6th Annual Running of the Tractors & 4H Show

Two Cute Bunnies

On Sunday March 25 the FrontierMart, along with other South End Businesses hosted a free Vintage Tractor and Car Show along with a 4H Fair.  We had the 4H display on the FrontierMart grounds.  Here are some fun photos of the activities.  Sorry, I don’t have shots of the tractors and cars.  We were so busy that we never got over to the other venues.  But it was a great day, and we loved getting to know the kids and their animals.

FrontierMart Elders

 

Fishbait

In Corrales, fish swim in the irrigation ditches and fishermen with muddy shoes come into the FrontierMart looking for bait.

“We don’t have any,” I tell them.

“Too bad,” they say.  “You should sell worms.”

“No,” I say, “We shouldn’t.  We tried it once.”

Some years ago an elderly gentleman wearing a hatful of fish hooks came into the store selling earthworms.  “No, thanks,” I said.  “We just sell food.”

“Worms are food,” he said.  “Food for fish.  Plenty of fishermen in these parts.  They’ll want bait.”

I hesitated.  What he said was true.

“I dug these worms myself.”  He extended a hand for me to shake, a hand with black dirt embedded in the wrinkles.  “My name’s Clay.  An old fisherman.  I know a good worm when I see one.  Fat Succulent.  Clay’s hand picked worms.  They sell fast.”

“All right,” I said.  “We’ll try.”

Clay’s worms came in pint-size ice ream containers that he recycled and filled with peat moss.  Twenty-four cartons, twenty-four worms per carton.  Five hundred seventy-six worms.  Clay would have to eat 24 more pints of ice cream before supplying his next client.  Judging from the cartons, raspberry was his favorite.

We stacked the containers on the bottom shelf of the front aisle under a sign that said “Fishbait.”

“Keep them damp, Clay said.  “A squirt of water every day.”

Later that afternoon, I went to the bank, leaving Lollie to mind the store.  When I returned, the worm shelf was empty.  “Wow, Lollie,” I said.  “Did you sell all those worms?”  Clay was right.  Worms sell.

“What worms?” Lollie replied.  She was ringing up a stack of magazines for a woman who looked startled at the mention of worms.

“Fishbait,” I explained.  “they were in ice cream cartons.”  I pointed to the empty shelf.

“I thought that was ice cream,” Lollie said.  “I put them in the freezer.”

I dashed to the freezer.  “Have you sold any ice cream?”

She hadn’t.  I pulled the worms from the freezer and emptied one carton of worms on the floor.  Lollie, the woman with the magazines, and I watched a slow tangle of worms.

“They look all right,” said the woman.

“Yuck.  Frozen worms,” said Lollie.

But they weren’t frozen.  Just chilled.  I carried an armload of cartons back to the shelf.  “Bring the others,” I told Lollie.

She shook her head.  ”I don’t do worms.”

So I took care of the worms myself.  Every day I opened the boxes and gave them a squirt of water.  Sometimes I said good morning to them.  I resisted the urge to name them, though names just naturally sprang to mind — names like Jimmy Dean, Earthmother and Juicy Fruit.

After five days I sold my first carton of worms to a boy in a Dodgers cap.  I didn’t feel any too good knowing they were headed for a fishhook.

But the boy brought the worms back.  ”How many worms are supposed to be in here?” he asked.

“Twenty-four.”

Live worms?” he asked.

“Yes.”

“Well, some are dead.”

We dumped the carton on the floor and counted 16 live and nine dead.  I meant to give the boy nine live ones from another carton, but I was minding the store alone, and I first needed to ring up sodas for a carload of high school students.

“Take nine worms from another carton,” I told the boy.

“Okay,” he said.  “They sure stink.  Must be lots of dead ones.”

The next time I looked, the boy was gone and 12 cartons sat open on the shelf.  He had cherry-picked my best worms and left the rejects crawling in the aisle.  I couldn’t clean them up because I had a crew of adobe workers and vanload of senior citizens lined up at the cash register.

The worms crawled toward the bread.  A Coke deliveryman came in and rolled a hand truck stacked with 40 six-packs over some of them.

“Watch it,” I snapped at the Coke guy.  “Can’t you see those worms?”

Customers craned their necks to look.  Maybe it was my imagination, but they suddenly looked doubtful about the food they were buying.  At last, Lollie came in to work her shift.

“Pick up those worms,” I whispered to her.  “They’re everywhere.”

She planted her fists on her hips and declared, “I don’t do worms.”

I felt heat rise to my face.  I lowered my voice and enunciated, “Please. Help me.”

She drew her eyebrows together and gave me a look that could boil coffee, then tried to scoop worms onto a pencil.  They dangled like wet noodles.  Occasionally she was able to drop one into a carton.

I finished waiting on customers, then picked up the phone to call Clay.  “These worms are dying,” I said.

“Did you water them?” he asked.

“Every day.”

“Every day?  That’s too much.  You’re drowning them.”

“What shall I do?  They’re dying.  They stink.  They’re crawling toward the bread.”

“Poke holes in the cartons,” he said.

“I hung up, used a pencil to poke holes in the cartons, discounted the price, and stacked the survivors back on the shelf.

The phone rang.  Clay again.  “Make those holes small,” he said, “or those worms will crawl out.”

I looked at the cartons and saw worms straining through the pencil holes.  “Thanks,” I said.

“Let me know when you’re ready to restock,” Clay said.

“Right,” I said.  “Sure.”

I gathered the worms into a paper bag and took them outside where I turned them loose in the shade under the water faucet.  So much for fishbait.

©Jean Blackmon Waszak 1996.

 

 

 

Spring Without Burpee Seeds

Every spring I take stock.  I look around my village to see what has changed since this time last year.  The feed store still sells baby chicks.  Someone plowed the fields at the north end again, and buds are swelling on the apple trees.

At my grocery store, the FrontierMart, we still sell asparagus gathered from along the irrigation ditch; and children still buy jacks, jump ropes, and kites.  But near the door between the Popsicle freezer and the 50-pound dog food, the garden seed display is gone.

Last year, with the new mall and nursery down the road, I didn’t sell enough seeds to warrant ordering more.  Now I miss getting the big parcel where tab A slid into slot B and all that cardboard folded magically into a display of snapdragons and four-o-clocks, zucchini, carrots, and lima beans.

No sooner would I assemble the display than old men in coveralls would come to read the seed packets, to talk about sunlight, soil, and water requirements, to count the days until maturity.  They fingered the envelopes like children at the candy counter, then carried their selections away like packets of promise.

Three of my seed customers were Ramon and Julio Tenorio and Walter Atkerson.  Maybe a storekeeper shouldn’t play favorites, but in 19 years of business, Ramon, Julio, and Walter are at the top of my list.

They grew corn and cabbage and raised pigs.  Ramon and Julio were brothers from one of the old families.  On spring mornings Julio and his horse, Smokey, plowed the field at the corner of Tenorio and Corrales Roads.  Walter was a cowboy who had come down from Colorado (pronounced Co-lo-ray-do) in the 1940s.  He’s the only 82-year-old I’ve ever known who rode his horse every day.

Ramon and Walter were best friends who traveled together.  When Walter’s car wouldn’t start, they rode to my store on a red tractor with Ramon in the driver’s seat and Walter standing alongside.  They bought Jimmy Dean sausage, single-edge razor blades, and shaving cream in a cup with a bristle brush.  Heading home, the old tractor crept along the two-lane road at 15 miles per hour; and cars moved into the left lane to pass.  Traffic was light then, tractors commonplace.

On Friday nights when I saw Ramon and Walter’s red tractor parked at the Territorial House, I’d stop and find them in the cantina.  Ramon talked about family and farming; Walter told about his days as a cowboy on the Black Ranch.  Around 11:00 I’d say, “Time for me to go.  You guys behave.”

Ramon would look offended.  “I always behave,” he’d say.  “I work hard; and when I go to church I keep my eyes off the pretty girls.”

Walter would snort and mumble something about blowing smoke.

Julio, Ramon, and Walter haven’t been in the store for a long time now.  I didn’t mark their last visit or say good-bye.  One day I just realized they hadn’t been in.  I’m told Julio and Ramon died more than a year ago.  Walter’s gone now, too.

There haven’t been many tractors on this old road since the highway department raised the speed limit.  And out at the north end, I see fewer farms, more subdivisions.

Some Sunday mornings newcomers gather at my store to read the newspaper.  They complain about high pollen counts and their allergies kicking up.  How can it be that growing plants have become a menace?

Last week a customer spoke of planting watermelons.  I told him I used to sell seeds, thinking maybe I would again.

He shook his head.  “Don’t,” he said.  “People buy plants nowadays, not seeds.  Seeds are too much bother.”

I’d like to run that one past my old seed customers.  I think of them whenever I think of spring and farming.  It makes me look around to see what is missing.  Then I mimorize what we have left in case it turns up missing next year.

What I’m trying to say is, if I’d known it was my last Burpee seed display, I would have paid more attention.

©Jean Blackmon Waszak 2000