event preserves the past
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.
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
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.
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
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"
10, 2007 Column