March 31, 2015

Reunion picnics and apple battles

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Posted: Wednesday, September 25, 2013 10:32 pm | Updated: 2:01 pm, Thu Mar 6, 2014.

About this time of year, the fall apples are starting to hit the ground as farmers reap the benefits, waiting for the sweetest-tasting ones to let go of their branches.

On the farm those many years ago, we kids would get our fill of fresh fruit and vegetables all summer. July was the month blackberries were most ripe — and just a touch, and they would fall from heavy, thick vines. Donning long sleeve shirts, pants and heavy shoes, we trampled through the brush in the early morning hours as the fog was lifting above the hillsides, and we  were filling our five-gallon buckets — and our bellies with berries. Had there been cobbler and pie contests back then, my mother and her sisters would have won hands- down. Having no written recipes, they created masterpieces from memory.

Wild strawberries, fresh corn from the cob, peas and potatoes from the garden were delicacies to us.

The apples were a golden reddish delicious brand filling the orchard with a blanket of color as they hit the ground by September. We grabbed them up quickly because honeybees loved them also. More than once, screams would be heard from bee stings or someone running from swarms. It was inevitable; we didn’t wear shoes most of the time.

The annual Lamm reunion was held in August each year as family from near and far spent that last Sunday visiting, eating, and sharing photos of new babies and stories of travels. It was a good time of life.

Children didn’t need to be entertained with swimming pools, organized games or Xboxes. On the farm, all one had to do was pick a field, lay down a few cardboard pieces for bases, and a softball game was held. If you were old enough to swing a bat, you got to play.

We would pile on the wagon later for a “hold on for your dear life” hayride piloted by my uncles. Later, after feasting for the second time, the hymnals would be passed around for singing and fellowshipping together as one huge family. We had our own choir.

Then it always happened. I never knew who threw the first one, but somehow ending our reunions screaming and running for vehicles turned into an annual tradition — the apple battle. Back then, it was usually the children who got blamed for mischief, but in this case it was my mother and Uncles Bert, Carl, Darce and Denny — the adults.

A beautiful chorus of “It Is Well With My Soul” would be echoing off the mountainside as an apple ricocheted off someone’s head. So it had begun. For what seemed like forever, people were ducking, running, grabbing babies and heading indoors — anything to avoid the sting of the attack, although the rotten ones made the most mess.

Children were practically invisible — able to hit their mark quite well from the safe haven of a tree. Trees were built-in battlegrounds, provided you weren’t seen. I could still climb a tree if I had to — just not fast.

Our reunions now are somewhat tame compared to then, but those memories will last lifetimes and make for great storytelling.

My Aunt Helen is the last surviving member of the original group of Lamms. At 91 years old, she is still very much in charge of our reunion. Although we’ve aged and grown as generations pass, we still laugh about the mischief on the farm.

Our ancestors would not want it any other way.