You may be surprised to learn that bears and apples go together. Grandma anticipated her apple crop and she was impressed with the quality of the apples. Every Sunday we were at our grandparent’s home and enjoyed grandma’s cooking. We all viewed the numerous apple trees in the back yard. They were loaded with apples and we were looking forward to eating them. But we had to wait for they were not ripe.
One autumn day, grandma phoned for help. She asked my father if I could help pick the apples. It seemed that the crop was so abundantly rich that, it was causing black bears to visit the city and grandma’s back yard. It wasn’t that she was unwilling to share the crop with the bears. It was their manners that troubled her.
The bears came in families. Mother bear and her cubs would climb the trees and harvested the ripened apples as if they were exclusively for them. Grandmother did not mind this except when they climbed the trees they often broke branches. She was not too upset with their eating but their conduct. As they climbed they took random bites out of apples; and they did not finish the apples they bit into. So, my grandmother wanted me to come and pick apples for her before the bears ruined them all. Of course, as a 12 year old boy, I was eager to help, but didn’t know what I was in for.
The apples she wanted me to pick were at the very top of the trees. Very few branches were rugged enough for bears or humans to climb. The rigging my family fashioned involved an extension ladder and a long rope tied to it. This set-up was placed upright among the branches in the tree’s canopy. The whole thing was supported only by family members grasping the rope. And then they asked me to climb high up the ladder and pick the apples. To truly appreciate what I am writing, you must imagine an extension ladder leaning on nothing and three adults holding a rope tight and me climbing. As I climbed I could feel the ladder wobbling due to their trembling hands. They tried to keep it steady for me and my father shouted to me, “Don’t worry, we have you!” My thoughts were just the opposite. To make it worse, the little cloth bag they gave me to put the apples in had to be brought back down to the ground to be carefully emptied, frequently. I could not throw the apples down for that would bruise them. So, down I would go, they would empty the few apples into a container. Again I would climb. All the while I was doing this I was worried over the unsteadiness of father and grandparents shaking and me climbing into thin air.
All this was done so we could enjoy apple pies and sauces for the rest of year. But the very best was my mother’s apple cake. I cannot remember any week during the winter when apple cake was not available at home. Everyone knew it was the best. After the death of my mother we all figured that was the end of that cake. Not so! One of my younger cousins found the recipe and baked it for a family gathering. All the cousins agreed that it tasted like my mother’s apple cake. Eating it and enjoying it we all remembered my mother. I also remembered the bears, and the ladder’s unsteadiness.
Ruth’s Apple Cake By Ruth Maki of Duluth (prepared by Kari Palmer of Eagan at a recent family get together) Ingredients 6 apples 2 tablespoons margarine/butter 1 1/3 cup sugar 2 eggs 1 cup milk 1/4 teaspoon salt 3 teaspoons baking powder 2 teaspoons vanilla 2 cups flour Directions Beat margarine/butter, 1 cup of sugar, eggs, milk, salt, baking powder, vanilla and flour on low speed until mixed. Pour batter into the prepared pan. Peel, core and slice apples. Slide apples at an angle into the batter, trying not to touch bottom of pan with apples. Sprinkle 1/3 cup of sugar on top. Sprinkle cinnamon on top to taste. Bake 45 minutes and serve.