In the past, I tried to schedule my parental visiting outside of any possible harvest events but, every summer, since I moved to Oregon, my Mother has made numerous attempts to get me to “drive out Hwy 26” in search of fresh produce farms. In self-defense, I have avoided any ventures that would take me beyond the Cornelius Pass Road Exit. However, I now had a part time job in a retail nursery that required me to go as far as the Glencoe Road off-ramp.
So, after spending six hours at the inferno that I call my job, I drove on out Helvetia way and followed the 'happy peach face' signs (about 100 of 'em) to the old Upper Eiger Sanction U-Pick Orchard. By now it's about 3:00-3:30ish, the sun is hovering directly over the treeless parking area, and the thermometer holding steady at 103° F.
I see a sign that tells me that, for only 10 cents more a pound, nobody will ever know “I” didn't pick them (too clever). Bad news--the farmer lady tells me they are out of the already picked peaches and it was "just too darn hot” to go out again... Fine, I'll save 10 cents a pound! (like I’m going for a couple of bushels/pecks/whatever.. and the savings would be phenomenal!).
Trying hard to look like a native Pollyanna, I grab 2 pails and ask where the good red ones are. "Oh, that'll be in row 11" says the nice lady "but you may have to walk down a ways to find the ripe ones...”
Row 11--not bad. Of course there is enough space between each row to land a 747...but hey, it's downhill so off I go! Valda Ree, Valda Rah!! All alone, I felt at one with the mountain...
By about row 8 the yellow ones were looking pretty good, but Mom wants "the nice red ones like we used to get on the Snake River". At last, row 11. "Down a ways" was quite a ways-- and definitely down--we're talking Riicolaaaahhh!
Since I expected warm weather, I was smart and wore my rubber thongs. Going downhill with sweaty feet tends to get those toe things going in a pronounced sawing motion...but finally I come upon ripe red peaches.
(I’m all alone and where, I stop to wonder, are all those hale and hearty folks that are always bragging about the trailers and flatcars they once filled at some Pick-a-thon? Off to the National Pick-off sno doubt)
Now, I'm not planning on "putting up" any, so I try to carefully pick varied stages of ripeness so they won't all rot on the same day. The ground was covered with fallen or dropped (and decomposing) peaches—in all stages beyond ripeness. Managing carefully to step on each oozing orb, I slid and thrashed my way through tree after tree in my process of ideal selection until I could carry no more.
So, with my full pails, slightly heavier than I thought it would be, and my toes oozing with peach I start back up Row 11. After only two decompression stops and a couple embarrassing episodes of wasp dancing (they seemed particularly fond of my feet), I finally reached the shady sanctuary of the weigh-in shed.
I was incapable of speech due to what I believe was oxygen deficiency. With the exception of my strangled wheezing, I watched silently, as the farm lady dumped my haul onto the scale. I was amazed! Who'd have thought you could fit 40 lbs. in two of those buckets?! Sure it was a little heavy on the ascent but, for the buck and a half I saved, it was all worthwhile!
Mom, of course, was thrilled. That it was the hottest day of the year only seemed to add to her delight. While I’m running cold water over my head in the kitchen sink, to stave off the effects of heat stroke, she hollers, "Did you see any corn while you were out there?"
Teeth clenched, I thought, but did not add, “No, but I saw a great wheat field so I came back to hook up the combine...bread tastes so much better when U-mill your own flour! I'll just grab the spade in case I run across a U-Dig potato patch on the way back out. Hey, come to think of it, fresh coconut sounds good, too...and how about some of that great clover honey, while I’m at it?!”
PS There is no "we" in U-Pick