You are currently browsing the monthly archive for August 2016.


…did NOT walk into a bar…

No, really, that just seemed like the perfect line to open the story with, but sadly, it’s not true.

This story’s about Sister Johanna, who can best be described as a cross between a nurse and a nun with the Methodist Church in Germany, worked with my uncle (a pastor in that church) and lived with his family for many years. Yes, they had nuns, and for the most part, they were just what you’d expect a nun to be, the take-no-prisoners kind of attitude in disciplining students, kids, or you when you did something wrong, while at the same time loving you to pieces, and taking no prisoners when you were the victim of someone doing something wrong to you.

But Lord help you if you had any thoughts of sinning in the presence of a nun, and with my uncle and aunt having three boys, there was more than a handful of that going on as they were growing up.

One summer, Mom, my two sisters and I were visiting them in southern Germany where they lived, and Sister Johanna was there helping out like she always did.  That day we were all going to go visit the castle (Hohenzollern, about 20 km away which you should go visit if you can – it’s pretty cool) so it meant jamming Sister Johanna, Uncle Walter, Tante Gisela, my mom, my sisters,  three cousins and me into various cars to get there.

Everyone except my cousin Hanns-Martin and me made it into one of the cars and headed out before Sister Johanna was ready. That meant the two of us ended up in the back of her early 1960’s Renault Dauphine.  If you haven’t seen one, it’s a little French car that was a contemporary of the VW Bug, with a little 4 cylinder, 34 hp liquid cooled engine in the back.  I’d been working on cars at that time with my dad for several years to the point where I knew what the parts were, where they were, and what needed to be done to fix them.

…and unfix them.

– but I’m getting ahead of myself.

She sent us out to the car, both to get us out from under her feet and to have us ready to go, but as we got there my mechanical curiosity was piqued. The car was so small yet the air scoops on the side were like another uncle’s much bigger Mustang, and the radiator vents out the back seemed completely out of place. I’d never seen a car like this before and I wanted to peek under the hood to see what made it go, but we obediently climbed in and waited.

Just as we were wondering what was taking her so long, she came bustling out, and it was clear that staying out of her way was the safest thing to do.  By this time everyone else was well ahead of us, and she was already running late.

But that wasn’t all.

Unlike everyone else, she had to stop at the convent first to get something.

She fired up the engine, jammed the transmission into first, popped the clutch and floored it, heading toward the convent like – well, not quite like a bat out of hell, more like a winged marmoset out of purgatory.  She knew the little curving cobblestone streets in the town so well that she could take them faster than mere mortals.

And she did.

We had no idea how Nuns were supposed to drive, but Hanns-Martin and I had to claw at anything to keep from sliding around the back seat because there were no seatbelts.

We got up to the convent and she got out, running only as a nun can run, where she disappeared in the door.

Hanns-Martin and I looked at each other and we both realized if we wanted to see that engine now might be the one – and only – chance we had.  We jumped out, popped the hood, and saw this wonderful little four cylinder engine with a carburetor, a distributor – and Hey! A coil wire going from the coil to the distributor! I’d seen those before.

I had a flash of inspiration and said, “I can make it not start when she gets back! It won’t hurt it at all!”

See, remove the coil wire and the car won’t start because that’s the single spot all the electricity for the spark plugs goes through.  No coil wire, no running engine.  We both laughed as I disconnected it and put it in my pocket, shut the hood, and hopped back into the car, just in the nick of time.

She’d already been late starting from my uncle’s house, and she was even later now … plus she had two boys in the back who were clearly trying to keep from giggling about something.  She put the key in, hit the clutch, turned the key, the starter whirred, and those 34 horsepower from the engine were sound asleep.

She glared into the mirror as only a nun can.  “What did you two do?” (in our dialect: “Was hen ihr zwoi g’macht?”).

We tried – oh gosh how we tried to keep straight faces and lie to her, “Nothing… We did nothing…”

We were lying.

To a nun.

Who worked for my cousin’s dad (my uncle), who was a preacher.

That would have been a really good time for lightning to strike, but it didn’t, or my cousin and I would have been little crispy pieces of boy ash while Sister Johanna shook the cloud off and went on her way.

But there was no lightning, only Sister Johanna.

I’m not sure which was worse.

We jumped out, popped the hood, put the coil wire back, shut the hood, climbed in the back seat and I was telling her it was fixed right about the time she started it and kicked the 34 horses in the heinie…

They all woke up.

Right then.

The car was already in first gear and I hadn’t gotten the door all the way shut yet when she took off like – well, the door slammed as she hit the gas, and I swore I could see a bewildered marmoset stumbling around outside the window.

Remember, Sister Johanna was not used to being late.

She did not like being late.

At all.

And she drove those 5 inch wide bias ply tires as hard as they would go, screeching at every corner, Hanns-Martin and I again hanging on anything to keep from ending up in each other’s laps.

We commented on the screeching tires and her response, as she shifted into second and drifted through a hard left turn, was “It’s not my driving, it’s the hot pavement making them squeal.”

With the G-forces of that left turn smashing me up against Hanns-Martin, I wasn’t quite in a position to argue, but I could hardly agree with her.

We ended up getting to the castle safely and it is truly a wonderful place.  If you’re ever in southern Germany, I highly recommend it.

Oh – one more thing – there’s actually a moral to this story, and it’s very simple:

Don’t lie to Nuns.

It can be habit forming…

😉

==========================

P.S.  Really, if you ever have any desire for fun travel, take a look at Southern Germany, in the state of Württemberg.

In fact, take a look at Yvonne’s site here – she’s been to the castles Hohenzollern and Lichtenstein, (where her photo looks like it was taken from the same spot I did a drawing from when I was there last) and other castles and has fun stories to tell about all of them.

Oh, and Württemberg is the home of everything from the Blue Danube, Fairytale Castles, Mercedes Benz & Porsche to – to many things you use every day (no really)

 

Advertisements

I wandered into the back yard the other day, unlatching the gate, realizing the post the latch was attached to was showing its wear and would need to be replaced soon.

I shut it gently – intending to just sit out there a bit, in the shade of the apple trees, as we’d had a busy summer, and I’d spent very little time out there, so I wanted to enjoy it a little bit while I had the chance.

The one thing those three apple trees, a Red Delicious, a Rome, and a Gravenstein, have in common is that they are apples, and that’s pretty much where the similarity ends.

The Red Delicious and Rome ripen in the fall, often in November, and they last forever if the bugs don’t get to them… While they’re still on the tree, they’ll just happily hang out, ripening slowly, for a month or more, and you’ve got all sorts of time to think about what you want to do with them. You could make apple crisp out of them, you could bake them, you could make cider… All sorts of stuff… You’ve got plenty of time to decide.

But the Gravenstein is different.

It ripens first.

In August.

It has a wonderfully crisp texture if you pick the apples at the right time.  However, it has taken me years to understand when that “right” time actually is, that time when it’s just a little tart, with enough zing to it to really make your mouth water and your jaw ache when you bite into it.

You see – as I mentioned, they ripen in August.

Every other year, actually.

What I didn’t mention is that the wonderfully crisp texture I was referring to is available at a specific time in August.

And that time is between 10:38 and 10:42 AM…

On the second Tuesday.

Of August.

Every other year.

What’s become a little annoying in all of this is that I’m often already occupied by something else between 10:38 and 10:42 AM…

On the second Tuesday.

Of August.

Every other year.

And once you get past that – usually around 10:43 AM, the apples start falling – like large, heavy, almost mushy hail.

And then the birds, squirrels, and the odd opossum, and whatever bugs are hungry, have a feast, and pretty soon those apples that once held such promise, are down on the ground, pecked by birds and worms and – well, anything but us.

It’s sunny this afternoon as I write this, and as I shut the gate behind me earlier, I realized, without having to look at the calendar, that we were well past the second Tuesday of August.

I got out the lawn rake and started raking them into a pile where the three trees overlapped so I could toss them into the compost, and this one apple just kind of caught my eye… I was kneeling on the ground, in the shade of the Rome tree, putting them all in a big metal pan, and this one apple stood out like it wanted the attention. It was bright and red, but had obviously been visited by a bird or two, and definitely a few bugs. It would not be a part of any apple crisp, or baked apples, or cider.

Apples

I took a picture of it and some of the other apples amidst the dry grass and the already crinkly leaves while in the shade of the Rome apple tree.

…and it got me thinking.

See, sometimes in life, like with those Rome apples, we’re given opportunities that last a long time… when options are many, and choices are plentiful, and you can make apple crisp, or baked apples, or cider for a long time.

But sometimes, life gives us Gravensteins… they’re absolutely stunning, but unless you’re ready to pick them when they’re ready – whether you’re ready or not, then you lose out on the opportunity.

And that opportunity may be rare, coming only on the second Tuesday.

Of August.

Every other year.

Between 10:38 and 10:42 AM.

Tom Roush

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,167 other followers

August 2016
M T W T F S S
« Jul   Sep »
1234567
891011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
293031  
%d bloggers like this: