Sunday, September 5, 2010

Family

Family


About the time that Babe Ruth was hitting his famous "called shot", Laytonville was forming it's town baseball team and "old-timers day" was started.


Every year, on the Saturday of the third weekend in August, the Laytonville town baseball team gets together and plays the Willits town baseball team at Harwood Memorial park in Laytonville. The boys of summer play hardball, just like the pros. The teams have been doing this for more years than I can remember. The story that I seem to remember is that the baseball game started over a bet many years ago between Boomer Kelton and Al Greenberg, the owners of Boomers Bar in Laytonville and Al’s Place in Willits. Both long dead now, but not forgotten because this “Old-Timers Day Baseball Game” has immortalized them.

The game has been played continuously ever since, with a few years missing during the Second World War. The party before during and after has become known as “Old-Timers Day”. The day starts about noon with a chicken barbecue, with all the trimmin’s. The ladies bring their favorite side dishes. They become quite competitive with their side dishes. More than once I’ve gone through the line and had the serving ladies point out “Those are Lydia’s chili beans, those are Mary’s, and these are mine”. The only correct request is, “I’ll have scoop of each to compare, but yours smells absolutely delicious!” Then, of course you have the same choices with the salads, breads, and desserts. You stand no chance all of getting through the line without your plate spilling over. The food was so good this year that I cleaned my whole plate, with the exception of the fact that I had a little bit of my chicken left over. They serve a large chicken-half.

When I was a wee lad I helped my dad, Everett Branscomb, and my Uncle Ed Downing, make a sauce of sautern wine, butter, vegi-oil, garlic, lemon juice, and salt. The chicken soaked in it over night, then it was barbecued on an oak fire about four feet above the flames, liberaly dawbed with the butterwine sauce.  It was the BEST chicken I ever ate! "Here, try mine".

During the time before the game, you eat lunch. The older ladies talk about their gall bladders, and the men have little side-table discussions about their prostates. The young ladies talk about their kids, and young men talk about sports, and sports. The teenagers flirt, and children play games in the children’s park that is set up there.

The Lady’s Auxiliary sells historical photo calendars and has the late local historian Kate Mayo’s scrapbooks on display. As I was going through them, I noticed a photo of a pretty young lady in a green dress at the presentation of an award for Kate Mayo. It must have been a few years ago, because Kate looked younger than I remember her being. The young lady was a frequent commenter on this blog, Robin Shelley. I think that she probably worked for the "Laytonville Ledger" newspaper at the time.

There is a liquid refreshment stand on the third-base corner of the park. It’s a popular place for the politicians to shake hands and talk politics. The old retired baseball players usually gather there and reminisce about the early days. There is a large sign on the back of the recreation hall that says “D. Dodd” and a date that he hit the back of the building with a home run ball. It is the longest hit ball in the history of the park. A few people proudly tell about being there to see the ball hit, and testify to the fact, what to some would seem impossible.

The Willits players all know the Laytonville players. They are friends that go back to high school ball. There is always talk back in forth when they see each other. I’ve never seen such warm friendships as these players seem to have.

The kids chase fouls balls and home runs, and the ump will give them fifty-cents apiece to return them. Every now and then you will see a kid that will hide a ball for later, and take it home. Nobody seems to care, they know the ball will be put to good use, and who knows, the young lad might come back in a few years and hit his own ball out of the park.

I’ve never seen the park in as good a shape as it was this year, the infield was the perfect combination of clay and sand. It was properly damp, and not muddy or dusty. The outfield was a perfectly green field of well watered grass. The kind that anybody would be proud to have as a front lawn. The flag pole was brightly painted white, and a brand new flag flew proudly at the top. My cousin Ella and her husband Brad Newman had the flag pole placed there last year (2009) in the memory of the Branscomb Family. My cousin Roy worked with the park to get it right. Wow, what a great park for a small town to have.

“I don’t know who won the game this year”. That’s the proper response to the question, “who won”, when Willits wins. When Laytonville wins, the response is, “Willits played a hell of a game. I don’t think that I’ve ever seen them play so good. But, of course, we beat them”.

After the game, we all head to Cousin Roy and Mary’s house across hwy 101 from the park, where most of the family and friends of the Branscombs gather for a yard party. Roy barbecues up a large barbecue of tri-tip roasts. I fry my recipe of deep fried breaded zucchini, seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic and fresh shredded parmesan cheese, served while still warm and crispy! Everybody contributes to the pot-luck, and the dinner is the same as it is at the park, everybody is pushing the dish that they brought. Just like at the park, plates are piled high, and food disappears like a magic act. Hamms beer seems to be the drink of choice for the men, and wine is sipped by the ladies. One of us only drinks beer at the family party, so it is an annual event for him. I usually don’t drink, because I’m too busy frying squash, then I have to drive home, but I definitely have a good time!

A real funny side-story at this years party was about a friend of mine, that has contributed greatly to the knowledge of the history of the Branscomb family. He goes by the pen name “Olmanriver.” I told my family that I was going to make sure that he came to dinner this year. My cousin Penny already knows him. He considers himself to be a “hippie.” Whereas, I would probably fit the “redneck” description better. Just like the Willits and the Laytonville baseball teams have become great friends because of their common interest in baseball, Olmanriver and I have become great friends because of our love of the history of the local area. The distinction between “hippie’ and “redneck” means no more to us than “brown” and “yellow” hair. Or, in my case, bald.

Olmanriver is a vegetarian. I had my mother bring her famous “vegetarian lasagna”, that most people rave about. She made such a large dish of it that I had to pack it to the car. I remember thinking that we would probably be having left-over lasagna for weeks. I called Mary and asked her what was on the menu, I was just trying to assure myself that there would be enough good vegi food for OMR. She assured me that we would have “tons of salads, cassolroles, and desserts and other dishes that would be veggie". And, of course my fried squash was veggie.

The day of the barbecue, Mary proudly stated that she had made her famous Veggie-chili beans for Olmanriver. As it turns out, the tri-tip was the only meat dish there!

As a big surprise for all of us, Olmanriver didn’t show up, as he firmly warned me that he might not. So, our dinner was mostly vegetarian. Every last bite of Mom’s huge lasagna was eaten, all the squash that I took got eaten. Again, we had a huge meal. We have a lot of very good cooks in our family, that cook what I call “down home food”. That’s real simple, but real delicious food. Most of it is garden fresh.

Well, I had one of the best visits that I’ve had with my family in a year. We all swapped “stories” about ourselves and had a great time. We quit calling them “lies” years ago!

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ernie, I bet omr found out you fried that squash in bear grease is why he didn't show up.

Oregon

Anonymous said...

Branscomb resident Bud Harwood played baseball for Cal in the 40's

Ernie Branscomb said...

Branscomb residend "Buddy" Harwood, as he was known back then, was at the Old-Timers day this year.

I would be remiss if I didn't say that, if it weren't for the Harwoods, there would be no park in Laytonville. Indeed the park is called Harwood Memorial Park.

kymk said...

Ernie,

Why is it that the best posts don't leave me with anything to say but "Ahh, I feel happier than I did before I read it."

olmanriver said...

Out of respect for the cooking efforts put forth on my behalf by some of most extraordinary women I have ever, er yet, to meet...I am indubitably sorry to have missed the opportunity to partake in Long Valley's finest homemade cuisine and honored the honor bestowed.
Instead I pulled a shy newcomer. No insult intended, I did firmly decline a week ahead. As the family will perhaps find out next year the billing is better than the show.

I wish I could stop grinning at the healthy influence I am having on Long Valley diets, and I haven't even shown up yet. Does this mean it will be a yearly vegetarian event? Any chance of getting the clan to hold hands and pray for world peace before we eat?
(wink!)

And thanks for that heads-up Oregon.

Your post was a home run, Ernie. At least you didn't torture me with a description of the desserts.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Olmanriver.
These are just a few of the things that have been served for dessert at the family gatherings. Fresh tree ripened organic peaches, so sweet that they are no longer considered to be health food. Blackberry pie with crispy butter crust. Cousin Margie’s mandarin orange cake. Aunt Roberta’s mud-pie chocolate dish. Aunt Tessie’s to-die-for homemade apple pie, made from her special organic sweet apple pie tree.

Another thing… Our family was organic before the hippies invented it. You’ve never tasted food so good as food that was grown on cow shit. Unless it’s Albert Etter strawberries, then you use rabbit shit. Pig shit was for the flower beds, Gramma Ruby said that was all that pig shit was good for.

I’d bet that my Gramma Ruby could have grown Marijuana with one pound blossoms if she had wanted to.

Anyway, we had a good laugh about our organic dinner. We even brushed the dust off the sittin’ log for you. And, the invitation is always open. Next year?

Ernie Branscomb said...

Oregon
As you know our 2G grandmother Jane was known, valley wide, for her blackberry pies. She only used bear grease for the crusts. When she ran low, she would send Grampa Ben bear hunting. It was pretty much understood that if he didn't come home with a bear for her pies he might just as well stay in the woods.

On one of his hunting trips, he and his hounds killed three bear in one tree. That must have put a real big smile on Gramma Janes pie face.

Anonymous said...

With all due respect to the grandfolks, the best apple pie I ever ate was prepared and cooked by Ernie himself back about 1962. The crust wasn't made with bar grease but Ernie put lots of sugar and butter in that pie. I'll never forget it.
Carolyn Burgess always made her pie crusts with bear grease and they were wonderful,,, but the one apple pie Ernie fixed is the bar to measure by.

Oregon

Oregon

olmanriver said...

Yum. Pies!

Secret's out Ernie....what kind of apples?

And why do I have a little nervousness about "the sittin' log"? Doesn't tarring and feathering involve logs?

olmanriver said...

Silliness aside, your family sounds warm and fun and much like my country grandparents' get togethers that I attended as a child, except the food sounds like an incredible improvement!

Anonymous said...

I just remembered, Robin Shelley fixed me a birthday pie one time that was right along side Ernie's apple pie but she made me a lemon meringue from scratch that was to kill for.
Maybe we can coax Jim and Robin into joining us next year and she can bring a couple of her awesome pies.

Oregon

Ernie Branscomb said...

I've been reading, but Janis has had me remodling the store ALL week-end.

I'll give you the recipe for my apple pie in the next post.

The best lemon pie I ever ate was one the my first wife made. She always made butter crusts just like I like, but she accidently put the lemon juice in the pie twice. So ever since then I've tried to talk people into using double lemon juice in pies.

Anonymous said...

Yum, yum, yummy. I made an organic French cream gravenstein apple pie today. It was delicious even tho I used plain yogurt for part of the cream!!! Gotta quit talking pies, it's fattening, lol.

BTW OMR, you're forgiven for not coming to Old Timers and the family gathering. I barely made it there myself, but I did sample Ernie's squash...

Cousin

spyrock said...

i did tar and feather my cousin after watching too many little rascal movies. i actually tared and feather myself to. i remember grandma grace had to scrub that off of her before her dad showed up. i always wondered why he didn't like me much. i don't think they would do that to a newcomer. maybe just give you a bowl of mountain oysters. you still eat fish don't you. lol.

olmanriver said...

Pretty funny spy!
I lives for salmon, but don't eat oysters of the ocean variety, or "land-locked" kind.

Funny story.

Robin Shelley said...

The Branscombs are, indeed, a hospitable bunch, Omar, & Ernie isn't exaggerating about the quality (or quantity!) of the food you'll find at their gatherings. If you ever do attend one you'll regret having missed any in the past!
Now, Ernie... as for that young lady in the green dress... I would really like to see that picture myself. I cannot, for the life of me, remember owning a green dress or attending any kind of award ceremony for Katie Mayo. I do, however, remember working for "The Ledger". LOL!

Ernie Branscomb said...

Robin
Maybe it was mislabled. It was in Kate's handwriting.
I just thought that that I would point out that I said: "A pretty young lady in a green dress" But you only denied the "Green Dress part".
Vanity, woman be thy name.

Robin Shelley said...

If it was in Katie's own handwriting then it probably wasn't mislabeled. I just don't remember the event.
Okay, Ernie... I'm blushing! But thank you.

olmanriver said...

Breaking family news!!!!
Actually it is 2-day old news, but the local papparazzi who follow every move of our local celebrities, recently spotted one well known local at a Rotary meeting..... "wearing a new shirt"!
On another thread, Ernie disowned the hero label, but he must be a celebrity because they are the only ones whose clothes the press notices.
Right?
There was picture and everything, I was surprised it was only third page news, maybe it was an editorial choice... anyhoo, the Branscomb family scrapbook has another entry for the Ernie page.

Ernie, being humble and all, probably wouldn't even mention it on his blog, but his 'friends' will.

Anonymous said...

Are you really famous Ernie? Wow

Oregon

Anonymous said...

Robin, this is probably inappropriate, but since I don't have your address or email address I wanted to say that our hearts and condolences are with you.

Cousin