At the Martinsburg
or the Reading Fair, you can
obtain a good idea of the whole year's farm activity, for it is all
spread out before you. You can admire the prize cattle and swine,
poultry and grain, pumpkins and apples. You can see the handsome
results of the long winter evenings on the farm: quilts, hooked
rugs, and crocheted tablecloths.
And you can see some fascinating old
furniture: stenciled chairs, water benches, dough troughs-even an
old cradle that winds up and rocks itself for fifteen minutes. The
practical objects of Grandfather's day are, of course, antiques now.
The farmer knows this, for he has shown the same
heirlooms at the fair year after year, just as his wife has gone on
exhibiting her grandmother's "show towels" and woven counterpanes.
It is all part of the fair routine.
After the farmer has
made his careful assessment in the exhibition building, inspected
the new farm machinery, satisfied himself that his year's appraisal
of crops and progress is a good one, he collects his family and
enjoy the balance of their annual holiday. He finds them pausing to
listen to the barkers along the midway, grinning at the heckling
going on in broad Pennsylvania
Pushing and jostling good-naturedly, along with everyone else, they
make their way to the nearest stand to buy the hot dogs smothered in
The youngsters beg for huge blobs of
pink spun sugar on sticks and get them. The races are as exciting as
ever, and tense crowds pack the grandstands. True, the sideshows are
the same old frauds they've always been but that is as it should be,
part of the fun. The beer stand does a rushing business; with
constant reunions of old friends come from far and near.
It's been a heartening day, and when
at last the family turns homeward, the exhausted children fall
asleep in the back seat, Mother steals a quick look at the prize
ribbons in her purse, and Father, gazing fixedly at the highway
ahead, quietly plans his next year's triumphs.
But "the morning hours have gold in
hand," his grandsire used to say, so next day the farmer is up
before sunrise. He is going to give back to the farm the day he has
stolen. His wife, however, is not ready to settle down to the
year-long routine. She is still in a gregarious, if not talkative
mood. It is a fine, bright day. She begins to think about apple
With a little persuasion, the farmer
loads his battered truck with apples and goes off to the cider mill,
just as his grandfather loaded the old two-horse wagon before him.
He balances his empty barrels for the cider on top of the apples,
and he rumbles down the road in pleasant anticipation of the spicy
odors that soon will be filling the fall air.
While he is gone, the neighbors
gather and the women and girls set to work peeling and cutting the
huge quantity of apples that they need. The boys keep bringing
apples and more apples in baskets and find time to gather wood for
the fire. The great apple-butter kettle is brought out and set up in
the yard. By the time the farmer comes back with the cider, the fire
is burning brightly under the kettle and in goes the cider.
A penny or a peach pit is dropped on
the bottom to prevent burning, the cider is brought to a boil, and
the apples are poured in. Then the stirring begins, for apple butter
must be stirred constantly, even if there is a penny in the kettle.
But stirring can be an agreeable occasion, especially if the right
young people stir in combination. It can be distracting too-and
burned apple butter is a dead giveaway!
So another day wears pleasantly
into evening. The fair is gone over thoroughly, crops are
catalogued, and neighborhood news is' brought up to date. The young
people stir the apple butter, and the �old folks� with the sweet
smell of apples filling the air decide that yes, smokehouse apples
do make the best applesauce, that pound sweets are best for
dumplings, and Paradise apples make the finest
they agree, can be made from almost any kind of apple-but here there
is an interruption: the apple butter is finished!