The first of the season’s garage sales were upon us and I was riding along with my Great-Aunt Josephine and grandmother while we cruised the countryside. Everywhere we went, the sweet summer air filled the car and even the birds soared the skies as if not a care in the world stood before them.
About 40 minutes passed in the car and we happened upon a sign that was at a corner of the road we were on. It appeared to be an “Estate Sale” sign which piqued our interest. My grandmother turned the corner and we headed down the road. Every few miles another sign would rear its head at us and finally, we found a driveway where balloons and a large neon poster stated “Estate Sale Here!” Traveling down the wooded driveway, we came upon a bare glen.
The trees were robbed of leaves and the bark was nearly torn from the trunks. My grandmother, seeing the trees, was in awe at the sight and pulled the car over. “My God, Josephine. I have not seen trees eaten up this bad by the ash borer bugs in a long time,” she said. My aunt pressed her head against the rear-seat window and observed the destruction. As I opened a tin of my grandmother’s chocolate chip cookies to snack on, she began to tell a tale.
It was early summer in Donbridge and Prissy Sharp received a shipment from China of a rare silk for the fabric section in her country store. This was not uncommon as the Sharps received shipments from around the world as their stock and trade was to keep exotic goods in their general store that no one else truly had. However, this particular shipment carried along with it a few passengers who were burrowed into the wooden crates that neither the Sharps nor the folks of Donbridge knew anything about.
Now as it was, Samuel Sutton, the son of Midwife Sutton and sheriff of the Town of Donbridge, was looking for old crates to build a wagon which he in turn would use to carry firewood from the forest. Knowing that the Sharps carried such crates, Samuel stopped by and inquired if any were left to be had. Prissy, having just finished the unpacking of her silk shipment, kindly directed Samuel to take the crates, which he was more than happy to receive. On that very same day, Samuel set to work building his wagon from the shipping crates and after three days of labor, his project was complete. Excited to try out his new cart, he hitched his horse to his contraption and headed to the forest.
While he traveled he saw a bright green bug emerge from the side of his jacket. Brushing it off, he thought nothing of the tiny creatures and continued on his way. When he finally arrived at the center of the forest, Samuel began to chop away at fallen trees, making firewood of them. As he worked, he began to see more bright green bugs emerge from not only his jacket, but now from his wagon. Shocked at the speed the bugs moved at, he began to take an interest in what they were doing. Soon, the green bugs were everywhere.
Samuel, standing next to a large ash tree, watched as the bugs traveled toward him. Silence fell across the forest as the bugs began swarming the ash tree. Within minutes the tree was covered with them. Samuel, feeling the bugs were occupied for the moment, went back to his work. Filling up his wagon, he headed back to his cabin and thought nothing of the incident.
A month passed and again Samuel went to the forest to gather more firewood. Entering the forest the same way he always did, he noticed something drastically changed. The large ash tree which the bugs had swarmed upon was now completely bare. Next to it, 20 more ash trees were dead and all that could be heard was the eerie sound of bugs eating away at leaves and bark. Samuel unhitched his wagon and took to his horse, quickly heading to his parents’ home to consult his mother, Midwife Sutton.
When Samuel arrived at his childhood cottage, he was greeted by his father who was shoeing a horse in the front yard. “Pa, where is Ma? We have a problem in the forest,” Samuel said as sweat poured from his face. Samuel’s father pointed around to the back of the house and said, “She’s at the barn curing one of the pigs that fell ill this morning.”
The two then headed to the barn and there Midwife Sutton was on her knees tending to a little piglet that seemed to have been shaking earlier. The midwife was holding the piglet in a blanket very tightly. “Ma, we have a problem,” Samuel explained. She stood up with the piglet in hand and handed it over to her husband. “I’ve been trying to break this little pig’s fever all morning,” she said as she walked over to her son. Samuel explained the entire situation and then the two traveled to the forest.
When they arrived, the midwife was astonished at the rate of speed in which the bugs had consumed the trees. Bending down, she picked up one of the bright green bugs which sputtered for a moment and then flew from her hand back to the trees. “I know what this is and there is only one thing that can stop them,” she said as she stood up and dusted herself off. Knowing what she had to do, she mounted her horse and headed off into the wilderness.
Another month passed and just as the side of the Steerage Mountain Range started to become bare, the midwife returned. In her hand she held a large golden disk. Samuel looked upon it with interest. From within the container, a light buzzing sound could be heard. The midwife had several of these containers in her satchel. Slowly she opened the first container and a small tiny buzzing sound emerged. Tiny wasps no larger than a pencil head flew into the sky in a small cloud. The midwife released hundreds of the creatures. Soon the bright green borer bugs began to fall from the trees and by the fall of that year, not a single borer bug remained in the valley of Donbridge.
When my grandmother finished her tale, my great-aunt asked if she could get out of the car for a moment. My grandmother, not realizing the door was locked, unlocked the door and we watched my great-aunt leave the car. My grandmother and I continued to talk as we ate a few more cookies. Out of the corner of my eye I watched my great-aunt pull a golden disk from her pocket and for a moment, I watched her as she opened it. If my eyes were not deceiving me, I could have sworn I saw a little black cloud of wasps leave the container my aunt was holding and not a moment later, the emerald borers that were stripping the forest began to fall on the hood of the car. My grandmother just smiled and helped herself to another cookie as my aunt got back in the car and we drove off to the estate sale.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 cup of Crisco
1 cup of white sugar
1/2 cup of margarine
1 cup of brown sugar
2 teaspoons of vanilla
3 cups of flour
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of salt
1 bag of chocolate chips
Combine both sugars, Crisco, margarine, eggs and vanilla together and mix thoroughly. Next add in flour, baking soda, salt, baking powder and chocolate chips and stir. Set oven to 350 degrees. Grease a cookie sheet and use a soup spoon to distribute the cookie dough into about 3 rows of 5 on the cookie sheet. Sprinkle a small amount of salt on each dough drop. Place in the oven for about 12-15 minutes or until edges appear cooked. Remove from the oven and let cool before serving. Dough can be frozen for later baking.