn't care much one way or the other. We ate the apples; but hell, we ate anything! They just weren't very good ~ although careless bites, I'm certain, provided many a boy with valuable protein.

Our grapes were different. Of the Concord variety, they were plain, flat-out delicious. The fact that Grandpa raised perhaps fifty full yards of them meant that it was very difficult to get in trouble. In short, even the voraciousness of two healthy youngsters could not put a dent in the annual grape harvest.

Grape jam was Grandpa's favorite. Grandma liked her special grape and raspberry strudel. Either one was fine with me, although I could, even then, get a little bit excited when I remembered we would have grape wine at supper. They mixed it half and half with water, of course; still, had I known then how much of my future destiny wine and its cousins eventually would control, I probably would have treated it like hemlock in a fiery cup, grinningly served amidst bitter fumes by a funny-looking guy with a tail. But, as someone once said, the future lies ahead! And it sure as hell did!

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