Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Chapter 39


"There's my girl!"

I didn't know who Aunt Pearl was talking about and looked behind me to see until a couple of people laugh and Sawyer turned me gently back around.  Just in time to get a great big hug and smooch.

"Picking up all of that citric acid.  What a godsend.  We'll be able to save our lemon juice and why I didn't think of it I don't know.  It isn't like we didn't do it at the factory."

Another smooch, a pat, and then I was summarily put into battle to help to divide up all of the supplies.

"Aunt Pearl?"

"Yes Honey?"

I sighed.  "There was a woman that claimed we were getting more than our fair share.  I didn't believe her but ... but I don't know ... it was creepy.  If we keep doing this we may have to do it a little different."

I felt very self-conscious as everyone suddenly got quiet.  Gramps harrumphed and asked, "Where was this?  While you young folks were out gallivanting?"

It was Davis who said, "Naw sir.  Cutter and I and Sawyer used the old overlook to rearrange stuff so the fresh wouldn't get squished.  It was some woman ... looked like a Merriweather connection - face like the backend of an old dump truck - and sour, Lord she was sour.  I kept an eye on her and we weren't the only ones she was checking out.  Kay-Lee was just the only one that openly called her on it."

I added, "She looked like she was about to open the truck door to get a better look.  I've been around nosey people but most of them don't mean any harm.  This woman was hinkey.  I ... I'm sorry.  Should I have kept my mouth shut?"

Gramps sighed.  "No Honey, if she were that bold she didn't give you much choice.  But what caused it?"

"It was the farmer's market Gramps," Cutter explained.  "People were acting insane.  Why they were I don't know but they were.  People were grabbing up things left and right and I tell you it was just weird."

I saw Uncle Mark step away to make a call and the rest of us kept working.  Aunt Pearl pulled me over and said, "Honey, I got a favor.  With as much canning as we need to get done it is going to kill the propane.  Mark and James and some of the others said they looked at that old kitchen and that the wood stove in there is in real good shape.  I've got some yard stoves that I'll have some of the boys load up and between those and your stove we should be able to get most of this week's canning accomplished in one day.  Your place is central and if it works out I'd like to keep doing it this way."

"Are you asking me?  'Cause Sawyer is really the one y'all should ask."

Somebody with big ears heard his name and came over and asked, "Sawyer whut?"

I sighed.  "You know that shirt was still clean not too long ago.  What have you been eating?"

"Drinking ... it was a Yoohoo."

"Well you missed your mouth.  And your aunt wants to do some canning at the house tomorrow and all summer long.  Because of the wood cook stove to save propane."

Sawyer grinned and then frowned.  "Aunt Pearl, I haven't looked at the wood pile real good but what I did see looked mostly rotted."

"Got a load on a trailer already plus James said there's some trees down near the road up to your house.  We bring the splitter over and we'll just start piles for canning needs and keep splitting until everyone gets what we need."

"There's a splitter in the barn that looks almost brand new.  I fiddled with it - runs off a three point hitch - and the tractor there has what it needs.  If we can get and keep a couple running at the same time we can do a lot of wood.  It's going to be getting it small enough for the stoves that's gonna be a challenge."

Uncle James came over and said, "Challenges is what keeps life interesting and the blood flowin'.  Heard you had a bit of trouble ... back at the tractor place."

Sawyer sighed, "Not trouble, just irritation."  He then snorted.  "Kay-Lee set it straight.  And the rest of it ain't worth talking about.  I just wonder why the traffic was so crazy at the farmer's market.  Bad location for it but still shouldn’t have been that bad."

That's when Uncle Mark walked over with a scowl.  "That might be the last market until things start coming in around here.  Davis had said it looked like a lot of migrants and not the regulars you normally see.  Well there's some new federal regulation that even the stuff going to the markets are now going to have to get some kind of FDA stamp on them and be taxed to get the stamp and then taxed again when it gets sold ... both of those are assuming you can even get the stamp to begin with.  Sounds, from what I heard, like a lot of paperwork."

"Isn't that double taxation?" I asked before thinking that I was butting into a male conversation.

Uncle Mark scowled a little harder but nodded.  "Yes.  It is.  Damn it, I'm a getting about sick of Dad always being right."  He turned and took a roundabout path to have a word with Gramps.

Uncle James scowled as well.  "I have no idea if we are even going to have the summer to get finished up."  He looked at Sawyer and tossed his head and they went over to some of the other men and started talking.

Aunt Pearl said, "Oh Lord preserve us from the demons out to prick us.  Build a hedge of protection 'round about us and give us the wisdom to know when it is time to get barricaded behind it."  She sighed and then looked at me.  "I'm gonna take Sawyer at his word and assuming nothing comes up before now and sun up a pile of us are going to be at your place about mid-morning.  I'd be over sooner but I want to get the last of the strawberries out of the field as they came in all together for some reason ... well I know why, it was that funny weather we've had this year ... and we'll also bring the first of the greens, first of the rhubarb, and last of the asparagus.  That ought to be more than plenty to get done tomorrow but it if isn't we can fill in with some ideas I've got.  I'll bring some my lids and rings and we'll all bring our jars.  Think you can get Sawyer to carry you up some jars so you can get them prepped tonight?  It'll be easier on you tomorrow."

"I've got a lot already in the kitchen and I'll start on those.  How many do you think I should prepare?"

"Honey, I'd start with half a gross and we'll work from there ... well, actually better make it a gross.  I'm thinking while we've got everyone together we might oughta go ahead and get some soups and other things going so I can finish cleaning out the deep freezes.  I just got me an itchy feeling between my shoulder blades.  It'll make for a long day tomorrow for all of us but ..."

"... But if people are willing to eat buffet style and not everyone count on eating all the same thing we can cook what we can and then add a big pot of rice or egg noodles or ... or maybe dumplings to thicken things up ... then whatever doesn't fit in a canner can go onto the table and they can just kind of graze for their lunch and supper."

She laughed, "And where did you come up with that idea?"

Cutter sauntered over and smiled, "The Hospitality Club used to have bake sales and things like that and the rest of us would get the leftovers so long as we moved stuff where they told us to and then stayed out of the way.  No snitching stuff off the table or we'd get banished.  How do you think the school used to make so much money off the spaghetti dinners and things?  Man, my mouth is watering just thinking about the spreads that used to get put on."

"Yeah well, your senior year was the last year we got to do very much of that.  Our funding kept getting cut, and then cut again, and then finally cut some more.  And we could never replace the money because there were all those new rules on what kind of food we could serve and how much we were allowed to put on each plate.  We had to weigh, measure, list ingredients, list nutritional information ... it got to be a lot more work than it was worth in the long run.  Especially when we started getting audited by the health department and those people from the healthy lunch program."

"Well for heaven sake.  Well we aren't doing that here.  But I do believe that the men and boys can all just graze as you said."

It wasn't long after that that Sawyer and I got loaded and headed for home after telling everyone else that we'd see them tomorrow.  It had been a long day and I still had a long way to go before I could stop."

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for the new chapters Kathy, it looks like they are getting closer to being ready for winter.
    Wayne

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  2. Just love this group of characters. They still can find some humor but have their heads on straight enough to recognize some of the dangers coming at them.

    Oh, Wayne I think they are looking waaaaay past winter.

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