“Clem, Clem, I don’t know if I am a-making applebutter this year or not. Marlene, Charlene, and Darlene have been mighty busy and your bad back and hurt shoulder won’t let you do the stirring." Effy Lou was on a moaning binge, feeling sorry fer her self.
“Yeah, yeah, uh huh. All cause Eloise Frumpbum told you that she hear Elvirah Jeemson say Effy Lou’s applebutter is lumpy. Clem arose from the table, went to the stove and got the coffee pot. He refilled his cup and his wife’s cup, then put the pot back. “Hon, whyfore you always talk like this?”
“Now you know my apple butter ain’t lumpy. 'Cepting for the difference in the apples, I always follow Grandma Boone’s recipe, the one that has been handed down lo these many years.”
“Hon, just enter your applebutter as you used to; second place ribbon is like first. Cause you know you nor nobody else is ever going to win that blue ribbon as long as Mister Sizemore is a county commissioner and his wife makes applebutter.” This was a yearly affair for it was applebutter making time and Effy Lou always got upset because she had seventeen second places for her applebutter.
With those words Clem decided to go upon the hill and drag a couple dead logs down. It was nearly time to get in the winter’s supply of wood.
As he walked out the back door, Clem looked at the ten bushel baskets of apples sitting there and he had yet to pick apples from seven of their own apple trees, plus buy a sack of sugar and all the spices. Whew, that was a heap of apples to peel, cut and seed.
Then when he started the old John Deere two-stroke tractor, the fan belt broke. He shut it down and headed for town, and as he drove into the parking lot there was Mister Sizemore getting out of his truck.
Inside they spoke, but Clem had never liked the man. Nevertheless, he was always civil to him. “Mister Sizemore you got a minute?”
“Sure Clem, what do you need? That road up by your house will be graded next week and if the Feds come through, we might get it paved in three or four years.”
“No, Mister Sizemore, it is more important than that, and it is shaking mine and other men in the county’s marriages.” Clem had his sober face on.
“I am afraid that is out of my area, sounds like you all need to see a special doctor,” Sizemore said as he started to leave.
“No, dag nab it, it ain’t. What it is, is because of your being the big county commissioner, your wife automatically wins the county fair blue ribbon for her applebutter. My wife and other feller’s wives ain’t never, and will never stand a chance. Because of your position your wife always wins.” Sizemore stopped. “There I done said it in short order.
“Why how dare you accuse me . . . . What do you mean accusing me?” Sizemore’s face and neck reddened.
Clem stepped up to the man, looked him in the face. “I stated the truth, nothing but the truth and don’t you go bulling up to me like that. I don’t rightly care for that. You dang well know the only reason she wins is because of your position.”
Both men stared at each other. “Now Mister Sizemore, I ain’t never cared much fer you, but I have campaigned for you and I have voted for you.”
Sizemore’s attention had been garnered.
"My wife makes very good apple butter and I know the judges are fair.” And with that, Mr. Sizemore turned and walked away.
Clem was seething. He quickly bought his fan belt and went home. Clem started to a thinking. Sizemore had three more years on his current term so Clem’s eyes squinted a little and he began to hatch a diabolical plan.
When he went back to the house, he was cooled down and he thought he had a good plan as he remembered the procedure for entering stuff in the county fair. A person took their entries to a specific building where someone logged it in and put a special tag on it. Then it was placed on a shelf or in a place specifically allocated to those entries. Then the entries were placed on a table or shelf and then the judges sampled and evaluated each one. Supposedly, the judges did not know which entry was whose.
“Lloyd, old buddy, want to help me with a little dirty trick?” Clem knew Lloyd and how to get to this feller who when not working was quite a tippler.
“Sure Clem, who we going to get?” Lloyd had been a practical joker since he was a little boy and still was.
“Lloyd your wife makes apple butter don’t she?” Lloyd shrugged and looked down at Clem. Lloyd was six foot seven. “And she don’t enter her apple butter no more in the county fair cause she knows she ain’t a gonna win?”
“Oh yes, oh yes, if I didn’t love apple butter so much and the kids too, she would have quit making it years ago.” Lloyd grinned, “You got a plan Clem?” And so the two men had a little discussion. You see Lloyd was a reporter and photographer for the newspaper and Clem knew how to do it.
“First off you get the Editor to let you do a story on the county fair and the local people working and looking forward to entering their homemade stuff. So takes jams or jellies, who has won and say, follow the champion as she enters her this year’s jar.” Lloyd was a thinking.
“Ella May Sizemore uses a special pinkish jar for her apple butter; she says it gives it a better taste, blocking some harmful gamma rays which affect the taste. Well I got one of those jars and as you get the clerk’s attention with your story, I will switch Ella May Sizemore’s jar for one special jar of Clem’s apple butter.”
“Why that is so simple Clem, but will the judges still give her first place because she is Ella May, ah, Mrs. County commissioner Sizemore?”
Clem grinned, “Lloyd, I really don’t think so, don’t think so at all, you just worry about getting that clerk busy so I can switch the jars.” With the idea, Clem made a point of stressing to Lloyd the importance of not saying anything. We will not go into how Clem got two apple butter jars from Ella May Sizemore’s pantry but let us just say he did.
“Lord Woman, my shoulders are tired, really tired,” Clem said as he slowly stirred the simmering pot of cooking apples. “You going to make it extra spicy for me this year, are you huh, huh, Effy Lou love?”
She just laughed, “Keep stirring, keep stirring or I will feed you boiled taters for supper,” they both laughed, with the reference to Clem’s try to appease his wife with a monstrous tater patch. Effy Lou continually would ladle out some of the cooking apples and check to see if they were any lumps or possible lumps in it. Finally, the time came and she seasoned the mixture, giving Clem a little taste each time. “More cinnamon, little more sugar . . .,” it went until she felt it was just right. When Effy Lou went into the house, Clem turned his back to the house, dumped a can of cinnamon and one of nutmeg into the vat and kept stirring. She had taken all of the seasoning for she knew her husband would add more when she was not looking. She had not counted on his buying some of his own.
After a while Effy Lou came out, “Let the fire die Clem, it is ready, just help me put the cover over the pot then tomorrow we will put it into the jars. The next morning for breakfast, they had biscuits, butter and newly made apple butter. The day was spent filling the jars with apple butter and sealing each jar.
“Hon, I will take your pickles, apple butter and quince jelly to the fair, I have to go help Doff unload some stuff he is loaning the fair people. Gotta pay him for that saw dust he hauled in this spring.” Clem was set and he knew that Ella May Sizemore would be taking her stuff to the fair that day.
“Lloyd you ready, I will call when the time is right so you can get over to the fair, OK?” Lloyd said he was eagerly awaiting whatever it was Clem was going to do. So as soon as the fair office was open Clem took Effy Lou’s stuff and registered them, making sure to be a yakking enough and asking enough questions to get Stella Beck confused. Well Stella was always confused but if left to her one track, one thing going at a time mind she did OK, heck even better than a lot of folks.
As soon as he saw Ella May’s car, Clem called Lloyd and told him to get over there. Clem fiddled and Clem faddled trying to fill out the entry form for the quince jelly as Ella May dropped off her one entry, her apple butter.
Clem heard the horn and looked out to see Lloyd in his official news vehicle, so he went out to meet him. “Lloyd you are something else, really something else.” Lloyd had on a big straw hat, bib overalls and bright shirt with big clown type clodhoppers and his face all speckled liked Howdy Doody. “Just keep her busy and get her away from the registration area for five or ten minutes, OK?”
Lloyd grinned as he got his camera and put on his straw hat. Clem went back in, finished his entry, gave it to Stella, and quickly paid his entry fee. She logged it in, assigned a sticker and put the quince jelly with the other jellies. About then Lloyd came in with camera on his shoulder and a big strobe light getting everyone’s attention and blinding them. Lloyd made for Stella and soon had her out front doing all sorts of antics.
Clem quickly went behind the counter got Ella May’s jar of apple butter, then he took a similar jar from his coat, got the labeler and made a new label then put the jar where Ella May’s was. Then he made a new label and put it over the original one, entering the apple butter as E. M. Grazier, Ella May’s maiden name. He filled in the information on each sheet as he had observed Stella doing and then wandered off, giving Lloyd the hi sign. That night’s news featured Stella and Nancy Wanks who had been entering things in the fair for nearly forty years.
Clem was so happy with himself and his work that night he and Effy Lou had a bottle of cherry wine with their apple pie and coffee after dinner.
Jelly, jam and apple butter judging was to be held on Wednesday at three PM of the next week. Of course Lloyd and his camera were there filming every bit of it. There were only twelve entries in the apple butter class. The judges would take the entry, hold it to the light, turn the jar over then after each had examined it, the chief judge, Al Comely would open the jar, and each judge would take a spoon and taste and go through the motions. They judged by the number on the jar, one through twelve. There was only one pinkish jar and it had number twelve on it. Al opened the jar, took a little on his spoon and put it into his mouth. Lloyd was filming, as Al’s looks changed, he sort of retched, then spit it out, grabbed a glass of water and rinsed his mouth out. Then he handed the jar to another judge. Lena Smutz took a heaping teaspoon as she announced, “Oh what a fine texture, what a marvelous aroma, I know it is great.” She put the spoon in her mouth, deposited the apple butter, pulled the spoon out and swallowed.
She handed the jar to the next judge who did his thing as Lena too grabbed a glass of water and drank it down then heaved. The judge with the jar took a big dollop and as soon as it was in his mouth, he spat it out, all over the back of Sarah Clemson’s white suit jacket. He gagged retched and grabbed some water. The fourth judge Amanda Knotly just looked at the jar and refused to take a taste. The four judges quickly left the room and after they had, you could hear coughing, spluttering and cursing. Soon Stella Beck ran in with a box, sealed the open jar, put all the apple butter jars in the box, and departed. Later you could hear yelling, screaming and cursing, as soon there was a siren, someone had called 911.
Soon word was put out that judging had been cancelled until tomorrow because of an illness to one of the judges. That night’s new showed the judges and when they got to the last entry, a pinkish jar, the judges acted as if they had gotten hold of something mighty bad. Two of the judges were kept overnight in the county hospital. Oh when Stella Beck took the entries out in the box she bumped into Clem who was replacing some lights, “Sorry Stella, all this noise and two bulbs burned out back there, sorry,” he said as he switched the one pinkish jar for another jar just like it with the same sticker on it. A jar filled with Musselman’s apple butter and a large dollop of Virginia Gentleman Bourbon.
Just before nine that night there was a knock on the front door, “I’m a coming, hold on, I’m a coming,” Clem yelled as he made his way to the front door. It was Lloyd. “Come on in Lloyd, come on in.”
“What on God’s green earth did you do to that apple butter to put two people in the hospital?” Lloyd was smiling. “Tell me you old coot, tell me?”
Effy Lou was in the other room sewing. Clem leaned over, “Ground up some of them red hot Mexican red Chili peppers, put some ipecac, some alum and a little pine resin in it.” They both laughed so hard Effy Lou came in to see what was so funny.
The judges decided to use what they had already done and to just rate the last entry zero across the board. The chief judge had the entry number twelve in that pinkish jar sent to the lab for analysis. The official results were, “nothing found except Musselman’s apple butter and bourbon.” All at once, the four judges became mum and nothing was said relative to the apple butter contest. Mister Sizemore and his wife took a quick three week trip to California to see a daughter they did not have and it seems the four judges all deposited nice checks from the Sizemore Holding company.
Lloyd’s wife got first place, Effy Lou got second and Ella May’s entry as EM Grazier was voted number eleven. “Clem, I am surely glad Lloyd’s wife won, but I think you and he pulled some shenanigans, I know you did,” she said as she put her second place ribbon with all of her other ones. “Clem, you old coot, you going to tell me or do I have to find out by myself?”
Clem looking a bit sheepish replied, “Hon, let us just say, justice was served. But, I will tell you that Ella May’s entry was ranked 11th and Ella May’s entry, well what they thought was her entry, was commercial apple butter with her name on it had been doctored up a little. Let’s just drop it, OK?”
Effy Lou hugged her grizzled old husband, “But why didn’t you let me win?” Clem looked at her then she grinned and added, “Well at least the judging was honest and I will admit the winner does make good apple butter.” She paused, “But dag nab it anyhow you know I do make some goooood applebutter.
Check these out:
Clem And Effy Lou Grow Potatoes
Musings Of A Greenhouse Mannequin
Love In Life's Winter
The Grass Is Still As Soft
Thanks For Your Hospitality
The Coming Of The Fall
Tom Cat Bored
And.......for many others, click the index image.