Today is hot and humid. The kind of day that reminds you summer is near even though it is still spring. Sally and I had just left the farm in Lake Wales after repairing a fence and feeding the spent grains from Grove Roots Brewery to our small herd of cattle. The rains are still infrequent enough and the nights cool so that the grass doesn’t grow as fast as the cattle would like. After locking the gate, Sally jumped back in the truck and said, “Remember, peach picking today only till 3.”
“Oh yeah, over on Eagle Lake at Martha and Joe Burke’s place.” I said.
“And we can stop and get a couple of tacos on the way in Wahneta.” She said, as I pulled out of the farm and on to the asphalt road. I love to eat, but Sally just might like it more than me, at least for local tacos. “Hey then we can have peaches and cream for dessert!” I grinned. I knew we had a date.
We pulled down the long drive through the familiar orange grove we all saw growing up here in Central Florida. On the right all of a sudden is a huge peach orchard. This was not such a familiar site in these parts. We parked and got out of the truck, stepped on to the sandy driveway and into the baking sun with staggering humidity and the silence that comes with the midday heat. We heard the occasional cricket chirping and the caw of a crow in the distant. A slight breeze was coming off the lake toward us and with that, a familiar smell of baseball.
It was a spring training smell, a smell of The Boston Red Sox in town. I thought of Sertoma Park and Dixie Youth Baseball that I played. It was those scents that reminded me of the Winter Haven Red Sox, our local farm team that played baseball in the same Chain O’ Lakes Stadium after the Boston Red Sox went back north along with all of those snowbirds.
A bunch of us kids would go to the day games with gloves in hand competing and running to catch any and all foul balls, hoping to get at least one. I thought I was the smartest of them all. I would stand in the back of the bench seats able to run anywhere fast. I stood behind an older man from Boston that would shake a cowbell when we needed a home run. “In the trees!” He chanted as the batter stood at the plate. “In the trees!” he would say again after a swing or foul tip. I would look out past center field and dream of someday myself hitting that home run in to the orange grove past the scoreboard. “In the trees!” The man yelled a third time and sure enough, when the batter did hit one the old man would stand up shaking that cow bell yelling through his cigar, “Way to go! Bring ‘em all home!” If he saw me behind him, he would turn, smile and shake his hands, patting me on the shoulder and would say “Hey kid did you see that? How about that? Right in the trees like I said! I love baseball don’t you? You could do this someday, you know you could.”
I did know I could, but I was still hoping for the ball to come my way so I could catch it and get it signed by one of the players. Kids were allowed to run the bases when the game was over; the same bases that the big leaguers had just played on. We sprinted all the way to home plate, sometimes twice and even got to slide. The umps would have a fun time with us too. They made the “safe sign” if we slid well and the “thumb up out sign” if we slid badly. The ball players would coach us a bit as we ran and would give some lucky kid broken bat and a ball or two. I got a few bats and caught my share of foul balls back then. Some days after the game when I was waiting to be picked up, I would run out to the orange grove and look for a home run ball under the trees in the sand. I never did find one but I always had a feeling some other kid had beat me to it. It was always a fun day. My parents would let me buy a Coke and have a hot dog or two. If I got thirsty after that there was a water fountain right behind where I stood and could get a quick drink not missing a minute of the game.
Walking toward the peach trees, I suddenly got the smell of school ending soon and summer break coming with lots of horse riding in the lake and bike riding to Winter Haven Mall. It had me grinning again. I turned toward Sally, pointed and said, ”There it is; that’s the memory, that’s the smell- the vine growing up and over their fence is Jasmine.” I remembered Jasmine grew on the fence at the baseball stadium too. It was full of white little flowers coming out of lush green vines from the hidden fence. The smell of Jasmine is everywhere at this time of the year.
We did pick some perfectly ripe Florida peaches and a couple of beautifully colored lemons. When we got home, Sally made some whipped cream and we had a nice Saturday afternoon dessert looking out across Eagle Lake deciding where we should plant our own Jasmine.