The Peach Box Fort and the Yellow Jackets
Before the days of peach bins there were peach boxes. We would get huge deliveries of empty boxes which would remain for two to three days waiting to be used in the fields. David and I would build forts with them. I remember how they smelled. They had a fragrance of wet wood, sometimes new wood, and sometimes fruit.
Pear orchards were the harvest before peaches. Sometimes while building our forts we would find pears in the boxes. It would only be one or two. They were pears that had bounced back or not fallen out when the boxes had been emptied. They were a day or two past the perfect picking ripeness. They were plump and sweet and delicious. The first bite into one of those beauties would send streams of juice trickling down my chin. We were in trouble more than once for taking those stacks of boxes apart looking for those wonderful treats!
We had been playing in our fort for a long time. It was hot and dusty. I was just finishing up my third pear when I noticed it began to get dark. I licked my chin as far as I could reach and wiped my hands on the sleeves of my shirt. I headed for the house thinking I must have played longer than I realized.
I was almost to the door when mom came out to greet me. She looked at me with a puzzled expression on her face and asked me if I needed something. I told her since it was getting dark I thought it was time to come inside. Not taking her eyes off my face she placed her hands on my shoulders and pulled me a little closer. “So you think its dark enough for dinner? Did something happen in your fort you want to tell me about?” I confessed to the bounty of pears I’d eaten.
Mom took me into the house and into the bathroom. She had me stand on the toilet and look into the mirror. I could barely see and it wasn’t any lighter in the house than it had been outside. There in the mirror I saw me, or at least a reflection that looked like it could be me. It had blond hair pulled into pigtails. It had my mouth and it had my blouse on but something was really wrong! Where I should have had eyes I had two tiny slits barely open enough to see the mirror. My eyes were nearly swollen shut! On my forehead were two huge bumps with tiny red spots in their middles.
Very calmly mom began to chuckle. She ran some cool water on a washcloth and gently placed it on my forehead. Next she took my hand and placed it on the washcloth to keep it in place. “Well, it looks like you weren’t the only one that wanted those pears! Did you see any Yellow Jacket nests when you were going through the boxes?” she asked. I hadn’t noticed any Yellow Jackets or bees or bugs of any type.
Mom left me in the living room and walked out to my fort. When she came inside dad was with her. They both laughed when they looked at me. I can only guess how I looked by then because I could no longer see at all. Dad took my free hand and placed something in it. I remember it felt like an empty grapefruit peel. Dad said it was the biggest Yellow Jackets’ nest he’d ever seen. He said there were at least a dozen Yellow Jackets right next to the fort.
Mom fixed sandwiches for lunch and dad bar-b-qued hamburgers for dinner. They said they were eating with their eyes closed too but I’m not sure if they were or not. It was fun eating without being able to see. I remember they took such care to be sure our food was all things we could eat using our hands. For desert that evening dad placed one last huge pear in my hands. Even without seeing it I knew it was perfect!
Dad kept the nest and the next day when I could see again he opened it up and showed me the Yellow Jacket larva inside. Growing up on the farm was great! Those forts were great! The huge sweet pears were great! I can't say the Yellow Jackets were great but they are certainly what made this day a memory so I guess I'm even grateful for them!