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Etta and the Peas…A Balancing Act…

Story ID:8733
Written by:Charles Dishno (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:In Memory
Location:Dillon Montana USA
Year:2013
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More memories from my youth...


Etta and the Peas…A Balancing Act…
By Chuck Dishno
February 2013

My Grandmother, Etta was a delightful albeit a little dinghy. She lived with us off and on for over 25 years and was loved by all.

Etta was born in Tacoma, Washington to a college professor and had a well-educated family background. After her husband’s death in Missoula, Montana she remained there for many years before coming to live with us.

I am telling you this to help paint a picture of my wonderful Grandmother and her antics. I have written many stories about her and this is another of one of the incidents that touched her life and ours.

At this time we had a boarder, Ed Dwinell, who lived in a small shack on our property and worked for my Pop, falling timber. Ed was a likeable guy who fit right into our lifestyle but like many of the people who lived in Bly, had their quaint ways and manners.

Ed always joined us for breakfast and dinner and Mom packed his lunch bucket. He had it made, as Mom was a great cook.

During dinner Etta would watch Ed devour his food with rapt attention. Ed would first pour coffee from his cup into the saucer then pick up the saucer blow across it then sip from the edge. Pop said it was an old custom that he had seen many times in the cookhouse on his ranch in Montana. He called the procedure “saucer and blowed”. Ed would then load the back of his knife with mashed potatoes and peas or whatever vegetable was being served. He would then eat them right off the knife. Sometimes he would just load on the peas and with a a delicate balancing act get them to his mouth. Ed always ate fast then excused himself to go downtown to one of the 5 beer joints to play cards, drink beer and shoot pool. These were hard workingmen and needed their relaxation. Hard liquor wasn’t served at these places so none of them got too rowdy as depicted in the old west movies.

After Ed left for his evening of entertainment, Etta would start on hers. She would try to emulate, Ed by pouring a little coffee into the saucer and blow across it. She mastered this trick quite well but when it came time for her to perform the balancing pea act, that’s when the fun began. She would load the back of the knife with a line of peas and try to hit her mouth but she was giggling like a schoolgirl and usually ended with the peas all over the table much to the hilarity of the rest of us. She would even put a small coating of mashed potatoes on the knife but it still didn’t work too well. I tried to get into the act but was told that only grown-ups acted that way.

My brother, Shad did have his own trick that he would try when Pop wasn’t looking. Shad had large lung capacity and he would put a pea in his mouth, tilt his head back and gently blow a stream of air several inches long with a pea bouncing on the cushion. When he ran out of air, he would open his mouth and catch the pea. I remember Etta trying to do this trick too but couldn’t master it chiefly because she was giggling too much.

Dinners were always a fun time when I was growing up thanks to the antics of Ed, Etta and Shad. We all learned a lot about balancing and aerodynamics at those delightful sessions.

I am looking forward to the time when we are all united in Heaven and sitting around a Heavenly Table, eating Heavenly Food. Ed will be blowing across his coffee saucer, Etta trying to balance her peas on a knife, Shad balancing a pea in the air and Pop shaking his head at the whole affair. What a sight!