The Rotten Cherry

image0Bill Stacey was born in a house on near his Grandpa John Stacey’s house. His parents Fred and Christina Stacey had rented the house for several years while Fred worked in the rail yard. Bill has few memories of his own home in Evanston, but has several vivid memories of his Grandfather and Grandmother John and Drucilla Stacey’s house around the corner. Fred and Christina moved to Woodruff in July of 1923 when Bill was just three and a half, so his memories of his Grandfather’s house would likely have been later.

But not much later: John died in 1926 and Drucilla in 1927. Sometime before then, when Bill was about 5 or 6 Fred took the family to Evanston to visit his parents. A trip to Evanston took a whole day in a horse and buggy. Before 1926 there wouldn’t have been much of an option besides that.

image1Bill doesn’t remember many details. He remembered the layout of the house: a narrow front porch and steps, a narrow hall with a bedroom on the left and sitting room directly ahead. After the sitting room was another small room, and after that, the kitchen. The house was built in a circular pattern. If one began at the entry hall and went straight ahead, he would go through the sitting room, the small room off the kitchen, and finally the kitchen at the end of the house. Then he could turn left and go through Grandpa Stacey’s bedroom next to the kitchen, past the bed in which John died of pneumonia in 1926, and finally the second bedroom next to the narrow entry hall. The furnishings were simple. It was all quite simple in a boy’s mind.

The old road from Evanston to Woodruff wasn’t in the foothills as it is now. It wound through the center of the valley, through the center of Almy, past the Bowns place, the old church and the pioneer cemetery, and just about the time it crossed Bear River, bore almost straight south.

Unpaved, the road bumped past the rocky path to the reservoir, across the unmarked Utah State line, and right in front of the Deseret Ranch. Now in Utah, they would pass several dirt roads: the road to Francis Ranch and finally to neighbor Samuel Bryson’s place. Eventually cars made their appearance, and the road had to be paved. But in 1924 or 1925 when the family came to Evanston, it was in a wagon on a very bumpy dirt road.

But Bill didn’t mind. He hadn’t seen his Grandpa and Grandma for a long time, and was excited about the adventure. When they arrived at John and Drucilla’s house, at the corner of Main and Sixth in Evanston, he bounded up the narrow steps which would, a few years later, cause his Grandma Drucilla to trip and fall, resulting in her death. He noted the familiar details of the front hall, the sitting room, and the little room off the kitchen. He probably noticed his Grandpa Stacey coming in the kitchen door from the outside and his Grandma Stacey preparing food for their meal.

image2There was a small table at the side of the kitchen, on the left just as one came from the sitting room and small room into the kitchen. Bill was invited to sit at that table. The exact spot was firmly fixed in his mind by the next event.

Grandma Stacey, living in the big city of Evanston near the railroad, had become something of a connoisseur of fine food. She placed a bowl of something brown and shiny on Bill’s table. He knew exactly what it was. After all, he had tasted cherries before. But when he bit into the first one he had a big surprise. It may have been a cherry, but was definitely rotten.

“Grandma,” he said, “you gave me rotten cherries.”

She laughed. “They’re not cherries at all, Billy.”

“They look like cherries.”

“Not really. Cherries are red and these are brown. You just had an olive.”

Bill pushed the bowl away. I like cherries, but not these. They taste rotten.”

He never forgot that day. Fixed in his memory forever was the taste of the olive, the position of the table, the look of the house. One day he would have a son who liked olives so much he would make himself sick on them. But for now, Bill liked his usual fare of bread, butter, jelly, milk, mutton and a few root vegetables. It wasn’t much by the world’s standards, but for him it was exactly right.