The ribbon-cutting and open house at the new Fair Grove Senior Center was April 24, with a huge crowd; 232 was the count I was given. The hamburgers and hot dogs cooked by individuals associated with O’Bannon Bank were delicious, as were all the salads, deviled eggs, baked beans and desserts.
My contribution, food-wise, was an apple pie and a cherry pie. The cherries I used came from my sister’s tree. In years past, our cherries got ripe, and all the birds from everywhere came running (flying, I guess). Not a cherry to be had (by humans). Most years we got a cherry or two to taste, but that’s about all. I guess we needed a great big mulberry tree, like my folks had, because those birds liked the sweetness of the mulberries better, or so it seemed.
The fruit on the trees on my old homeplace were what Mom called sour cherries. It was not unusual for her to call and tell us that the cherries were ready to pick. One of those times, we loaded a cut-off milk carton (for Terry to fasten on his belt), a gallon can for me to use and two 3-gallon buckets for the picked cherries to be transferred over into. We also included a stepladder for standing on.
My folks' trees were old and large, so we found that if we parked our pickup under the tree, lots of good juicy cherries could be picked by just standing in the bed of the truck. The more luscious cherries could be picked by standing the ladder up in the truck bed to pick from the top of the tree.
The one year I’m remembering, Mom and Jerry, my brother, met us down at the farm, and we all had a merry old time pickin’. Before we got started, Jerry said, “I’ve never really picked cherries, is there a certain way it’s done?” I was shocked! How had he lived in the same family with me and never learned to pick cherries? “Do we still have to pick the stems and all?” was his next question.
You see, when my dad was living, if we had picked a cherry without picking the stem, too, we would have to answer to him. It was the only way, according to my father. Mom said, “All the old-timers say to pick stem and all. There is a belief that the next year’s harvest won’t be as heavy, if the stems are left attached to the tree.” Because we had always had an overabundance of those good sour/sweet cherries, Mom said we didn’t have to pick the stems, so we ignored that theory.
I told Dorothy, Terry’s mother, about the cherry pickin’, and she said when she was a little girl, they lived on East Atlantic Street, and across the alley there were tall, old cherry trees, which seemed to be loaded each spring. “And oh how I hated to pick them,” she said. She also told about the elderly woman who lived there and how she asked for help with the picking each year, and reluctantly Dorothy helped. That woman wanted the stems picked, too. Dorothy remembered being paid a penny or two a gallon. “I don’t care if I ever see another cherry tree.”
It’s funny how some of our traditions have been handed down. My dad also insisted that we step on newly planted potatoes, which I always figured was unnecessary. But I’ll bet my granddad stepped on his newly planted potatoes, and that’s why my dad insisted it be done that way.
Here is a story about such a handed-down tradition: A young bride, wanting to impress her new husband, decided to fix ham and all the trimmings for both sets of parents for Easter dinner. She took the whole ham and promptly cut off the butt portion and set it aside. Her husband observed this step of preparation and asked her why she cut off that part of the ham.
“Because, you’re supposed to,” was her answer.
“That’s the way Mom fixes it, so that’s how it is done,” she sharply replied.
Later in the day when the bride’s mother showed up, the groom asked, “Why do you cut off the butt portion of your hams?”
“Well, that’s the way it is supposed to be prepared.”
“That part is always cut off. My mother cuts it off, and I cut it off.”
So to shut the young fellow up, the mother-in-law called her mother. Her mother’s answer was about the same. “It is supposed to be that way.”
That afternoon several family members went to the rest home where the young bride’s aging great-grandmother was staying, and while there the question of the cut-off ham butt came up. “Well, I always cut that part off because that’s the only way it would fit in the pan I had to use.”
Come visit the Fair Grove Senior Center. The meals ($3.50 for those 60 and older, and $6 for you youngsters) are delicious, and the friendships developed are priceless.