Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Smelling History

I baked a pie with a pioneer tonight.

Sallie Taylor, later Sallie Dyer, was born in the Oklahoma Territory in 1900, seven years before the Oklahoma Territory and the Indian Territory became the State of Oklahoma. Her folks came to Oklahoma in a wagon, and they settled in the country of southern Oklahoma County. (A park in south Oklahoma City bears the family name to this day.)

Sallie was 66 when I was born, and married to one of 8 brothers in the Dyer family. She had a large, extended family around her and life was good. But you would not have seen that coming from her early life experiences. After her mother died during Sallie's childhood, she worked in the local box factory, even as a child. Sallie then eloped with Melvin Dyer, took the train to the State Fair and got married at the age of 15--married into a family where chopping cotton and choking dust in the Oklahoma sun was daily fare. Credit crisis? Hard times? Yeah. right.

The Dyers came to Moore, Oklahoma long before there was an Oklahoma. They spent their first winter in a wagon by a creek south of town and nearly froze or died of sickness. The wind whips over there from the interstate and the strip center today, across a small grave yard with tombstones bearing the Dyer name. Back then, the wind just whipped over from the panhandle, or from Canada.

Sallie didn't know how to cook or sew or any other skill required of an agricultural woman in 1915--her widower father was in no position to teach her. But she was taken in by the rough and tumble Dyer family with their 8 sons. It fell to Grandma Dyer to teach her how to cook, and it fell to the boys, all 8 of them, to tease her when things didn't go right. Sometimes, all it took was, "that ain't how ma done it," to start the tears flowing.

But Grandma Dyer was a good teacher. "That's all right. You'll do better next time."

And she did.

Among the things Grandma Dyer taught her was how to make an apple pie. Nothing fancy. Still, how could it not be good with such basic things as apples, sugar, cinnamon, and butter.

But if Grandma Dyer didn't teach you, how would you know that Jonathan apples make the best pies?

And how much sugar is enough for the filling? Just about that much right there.

And don't forget to put a smidge of flour in with the apples and sugar so the juice won't be too soupy. Now add some cinnamon.

How much? You'll know--if Grandma Dyer taught you.

And Grandma Dyer taught her that the top crust sticks down better if you wet the edges with water.

And you have to secretly dollop some butter on top of the apples before you put on the top.

Then, you use your fingers--just so--to crimp the pie crusts together.

But the real secret is the top crust. If you want it to be perfect, give it a light coating of milk just before you put it in the oven and sprinkle it with sugar and cinnamon.

That's the way Grandma Dyer did it.

I never knew her, but she taught Sallie. Sallie, my great grandmother, taught me. She also taught her daughter and her grand daughters. When Sallie's daughter became too infirm to cook, Sallie's son in law, my grandfather, even made pies this way.

And they smelled just the way my house does now. I remember it.

I remember them.


Unknown said...

Outstanding post, Greyhound.

Have a wonderful and meaningful Thanksgiving.

Danielle in Iowa in Ireland said...

Hmmm. I want apple pie. Now.

And I never heard that trick about the milk!

Have a nice holiday!

Fe-lady said...

Nice story...keep it alive.
Happy Thanksgiving!


God Bless Grandma! The pie looks amazing!

Kathy said...

Man that pie looks good. I wish I had been there to make it with you, and then to have a slice. Mmmmmm.

SingletrackJenny (formerly known as IronJenny) said...

That is an awesome post.
You could publish all these -- your books already written!

Supalinds said...

As always, great post! Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

CoachLiz said...

That pie looks like a slice of heaven!

Go Mom Go said...

What a tribute.

You are so blessed.

Unknown said...

Very cool. Very VERY cool.

Oh's sorta late, but Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

Kel and Migs said...