Monday, June 21, 2010

Nothing like Missouri applesauce

My grandpa is originally from Argyle, a small town in central Missouri. The past few years, we have gone back often to visit his brothers and sisters in the area where they grew up, not far from where my great-grandparents raised them.

Argyle, MO, is full of Brunnerts. We even have Brunnert’s Pub named after our family. I always cherished spending that quality time with my g-pa, even when he made me drive through rush hour traffic in both Kansas City and Jefferson City. I’d go fishing with great uncle Ed, make applesauce with great aunt Katie, and at night, over one of Grandpa and his brother Joe's infamous highballs, I would listen to the many stories that they would tell of how the kids made it through the war and all the work they did.

Yesterday, June 20, I lost my great uncle Joe.

It still hasn’t sunk in that I’m never going to see him again. He was over 90 years old and incredibly still independent. He had been suffering for many weeks, and I chose not to go down to Missouri and see him in such a fragile state. I also have chosen not to attend the funeral because I just don’t do well with those situations anymore. It makes me think about my grandpas and how I’m going to fall apart when they die. I’m Grandpa Charlie’s girl, and I’m my Grandpa Marlon’s only grandchild.

To replace the sad with the happy, I decided to go back into my files and find some photos and video I took on my own and on a trip when Devin went with us to Argyle. I also wrote a poem about Joe and his wife Katie a few years ago for my poetry class, and it was a big hit with the class.

Looking for Them Yeller Ones Among the Green Ones

Well it’s like this here…
That’s the boomin’ wake-up call
comin’ from the kitchen
just after 5:30,
but I expected it.
Uncle Joe and Aunt Katie are early risers.

Sizzlin’ bacon and bread
waft down the hall,
but I heard them talkin’
‘bout what I’ve been waitin’ for.
And it’s still hangin’ on the tree.

We’ll go fill them buckets later, Joe says.
Well gosh dang, I’ll bet
they’s gonna be plumb full.

Droolin’ eyes watch out the window
as Grandpa and Uncle Joe climb the tree,
reachin’ as far up as possible,
pickin’ even the green ones
‘fore the worms take over.
Buckets later we gather ‘round the table
for the peelin’ and slicin’ ceremony.

Well, it’s like this, Joe says,
I thought a while ago
I’s sposed to take the green ones out
to give ‘em to ya.
That’s the kinda hint
I got from ya anyways.

No, Katie says, I said the yeller ones.
The green ones make it bitter.

Well, she gives me a kinda hint, Joe says,
and I don’t always hear her.

Every apple slice
that ploops into the water
reminds me of that perfect
Missouri applesauce.
It must be in the technique,
in the second beer
Uncle Joe just opened.

Josey, Katie says, can you pick me out
them yeller apples? as Joe takes down
a swaller.
Ya know, he says,
the best ones we got outta there already.

I know that, sir, she says.
He sifts through the bucket,
picks out another.

Right great, ma’am. I’m just tryin’
to help out a lil’ bit.
Oh, there’s yeller ones in here, lady,
if you want some of ‘em.

Ok, she chuckles, I want the yeller ones, yes.

Katie even chops them apples up fine.
No chunks, just smooth,
slide-down-yer-throat sauce.
I watch her stir in cup after cup
of pure sugar. She smooshes an ant or two
that already try to sneak a taste
of the treat from across the counter.

Boy, she says, them little buggers
ain’t gettin’ this. Soon as I opened
that sugar, they came a runnin’,
as if to say, “Well, we want some too.”

Gotta lick the sides after finishin’
the fifth bowl of Missouri applesauce.
Don’t worry, Katie says,
there’s still more for tomorrow.
I even got some in the freezer
you kids didn’t finish off last year.

The flavor I taste only once a year
has been savored, and I listen
as Uncle Joe cracks another beer
and tells that story of them kilns
and how it was damn good work.

I'll drink a highball to you, uncle Joe. *Cheers*


  1. I do remember hearing those war stories. I don't remember what they were about, but I remember I liked hearing the stories.