“Want some grapes?” A big bunch of red table grapes was dangling out the window of an ancient black Ford sedan.
If you have 3 acres of grapes growing in front of your house, one thing you don’t anticipate is someone pulling up out of the blue and offering you grapes.
Jed and I had ventured out to the vineyard on this cold cold March morning for the ostensible purpose of stringing catch wires on to the trellising. The real purpose was to keep Jed from going stir-crazy waiting for warm weather to arrive.
So there we were, with a heavy load of wire on the spinning Jenny, half way through the first row when we heard a voice call out asking if we wanted some grapes. We both looked at each other in surprise. I got to the old Ford first. Inside were several boxes of grapes surrounded by old magazines, maps, coffee cups, and other assorted unidentifiable items. A grizzled face looked up with a smile that was missing more than a few teeth.
“My son used to mow this field when it had the big bumps around the outside. You growing grapes here?”
“We hope to.”
“This used to be a farm you know. I knew the people who lived here.”
“Ah. We heard there used to be a peach orchard here.”
“There used to be a farm across the road too.”
“So we’d heard.”
“I knew them too.”
By now our visitor had gotten out of his car and was surveying our field.
“So, do you live nearby?”
“Down near the intersection of 45 and (garbled).”
“My name is Pam, and this is my husband, Jed. And your name is?”
“They call me Lazy Lester,” he said. Then with a mischievous grin, “Sometimes they call me Crazy Lester. Do you want these grapes?”
“Well, thank you! Did you grow these?”
“No. What kind of grapes are you growing?”
“Most of the vineyard is merlot, but we have one row of table grapes. I can’t remember the names of the varieties. What kind of grapes are these?”
“I dunno. Here, have a peach.” Out comes a peach with a small sticker saying it’s from Chile.
“Oh goodness. We’ll have this fruit for our break this morning. Are you a fruit wholesaler?”
“No no.” Out come three small kiwis from the car which Lester hands to me. “Do you subscribe to the grape magazine?”
“Well, I think there is more than one, but we do get a vineyard management magazine.”
“I’ve got one you can have.” Lester starts rummaging around in the back seat of his car. It can’t be found. He turns back to us and asks us what we do. Jed explains that he has a company that does movie previews on line.
Lester nods and returns to rummaging in his back seat. Soon he produces an 8 x 10 glossy of the band Kiss and says he read that they wear more make-up than anyone. “Here, you take it.” We decline smiling. Then he asks ” Do you know what the oldest part of a computer is?” Jed ventures a couple of guesses that Lester declares wrong before he announces “The barcode. Created right here in New Jersey.”
Jed nodded, “Hey, that’s true! I forgot about that.”
“Who invented the first motorcycle.?”
I guessed Harley Davidson since I knew they had a factory in Pennsylvania, and a big dealership near the Delware Memorial Bridge.
“Mercedes. What’s the oldest magazine in the U.S.?”
I’m thinking it might be ‘The Ladies Home Journal” but I’m not sure it’s still being published. Jed guesses ‘Time”.
“Nope. ‘National Geographic.’ One of their photographers was from south Jersey. I met him when he gave a talk. I read a lot. I like to know things. How old do you think I am?”
Lester looks like he is in his mid-eighties to me, but I hesitate to say that. Jed jumps in with “I have no idea. How old are you?”
“I’m 78, But I look a lot older because I almost died twice. Once my house burned. I had to be in the hospital for three weeks. They changed the bandages every day. I have scars on my back now. It cost over $640,000.”
“Yikes. That had to be scary.”
“Then I had a heart attack. But I’m still here. I look old though.”
“I don’t know. You look pretty good to me, Lester,” said Jed.
I have been carrying the grapes, the peach, and three kiwis this whole time, so I turn to put them in the wagon with the spinning Jenny.
“Well, I better get going. I still have three more stops to make today.”
“Thanks for all the fruit, Lester. You’ll have to stop back when we have grapes on our vines and we’ll give you some of ours.”
“I don’t much like fruit.” He got back in his car, and backed it around to head out onto the road.
“It’s way too cold to be doing this. Let’s finish this row and head back inside,” said Jed.
Later, we snacked on Lester’s grapes as we warmed up on coffee. Lester had known our field through multiple owners. We wondered what he thought about a vineyard being there now. He had never said.