By Trent Rosser
A while back I spoke of the old town I lived in called Rogers, Texas. I have many fond memories of that town, mainly of my grandparents there. We stayed with them during the summer months when I was in school, and later moved in with them also. One of the things I remember is my grandmother's cooking. It didn’t matter if she just cooked for her and Grandpa alone, or if there were many people, she would cook for an entire platoon of marines. As I mentioned before, in the small town of Rogers, the tornado siren would go off at noon every day. At noon, Grandpa would come home to eat lunch and on the table would be fresh green bean, salad, broccoli, hamburger stroganoff, fresh cut honeydew and fresh cut cantaloupe along with corn on the cob. Just for him and my grandmother. Of course, if there were more people there, a lot more would be on the table. This also does not include the deserts. Which usually consisted of ice cream during the summer months or at least 2 different cakes during the winter months. There was always food and snacks. Grandma spend most of her life in the kitchen, and she loved it. Like I said, she would cook for an army and then do all the dishes by herself. She was an amazing woman who could do some amazing things with food. Which brings me to my story about her homemade green grape wine.
Do you remember when I talked about the old iron bridge just on the outside of Rogers? The one here my brother and I would go swimming in the creek while Grandpa would pick wild green grapes? At the time in that area, wild green grapes were growing everywhere. It was before grocery stores had plastic bags so grandpa would come home with 4 to 5 brown paper sacks full of them. It was what grandma would do to them that amazed me. I would be out playing with friends and causing trouble, when I would come home, there was my grandmother with her pants legs rolled up to her knees and she would be stomping around in an old barrel. Her legs would be covered in green goo, but she just stomped around for a while. Finally, she would be done and again, I do not know the next step, but eventually, she would pour the liquid into a very large bottle. The bottles were about 2 feet tall with a very long neck. She would then put a balloon on the top of the bottle and let it sit. It wouldn’t sit for an hour or so, no, it would sit for days! As kids, we were amazed on how the balloons would inflate themselves. After a while, they would be huge, and I don’t think none of them ever busted. The balloons would be as big as an oversize beach ball, but never broke. She would then take the balloons off and do something else with her concoction. I am not sure what she did or what she put in it but eventually she would have homemade green grape jelly and homemade green grape wine. She would put everything in mason jars and seal them shut. She would put the date on a piece of masking tape and label each and every jar.
Now here is the fun part. She would not have a special place for them, she instead would give everyone some, (the kids got the jelly) and hide the rest. She wouldn’t hide them in one spot, no, they were throughout the house and in Grandpa’s shed. Sometimes, we would find a jar hidden in the corner of the closet that would be labeled from a couple of years ago. Me, being the perfect angel, always let her know that I found some and she would give it to grandpa. I never drank any without her knowing! Ok, well, maybe a little. It was so good though! Being hidden everywhere also got grandpa in trouble once.
When Grandpa would come home from work he would spend the rest of his day in his shop. I don’t know what he was doing all the time in there, but if he wasn’t in the shop, he would be in his garden. He would stay there until Grandma would call him for supper. He would then close everything up and go inside, eat, and watch a little TV until he fell asleep in his chair. This was an everyday thing. Every night, Grandma would wake him up to go to bed. But one day, something happened. Grandpa was off on the weekends but he still spent most of the day in the shed. Grandma had called him to come eat supper, but he never came. That's when Grandma walked out to the shed to tell him again, in case he didn’t hear her. She poked her head in and her heart sank. Grandpa was slumped across his desk with his head resting on his arm. She knew what had happened, so she rushed back to the house to call an ambulance. She knew he had a heart attack and didn’t know how long ago it had happened. Rogers has no ambulance service or hospital. The nearest one is 15 miles away in Temple.
She called the ambulance and gave the address. One of the two police officers in Rogers responded first. He walked out there and saw Grandpa in the same position. He walked up to him and grabbed his shoulder to lean him back. Can you imagine the look on the officers face when Grandpa’s eyes opened wide and he yelled, “WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?” Everyone was in shock and the only heart that stopped was the officer's. He made sure Grandpa was ok and stopped the ambulance. Turned out, grandpa found 2 jars of Grandma’s homemade green grape wine and drank both bottles. He was just a little drunk and tried to sleep it off before supper. Didn’t matter though, grandma was mad at him for quite a while. She did get lots of presents and flowers that month.
Grandma stopped making the homemade green grape wine and jelly as much after that. But when she did make it, grandpa was first in line to get a jar. I wish I had the recipe, I don’t drink but I could make the jelly. Then again, the grapes oozing between my toes? No thanks, but it does give a whole new meaning to “Toejam”!