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Shelling peas, watching baseball and beating the heat

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Shelling peas, watching baseball and beating the heat

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Mark Smith Jr. Executive Editor

From our car in the driveway I could hear the TV inside blasting Ernie, Pete and Skip. Just looking at the condensation dripping down the sliding glass door, I could tell the air conditioner was running full tilt as well. My mother’s father — my grandfather — enjoyed watching the Braves, he also liked to stay cool. Like many who grew up during the depression, he knew real struggle and tough times. In retirement, the comfort of his loved ones ( and himself ) was a priority. Many times, to my astonishment, he would freeze up a compressor in the middle of August. A big block of ice would form on the outdoor unit and he would send me outside to thaw it out by spraying it with a garden hose. I wasn’t an electrician but the idea of putting water on the biggest electrical appliance in the whole house did concern me a bit.

August also meant pinkeyed purple hulls were coming in and readily available at farmers markets and roadside stands. Simmered with a little pork fat and salt, no summer supper was complete without the legendary legumes and a slice of home grown tomato. The potlikker from the peas and the juice from the tomato would often seek to combine on your plate. A slice of white bread was there to mediate between the two and make sure no drop was wasted.

At my grandparents’ house, we spent many hours shelling the pinkeyed peas while watching players like Ralph Garr, Dusty Baker and Mike Lum. Unlike shucking corn - which was messy and would only be done out on the back porch - shelling peas could be done in the cool comfort of the living room. Sitting on the sofa with a Tupperware bowl between your legs, shelling peas taught one early lesson in gross and net yield. A large brown paper bag of un-shelled purple hulls only produced about a half a cereal bowl full of peas. It seemed like we had to shell a nearly bushel to get a dinner’s worth.

Depending on who was pitching, my brothers and I could predict what story we would hear again. Pity poor Pascual Perez; even if he wasn’t pitching we were going to hear about him getting lost on the Atlanta bypass while driving to a game. He went around the perimeter three times before running out of gas. The best stories are repeated for a reason.

My grandfather did mispronounce a few of the players’ names quite regularly. “That ole Gavine is pitching tonight” he would say - referring to Tom Glavine. I never corrected him, I was worried my ancestors would come out of the ground a whoop my butt if I did. He even referred to my fiancée, whose maiden name was Harrison, as Hannah Harris. She just smiled politely, we treasure that memory today.

We once took my grandfather to a Braves game in Atlanta. Dad had gotten us a couple of box seats along the first base line. We were seated three rows behind Ted Turner himself. It was a lot of fun but It was hot, by the sixth inning we were headed for the parking lot. He had to get back to the comfort of a recliner, the TV remote control and a thermostat set on 59 degrees. About that game I do not remember much. I could not tell you who the Braves were playing or what the final score was, but I can tell you about freezing my tail off in August and shelling peas. Like I said, the best stories are repeated for a reason.