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RUTLEDGE: We keep a close watch on that Mom of ours—and her purple toes


Saturday, September 9, 2017

My mother has a clipping service she operates from home, and I am her only customer. During my 21 years of writing newspaper columns, she has never failed to cut one out and file it away.

For the nearly two years that I’ve been the column’s sole owner, Mom has helped me with making invoices. She has come to expect my business call near the first of every month, and if she does not answer the landline, I know she’ll have her cellphone.

When I called last week to do the invoices, she did not answer on either line for well into the afternoon. That is unusual. At 82, Mom is in excellent health, but she keeps her clipping files upstairs, and I worry, naturally.

Brother Jeff lives with her on the farm, and sister Sue Ellen lives a rock’s throw away, so Mom is never really alone.

When I could not raise Mom or Jeff on the phone, I called Sue Ellen, who has been known to interrogate and terrify suspicious salespeople bold enough to enter the gate. My sister flew into action and within minutes provided a full report.

Mom had been in the garage all day with Jeff, stomping grapes. Apparently I am not the only one with a sideline venture that utilizes Mom for volunteer labor.

My brother is proceeding with a plan for turning his portion of the farm into a vineyard. After conducting extensive research into the venture, he planted his first rows of grapes in the spring. If things go well for Jeff, I might join in the fun and plant grapes on our part of the farm, too.

Fortunately for me, I am preoccupied with trying to build a house on our portion of the farm. That frees me to watch my brother’s investment and make an informed decision at a later time regarding my own level of participation.

It’s sort of the same general approach I take to fishing. Whenever I go casting about, it’s usually with a friend — sometimes my brother — who has considerably more invested in terms of bait, tackle and nautical transportation.

I have a reputation among fishing friends for resting my line in the water and enjoying a cold beverage until one of my buddies working the shoreline sets a hook and reels in a keeper.

Jeff has gained knowledge, mentorship, and grapes from the operator of a nearby vineyard. Jeff’s vines will not produce a significant crop for at least three years, so he wisely decided to begin making small batches of product in the meantime using someone else’s yield.

My brother has studied the science and methodology for creating a sparkling grape juice I’m calling “Baptist Wine.” Part of the initial process requires placing the grapes in a large tub and stomping the pulp out of them. I requested, and was denied, a photograph of my dear, sweet, 82-year-old mother stomping grapes.

She claims not to have been in on the stomping part, but I happen to know that shoes were removed, feet were washed, and grapes were stomped.

If the Baptist wine is good, I will make an offering and buy the next batch of grapes. Mother will help stomp said grapes, and there WILL be photographic evidence.

Those bottles are going to need an image for the labels, and Mother has been a Baptist all of her life.

Contact Mark Rutledge at mrutledge@reflector.com or like him on Facebook at Mark Rutledge Columns.