Printed August 20, 2019
Peaches and summertime
I was grocery shopping last week and was about to pass on the peaches on sale because they didn’t look good and were missing that ripe peach olfactory orgy.
But then I looked down at the shelf portion of the display. I saw – were my eyes fooling me? – bags of peaches marked Fredericksburg Co. peaches, grown in Texas.
Suddenly I didn’t see just peaches, but ghosts of summers past - camping and canoeing Hill Country rivers and scouring the fruit stands on the way back home for our share of the season’s Fredericksburg peach crop.
Memories I had long since filed away in the back of my mind came rushing back - of summers filled with special times that have grown sweeter as time passes.
Memories of learning to paddle and be part of a team – how to read a river and the partner with whom you danced the rapids.
Memories of almost throwing Roy out of the canoe when I FINALLY learned how to eddy turn out of the bow of the boat. It’s amazing what necessity, a large rock and an adrenaline rush can do to drive the lesson home.
Memories of summers that were an indulgence of the senses.
Memories of that freezing cold first dunk in the Guadalupe in the heat of a summer’s day that takes your breath away.
Memories of friends competing to see who could cook the most extravagant outdoor meal.
Memories of making beer batter for fish with nothing but pancake mix and warm beer.
Memories of George Mutt giving us a shower after retrieving a stick from moving water.
Memories of watching the night sky from our tent and counting shooting stars.
Memories of being the only one up in the morning savoring the first taste of camp stove coffee.
Then we embarked on finding the fruit stands we saw going to the rivers. When we headed home, that one-mile detour turned into 20 to find the peaches.
Some years, the abundance of rain made the peaches plentiful and juicy. Other years they were dry, and finding the little peaches was truly a treasure hunt. I think I liked those little freestone peaches the best – they were the sweetest.
When we found the peaches, we bought as many as we could afford. Of course, the first one didn’t even make it to the car before juice was running down our chins.
The trick to buying the right peaches was to pick the ripe ones so they would have the maximum flavor, but not too ripe to spoil in the heat on the way home. The heavenly ripe peach smell filled the car on our return journey.
I always said I was going to make peach jam – but I never did. I made peach cobbler once I think, but the truth is, by the time we got home, there weren’t that many peaches left.
I fondly recall the many wonderful friends we shared our summers with while hunting roadside peaches who are no longer earthly bound. Funny how something as unassuming as a bag of peaches in a grocery store could conjure up bygone summers.
Well, I bought that bag of Fredericksburg peaches in the store and brought them home. The car was filled with the bewitching smell of ripe peaches - and memories. I was going to make peach fried pies, but... .
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