The Cousins Go Graping (that’s Grape-ing)

First, I gotta say that in light of ongoing world events, thank goodness the outside world ceases to exist inside the borders of That Idiotic Tractorland.  But, having said that there really is no easy way of keeping the IB out.  I got the following email from Jim, today:

“Don’t feel obligated to make this part of your blog memories, but, remember the worm pills we all had to take in Waukesha.  How the poop did we all get worms back then?”

Only Jim could put a sentence together where the words “poop” and “worms” would be included.  Listen Jim, on this one I’m going to have to invoke the blog’s Rule No. 4, which states:  Anything I don’t remember, didn’t actually happen.  What do you mean, “we.”  Sorry to leave you hanging out there Jimbo, but I’m not admitting to knowledge of this.  As to how you might have contracted the aforementioned unmentionables, I’d say you’d probably been eating dirt.  In those days, dirt was about on par with tuna casseroles and pot roast, no offense Mom.

But mentioning things we ate back then does remind me of something we used to do as much for fun as for the food.  I don’t know how Dad figured this out in terms of timing, location, etc., but when the pea crop came in it used to be great fun to hop in the car, head out into the country and follow the trucks carrying peas from the fields to the processing plant.  They’d fill the trucks so high that not infrequently big bunches of peas would fall off the back.  When that happened, Dad would pull over and we kids would jump out, race onto the highway, grab the peas and jump back into the car.  We did this over and over until we either had enough peas, or considering he still had three live kids, Dad felt he no longer wanted to tempt fate.  I believe the fact that I’ve always loved peas goes back to those days and the fresh, sweet taste of raw peas popping in my mouth.

My cousin Ed and I used to enjoy getting fresh produce as well.  When we were in junior high and high school, we lived in adjoining towns, close enough to walk or ride our bikes to each others houses.  We’d have sleep-overs, and those sleep-overs were the launch pad for a lot of mischief.  During the summer, after dark, we’d go out “graping.”  This was our word for sneaking into as many backyard gardens as we could and eating whatever was handy.  Yes, grapes was one of the crops available, but just about anything else that we could eat raw fell before us. 

One incident in particular I’ll never forget.  One evening after graping, Ed and I decided to go out to the golf course and look for balls.  You might ask, how do you look for golf balls in the dark, and I’d say well, we didn’t really look for them, we felt for them.  The eighteenth hole of this course was all “carry” over a small lake from tee to green.  The lake was only about four feet deep, so we’d wade into the lake in our bare feet and systematically feel our way across the span of water, feeling the balls with our feet, popping them into our bags and moving on.  Two things set this evening apart from the other times we’d done this.  First, after we’d been in the water for about half an hour, we both got violently ill, undoubtedly due to the ill-gotten produce (mostly grapes) we’d wolfed down earlier.  We lost some time back in the bushes dealing with that, but eventually were able to return to the water and continue our search.

We’d managed to each fill our bags pretty well when we heard voices and then saw someone coming toward us with flashlights.  There was really nothing we could do, we’d been caught.  Two club staff members who acted as if they’d caught two major criminals told us to get out of the water.  When we did, they took our bags, herded us out in front of the club house and called the cops.  We spent what seemed like ages standing there wet, shivering and worried waiting for the cops to arrive.  Thankfully, the cops weren’t very interested in our heinous crime.  We were allowed to go collect our dry clothes and sent packing, but without our nights efforts.

I had so much fun hanging out with Ed.  We set a field on fire once.  We repeatedly climbed down in a wishing well behind a restaurant to retrieve the coins people had tossed in.    We built a furnace on the side of his house, fired with coal and stoked with a tank vacuum on “blow.”  We melted anything and everything in that furnace.  We played three-handed bridge with my Mom after school.  We stayed up all night in his basement with his brother Billy playing games and farting.  My God I don’t know what their mom fed them, but I about asphyxiated down there.

Ed was always looking for something.  I accompanied him on a wild trip up to Minnesota to collect a Model T flatbed truck.  Ed had stashed it at Grandpa and Gramma’s.  We brought along a trailer to haul the thing home on, but the truck just barely fit and even then the trailer was riding only about 6 inches off the road.  On the way back we went through terrible storms with the trailer and its cargo swaying back and forth precariously.  Even as we pulled into Ed’s town there were downed tree limbs everywhere from a tornado that had just passed  through.  We’d later drive that crazy truck all over town.  It constantly broke down.  It once stalled on the Burlington Northern railroad tracks, with a train in sight down the tracks.  Somehow we managed to hop out and push that heavy piece of junk off the tracks before the train got there.

In our adult years I was lucky enough to have joined Ed, Billy and other family members on trips to seek other things.  There was gold dredging in the Sierra’s of California and cactus seed hunting in Baja, Mexico.  Constant themes were scheming, seeking, inventing and always dreaming of that next thing.  

A year ago this week Ed finally lost his 17-year fight with cancer.  I was lucky enough to have spent a week with Ed in the month before he died.  Even then he was full of ideas on how to redesign the medical equipment he saw around him and ways to improve hospital procedures.  We took a drive down to Galveston (what a hole!), watched Antiques Road Show, told jokes as we always had, reminisced and had dinner together on what would be his last birthday.

Now I just can’t believe he’s gone.  He had this habit of calling me, out of the blue, after a long absence, disguising his voice (poorly) and asking if Mr. Boehmke was there.  I don’t know what Ed is up to these days, but I’m pretty sure he’s still looking for that next big thing.  It was so wonderful growing up with you, Ed.
Call me some time.


5 responses to “The Cousins Go Graping (that’s Grape-ing)

  1. Billy Vollenweider

    WOW!!!!!! Very moving….what great memories. We buried Ed exactly one year ago from tomorrow. I sure do miss him. Thanks for the trip down memory lane. We did have some wonderful times.

  2. Well, I got choked up at the end of that one Bruce.
    I’m really glad we visited Eddie when we did.
    Cousin Billy was really pumped up for our one day surprise visit to see Eddie.

  3. Jamie Vollenweider

    Awesome Bruce, as always I enjoy your stories and even more so the ones that include “Eddie” and “Billy”. Nice tribute as we reflect back to a year ago this week, I shed a few tears myself.

  4. As always, your post was exciting, interesting and very touching. I always read your posts on Monday. It a good way for me to start my week!!

  5. Hey Bruce,
    I got a bit behind in my reading but just went thru all of March with you. Such fun and informational reading. The pony is looking very sharp indeed. How will you spend your time (and money) when the job is done – or will it ever be????
    Spending lunch and a few hrs. of bridge with your mom tomorrow. She seems to be feeling much better. So glad to see it!

    Please say hi to Cindy for me and come back for a visit soon.
    Thinking of you, Dell

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