Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Almond Orchards

I know that almonds bloom in February, so these are absolutely unseasonal. However, I love almond orchards. They remind me of when I was a little girl in California. My grandfather was a ditch tender for the Turlock Irrigation District, and it was his job to change the locks on the canals and direct the water to the farms and orchards and ranches.

Grandpa would set the water, knowing about how long each grower would need, and then he would be free until that time. This kept him tied to his home for the entire growing season, and yet sometimes free for long hours at a time. He might have to go out at 3:30 in the morning to change the water, but when he had all of his water flowing into large holdings, he could take the day and go fishing or hunting.

I would go stay with my grandparents for a week or two in the summer and whenever Grandpa went out to change the water, he would take me. We would drive down country roads, singing along with the cowboy music on the radio and chewing on Sen Sen. He would let me help him turn the lock; when I was four and five, the wheel was above my head and if I didn't want him to hold me up, I had to stretch to reach. I wasn't strong enough to turn it by myself until I was 12 or so, and that was a day of great pride.

Often the growers would meet us at the lock and when they knew I was coming they might bring me a cookie or piece of pie from their wives. They always gave Grandpa anything they knew he didn't grow that might be ripe. Considering all of the things Grandpa grew at his place, it is amazing what a variety of things we were given. If anyone in the family particularly liked a new treat, he would save seeds and grow it in his own garden the next year.

When I was an adult, I would make sure that one of my drives to Modesto to visit my grandparents, and then only my grandmother, was in February, so that I could see the lovely almond orchards. It always made me think of those long ago days, the two of us in the car, Grandpa pointing out all of the crops to me, "That's tomatoes, Peanut" and "Those are peaches". Many times in the years since I have wondered what a crop was and missed my grandfather achingly in that moment.


J said...

I miss my Grandpa at random moments, too. When he used to take me to Mr. D's for burgers, which they served with potato chips in a basket. I thought that was SO ELEGANT. :)

Wish I had known Grandpa Herndon. He died so soon after we moved back to CA, I don't think I ever saw him, except as a very young child.

jay lassiter said...

this is such a sweet story with a soupcon of sentimentality.
i really enjoyed it a lot. these stories are so compelling because they connect us to our histories.

Cherry said...

We dream of having our own mini-farm someday. To be able to give my kids the pleasures of fruit trees and fresh vegetables from their own backyard. I didn't know it then, but now I know I was very lucky as a child.

This story adds fuel to the fire. Thank you.

Anvilcloud said...

Now you're the grandparent and who knows what recollections will be nearest and dearest to your grandkids.

Maya's Granny said...

It is a wonder, isn't it? We do and say the things we do and say, and they remember the things that they remember. No knowing why, only accepting that.

Anonymous said...

Cool Blog! If you get a chance I would like to invite you to visit the following Shubs Blog, it is cool to!