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Fruit Stand / Gas Station – On Main Street And Visible From I-90 East – Kittitas, WA

To say that fruit stands are a ubiquitous feature in the prime apple growing region along the Columbia River in Central Washington would be misleading. But then again, neither are they a rare feature of the landscape.

Rather, they appear strategically wherever lots of eyeballs pass each and every day and depending on the complexity of the business, antiques, gasoline, cold drinks, pepperoni sticks, souvenir key chains and mugs that immortalize the world-famous apples, cherries, pears, peaches, and apricots are added to the mix.

In addition they are selling, rather subtly and primarily to passing travelers, the illusion of fruit, fresh picked from the orchard that very morning, three hundred and sixty-five days a year. Nobody seems to pay attention if the produce was harvested in Brewster, Pateros, Chelen, Entiat, Wenatchee, Yakima, Moxee City, Zillah, Australia, Mexico, or Chile.

There are exceptions to this arrangement.

At some point after the avalanche of produce has been picked, processed, stored, and brought to market and sometime before the end of the Pacific Daylight Time I travel this region, on occasion, because of my deep love of being out in the ever shortening days and cold air that comes with that. These days I go with my camera only, though in past years, I often went with my shotgun to harvest the upland grouse that make this area home.

Because of this calculated violence and ultimately tasty barbarity, I would wander far from the common places to where the roads are often gravel and on occasion the intersections are anonymous. It is here, where one can truly find the reality of produce, fresh picked, from the orchard. Sometimes at the end of a successful day of making living birds dead, I would go in search of corn or apples to round out my dinner.

In contrast to the deadly stealth I used earlier in the day, I would barrel down these roads looking for simple shacks, not strategically placed, but for the owner’s convenience. Often the only indication of these small stands purpose would be a five gallon bucket turned upside down along side the road, a sheet of notebook paper taped to it that read “Apples” or “CORN” or whatever the producer happened to have for sale on that day. Sometimes I would have to back up down the middle of the road because I was daydreaming and blew by an opportunity to supplement my dinner.

Inside the shack I would either find the produce already bagged with the price written on the bag or another sheet of paper outlining how the produce was priced. In that latter case I had to bag my purchase. There in the waning light and the waxing cold I would make my selections and then place my money in the standard cash register used at such places, a coffee can, often without a lid to protect the money inside.

Inside that can I would find the day’s take, which usually amounted to around $50.00 or $60.00, more or less. Of course the owner’s expected me to make my own change if needed. This arrangement had nothing to do with sloth, rather it was the only possible choice. After all, I would be the only person shopping and working the stand at that moment.

My daydreams would return as I counted out my change. What was just sold? Apples? Corn? Or trust?

Sadly these most basic outposts of commerce are becoming more and more difficult to find.

Copyright 2012 By Katherine Johnson – All Rights Reserved

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