Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Mustang Grapes

The following story that I wrote in May 2008 is about a childhood visit I made with my grandmother, Addie Newman Hearn, to her father’s home in Rossville, Texas, before he,(Bob Newman) died in 1962. ~Elaine Adams~

Mustang Grapes and An Outhouse

Nanny, the only grandmother I ever knew, lived on a ranch about four miles west of Encinal, Texas. She loved to tell her grandchildren about her mother’s delicious wild mustang grape jelly and decided one summer that she needed to make some instead of just trying to describe it to us. Nanny’s father and our great-grandfather, born in 1878, was still alive and lived on a ranch in Atascosa County. Everyone in our family called him Papa. So one hot summer day, Nanny and I and probably a cousin or two drove to Papa’s house near Rossville, which was even smaller than Encinal. Papa lived with his youngest son, his wife and their three boys in a small house that had no indoor plumbing at that time. The family bathed in a round galvanized tub about three feet in diameter and a foot and a half deep. For their other bathroom necessities, they had an outhouse with two holes!

Once we got to Papa’s house and hugged everyone, we got down to business. Nanny put on her homemade bonnet and led us out to a field where there was an abundance of mustang grapes growing on vines that covered bushes and parts of the fence. They were small, about the size of blueberries, and very dark, almost black. Before we started picking the grapes, Nanny warned us to be very careful and watch for rattlesnakes. That added an element of danger to our undertaking! It took us quite a while under the hot sun to pick enough grapes to make at least several jars of jelly. At last, Nanny was satisfied that we had enough, so our hot, sweaty little group headed back to Papa’s house.

Since it was a long drive from Rossville to Encinal, we had planned to spend the night at Papa’s. When it was time to go to bed, we made a couple of pallets with blankets and sheets on the living room floor. I lay down beside Nanny, and in no time flat, all of the tired grape pickers were fast asleep.

In the middle of the night, I woke up and had to go to the bathroom. I was terrified at the thought of having to walk out to the outhouse alone at night. Snakes or coyotes or javelinas could be anywhere out there in the dark, moonless night. Even in broad daylight, I wasn’t thrilled about going to the outhouse because it smelled bad and there was always at least one wasp nest up in the corner of the ceiling. I just knew that a wasp would try to sting me while I was sitting there. There were also a few spider webs and flies buzzing around. This seemed ever scarier lying there in the dark.

I waited a while longer, but finally I knew there was no way I could wait until morning. I had to wake Nanny up and ask her to go with me. She laughed but knew how scared I was. We walked hand in hand on the path to the outhouse in the back. I wouldn’t dare close the door; it would be too dark! I kept talking to Nanny to be sure she was still there. Once we got back inside the house, I sighed with relief. We had made the trip to the outhouse and back safely.

The next day, we piled in the car with our basket of grapes and drove back to Nanny’s house. She went to work making the wild mustang grape jelly we had heard so much about. Unfortunately, it turned out so sour that none of us could eat it! Sad to say, the result of our hard work eventually had to be thrown out. After that, Nanny didn’t say much about mustang grape jelly, but she had given me an Atascosa County experience that I will never forget!


Elaine said...
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Anonymous said...

Elaine, I love this story! I'll bet your hands were stinging after picking those grapes. bw

K_Elaine said...

I loved your story Elaine! I surely can relate to the snakes in Atascosa County...especially where I live...the only difference...where I live, about 3 miles outside of Poteet, the rattlesnakes are sharing their domain with the copperheads...I call our place..."Snake Hill!"