Out for a spring walk, my brother and I finally reached our destination, my grandparents’ house. My brother, Jasper, held tightly to an Easter lily which we had just purchased from the greenhouse business next door. Walking up the driveway, we heard the screech of the clothes-line pulleys echoing throughout the valley. As the last sheet was pinned, Grandmother sent the clothes out as far as the line would go and then shut the porch window from which she hung the laundry.
“How are ya?” she said as she saw us standing in the doorway of the porch. “Surprise!” we said, holding up our Easter lily to her. “Oh, you shouldn’t have done that. Save your money!” she reminded us as she took the plant with joy. “Hello there, Michael and Jasper!” my grandfather said as he walked in behind us. “Look what they got for us, Raymond,” my grandmother said as she smiled at the fragrant lily. “Come on in. I just finished baking a chocolate pie,” she said as we walked into the kitchen which adjoined the porch.
My grandmother moved about, grabbing plates and setting the table. “It took a lot of cream to make that pie!” Grandma Jules said as she pulled out a pie server. “It was most fortunate that the store had cream today,” she said as she sliced the pie. Looking at her in a strange manner, Jasper asked, “How could you be out of cream?” My grandmother paused and soon a story came to her mind which she most certainly shared.
After years of farming, the Mapes family of Donbridge had had enough and looked forward to retirement. Ana Mapes was the last living granddaughter in the family line; for her, it was a depressing moment as four generations of Mapes had farmed the Valley of Donbridge and now it was all coming to an end by means of an auction.
“I have 20 dollars, now 22, 22 looking for 25 … going once, going twice…Sold to number 26!” said Mr. Sorrensen as two men moved a plow out of the way to make room for the next item. The auction went on for two days. The last item, their red-and-white Holstein herd, was 500 strong and produced enough milk to supply the entire Donbridge Valley. This herd was of great importance to the last remaining farm of Donbridge, the Tanner Farm.
A factory had opened in town which wanted to make cheese for all of New England. In order to land the contract, the Tanners knew they would have to acquire the Mapes’ entire herd. At the start of the auction for the herd, an astounding number rolled from Sorrensen’s mouth. “Do I hear $1.5 million for the entire herd?” The instant he spoke, a wave of astonishment rippled over the townsfolk in attendance. No one in the town had ever heard of such a number for dairy cattle. “I’m sorry, folks. These are new glasses I have on; you’ll have to forgive me,” he said as the crowd laughed.
But the Tanner brothers were not laughing. In fact, John Tanner almost raised his hand and would have owned that bid if it were not for his brother, Robert, who grabbed his brother’s arm and held it down. “Let the bidding begin at $500,000,” Sorrensen said as he adjusted his glasses. The town was still silent. “$500,000 … do I hear $350,000?” At that point, a gentleman, the likes of whom the town had never seen, raised his hand. “I have $350,000 for the entire. Do I have $360,000?” John raised his hand. “I have $360,000 for this fine herd. Do I have $370,000?” Sorrensen questioned. At that moment, the mystery man bid again and at that moment, John, who was not accustomed to losing, stood up and stated, “We will pay $450,000 for the entire herd.” A gasp went through the crowd. “I have $450,000 going once, twice … sold for $450,000!” Sorrensen shouted.
At that point the auction ended, and the crowd began to drift away. John and Robert were still seated in the chairs thinking about their grand herd and, more importantly, just how much it cost them. The Tanners had just purchased 500 cows and would now be the largest dairy farm in all of New England.
Months went by and more auctions took place across New England, but the Tanners now controlled so much of the milk market that no other farmer could compete with them. Then alas, something happened that almost jeopardized the Tanners’ entire production.
Refrigeration was key to keeping milk from going bad and so the Tanners, having known this fact, had built a massive ice house which had a large, vast tank capable of holding the entire herd’s production for three straight days. The ice should have held its form during the summer and lasted until the first of the new winter ice formed. But as summer reared in, the Tanners and all of New England experienced a heatwave with temperatures reaching 110 degrees for 15 straight days. The Tanners panicked as the ice started to melt in the blistering sun. Worried about the loss of their milk, the Tanners went to town to see if anyone had ice to spare, but none was to be had.
Walking back to their dairy, they saw a man walking toward them. “Hello, gentlemen,” the man said, tipping his hat to them. The brothers recognized him from the auction as the man who had been bidding on the herd against them. The Tanners held their hats in their hands and explained their plight.
The man smiled and said, “You know, I think I have a solution for you folks. You see, I represent all of the farmers of New England who lost their farms over the past year as you boys have increased in herd size. That said, we formed a bit of a real estate group and purchased tracts of land, specifically all the land that neighbors the rivers. Now, as I understand it, there is a massive brook that runs through Donbridge and it just so happens my group purchased that land near the brook.”
Before the man could finish, Robert began to realize where the man was going. “Well, sir, I see you have a solution to our problem. How much to rent your brook?” Robert asked. The man smiled and pulled them aside and worked out a deal upon the shores of the small waterway.
The next day, the entire stock of milk was poured into jars and sunk into the brook where no milk spoiled as the babbling waters kept the milk cool from that day forward.
When my grandmother finished her tale, a rapping at the door echoed in the kitchen. “I better see who that is,” my grandfather said as he got up from his chair. When he came back to the table, he handed my grandmother a jar which read “Creamery Brook since 1835.” My brother and I just looked at one another dumbfounded that yet another one of our grandmother’s stories held water.
Creamery Brook Chocolate Pie
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2/3 cup shortening
1 1/2 squares dark-chocolate baking squares
3/4 cups raw sugar
5 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups cream or half-and-half
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon butter
Pie Shell Directions
With a pastry fork, mix ingredients together until mixture becomes granulated, then slowly add cold water while mixing the ingredients together. Finally, the dough for the crust will form. Roll out the dough on a floured surface and then add it to a 10-inch pie plate. Flute the edges, then bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Set aside.
Filling and Final Step
Melt chocolate squares in a double boiler. In a saucepan, mix together melted chocolate, sugar, flour, sea salt, egg yolks and cream. On medium heat, stir and cook for 10 minutes or until thick and creamy. Next add in vanilla and butter and stir until butter is blended. Pour the chocolate filling into the baked pie shell. Bake at 350 for about 10-15 minutes. Let cool, then serve.