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 Texas : Features : Columns : "It's All Trew"

Annual pear event preserves the past

by Delbert Trew
Delbert Trew
One annual event that comes as regularly as sunrise at the Trew house is the making of pear preserves.

Each fall, when the pears start falling, we gather, peel, slice, soak in sugar, cook and "put up pears." We wouldn't think of going into winter without a shelf of pear preserves standing by.

This annual effort started before my time, but I remember my father saying: "When I was a kid, we had a drought at Mobeetie and later in the Dust Bowl when the only fruit that made it was pears. This was the only sweetening we had." For whatever reason, the Trews like pear preserves.

Although any kind of pears can be processed into sweetening, the old-time, smaller, more-firm pears make the best preserves. Most of the wimpy, modern-day improved varieties of pears get soft and slick when they ripen.

Not so with the hard pears.

They keep their shape, provide a little chewing, and, if you are not careful, they will leap from a spoon onto a hot, buttered biscuit by themselves.

Fruit trees have always been scarce on the Great Plains. This shortage was helped during the Dust Bowl when the CCC and the WPA planted wind breaks all across the damaged areas. These "Roosevelt Forests," as they were called, always included a row of fruit trees somewhere.

Apricot, apple and pear trees were the most used.

For many years, I leased a pasture near McLean that contained an apple orchard planted by some unknown owner in the past. The trees were untended for many years, but, about every other year, a few of them produced apples.

I was riding a young horse one time and approached the old orchard.

I could see someone picking apples in the dense shade and rode forward to see. When the young horse saw the two-legged apple picker drop down into a four-legged creature sprouting antlers, it was more than he could stand. He swapped ends in one jump, leaving me lying on the ground among the apples. Since then, I have seen cows and horses also walk on their hind legs picking apples and pears.

Almost all government wind breaks contained rows of bois d'arc trees, which were drought-proof and made excellent fence posts in a land where such items were scarce. These trees produced apples that were not edible. The only use I know for bois d'arc apples is to gather a bucket and throw under your house to help keep spiders and bugs away.

In the late 1860s, just before barbed wire was invented, selling bois d'arc seed was a profitable enterprise.

The apples were gathered into ricks and left to rot. After rotting, they were shoveled into wooden troughs with holes drilled in the bottom. Water was applied, washing washed the seed through the holes into baskets below. When it dried, the seed sold for $35 per bushel.

Bois d'arc hedge rows were planted on the prairies as fences. The sharp needles kept livestock from passing through.

However, these same prickly barriers also caught tumbleweeds that rolled by. The occasional prairie fire burned the weeds and killed the hedge row. It was at this time barbed wire entered the picture.


Delbert Trew

"It's All Trew"

July 10, 2007 Column
E-mail: trewblue@centramedia.net.

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