Sunday, September 23, 2007

Fred Riffle's Strawberries

This is a story of how a boy's mother helped him learn about being a farmer.
Fred Riffle, born in 1907, was the son of Boss (Roy Merti) and his wife Den (Nancy Idena Skinner). He lived his life in the house that clung to a hill, overlooking Oil Creek Road at Posey Run. His father farmed, worked for the B & O and took other jobs, like hauling pulpwood. Boss and Den Riffle were valued participants in the community.
Fred's only sibling, an older brother, died in childhood. Fred never married. Like most of the boys of his time along OIl Creek, Fred had only the rudiments of education, which he received at the Posey Run School. He worked for a while for one of the gas companies.

To the right is Fred with his folks Boss and Den Riffle.
To the left is a hand full of wild strawberries.
There were not a lot of successes in Fred's life. This may have been related to Fred's fondness for alcohol. He was sober the last decade of his life. It was at that time, in the 1980s, that Fred sat with Minnie McNemar for an oral interview about his life and times on Oil Creek. Please double click on the box to the right to hear Fred tell his story of strawberry farming. This recording is part of the oral history collection housed in the archives at Glennville State College Library.

Transcription of Fred and Minnie's conversation about strawberries
Minnie: I know that you like to raise strawberry plants. Do you remember when you first started messing around with them?
Fred: Yes. I was messing around with these wild ones. I had a patch of them and they wouldn’t do no good much. If I got 5 gallon I thought I was one of the biggest strawberry men in the country.
And my mother orderd 50 strawberry plants, tame plants you know, and said, “Why don’t you set them out. You go ahead and set them out, You can have them, just tend to them.” And I set them out and next spring I picked 35 gallon off them 50 plants. And let ‘em run, make a lot of plants through the summer and I had a pretty good bunch of them
10 feet wide and 75 feet long.and I got 35 gallon . . .

For audio recordings of Fred's remembrances of moonshine and illegal booze operation see the June '07 entry The Moon Shines Along Oil Creek

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