In Santa Clara during the summer of 1961, there were numerous boys and girls between eight and twelve years old. We grew up on Benton Street across from the Olson pear orchard. Every year during hot summer days, hard working farm workers would strip the Bartlett trees of their fruit and deposit them in old wooden shipping crates. During the day, neighborhood kids would sell cold Kool-Aid to those workers. Workers who climbed up and down ladders all day really appreciated an iced cold drink, during their work day. Those nickel and dimes earned from those drinks soon filled our empty pockets with enough change to go to our local movie theater. Life was good for us kids—we worked hard and were rewarded.
After a few weeks, those workers rotated to another orchard, and we were lucky to have the remaining pears that were too small to pick. All the homes on that street soon had enough pears for the year. The remaining pears on the ground were not good for consumption, as they were battered and bruised from being on the ground for weeks. We did find a good use for them a few weeks later. . .
The barrage of overripe pears was held once a year at the end of the harvest and the showdown was quickly approaching. In between the almost barren pear trees and the mustard weeds, we built individual forts, using the crates for the afternoon showdown against each other. The kids worked as a team as we gathered the remaining wooden crates to collect pears from the ground. We took our time as we finished the wall of boxes; we then needed to gather our ammunition of overripe pears.
The afternoon was almost complete and we were now surrounded by boxes that were full of softened overripe pears. The fun was about to begin…
Each kid had their pears within reach. I was also ready, but quietly I had acquired a secret weapon—one extra special pear. This pear was almost all juice held together by the thinnest skin. I knew it would be hard to throw, so I had to be very careful. We all looked forward to this day and this time, we had a mom who battled playfully with and against us.
We lobbed pears over the crates toward their intended targets although most of them fell harmlessly to the ground. Pears that did not land on someone or did not fall apart after the first throw were tossed back. The battle raged on! After an hour, we were almost out of pears and the fun was almost over. Then I reached for it—my secret weapon. I crouched carefully to lob it. It somehow left my hand without breaking apart and headed to the other side. It was at this very moment the mom stood up with her arms wide open and yelled, “Time out!” That pear was like a potato—it had eyes and found its target square on her face. Laughing she yelled back, “Time in!” What a great moment and memory.
Thanks, Mrs. Theresa Sledd, we love you!
Mission City Voices