Chicken pie and pepper |

Chicken pie and pepper

When I do a column, there are often parts of the story that don’t get told. With this in mind, I decided to add some of these little “gems” together today. Some are funny, some not so amusing, but all part of what happened with some of our neighbors of yesteryear.

Our dear friend Owen, the ranch foreman who lived next to our acre just outside Fresno, was to say the least — according to his wife Mildred — tight. Of course, Owen hadn’t been inside a grocery store or supermarket since he was 10 while buying a quart of milk for his mother. When my husband Van and I found out just how much allowance he gave Mildred, we were wide-eyed.

How she did what she did with that small amount was a miracle. So Van decided he’d show Owen just how “cheap” he was. One Sunday on Owens’ day off, Van took him riding. Off they went to the closest supermarket just a few blocks away. He told Owen to go and pick out the kind of steak he would like for dinner, the potato, vegetables and perhaps a cake or pie for desert.

Van added, ”how about adding some milk, bread and butter?” When Owen finished his purchases he was astonished. As a result, Mildred got a huge addition to her food allowance. Then there was the problem Owen always had with how much soap Mildred put in their washing machine. I don’t remember why he felt this way, but he had this obsession and one day was about to prove his point.

One dusky evening outside, just beside their washing machine vent, was what looked like a huge bunch of pale blue bubbles. Of course Owen got into a tizzy and was yelling about Mildred and the soap problem. Van went with him to look into the situation. It turned out that one of the local schools had had a celebration and someone had let go of a huge bunch of pale blue balloons.

Of course, as luck would have it, they landed at just the right spot by that washing machine vent. We didn’t hear too much about soap from Owen after that episode. Also, while we were still living by the three doctors with their loud late-night swimming pool parties, Van had found a huge lump way down — let’s be polite – on his bottom. It turned out to be an orange size lump from an ingrown hair.

The doctors were very concerned and said Van needed immediate surgery for the lump’s removal. The first thing I was asked was if I’d be able to help with his recovery? I’d have to help with dressing the wound, once he got home, because it had to be healed from the inside out. “Of course.” was my answer. The following day I drove Van to the hospital.

I remember feeling just terrible and my nose was running. I was certain I had a fever. The flu was going around then, this being days before they did flu shots every year. By the next day, when I should have been able to go and visit my ill husband I was so sick I could hardly get out of bed. My apologies went via the nurse and the doctor told me to stay home.

They said, “Please, we don’t need my bugs at the hospital.” That was on Saturday. On Sunday and Monday I called in to my job and they too told me to stay home, but by Wednesday I began thinking I would live, and Van was scheduled to come home Friday. Feeling somewhat better that night, I took the car and drove a couple of blocks away to get a chicken pie from a restaurant.

They made the very best pie in the area. The young girl waitress knew me and made a remark about how dreadful I looked. I had to agree. Once home and completely famished, I sat that pie on a big platter and grabbed the peppershaker. When I shook that thing the top came off! The entire mess landed smack dab on the top of that beautiful, delicious pie.

I looked down at that mess and began to cry. For some reason it struck me as funny. Van was sick; I was with the flu and now the pepper thing. Instead of tears, I laughed out loud, scooped off what I could, and enjoyed my meal. So much for extra memories.

Edna Van Leuven is a Churchill County writer and columnist. She may be reached at