The Huckster’s Pansies
My grandmother used to buy produce from an older Jewish huckster; a trader; a vendor. He would drive to her farm in a large box truck and sell her items that she couldn’t raise in her garden or on the farm. His small trading grew as they got to know each other over the years and developed a true business relationship. He would always visit the farm late on a Friday afternoon, lowering the prices of items that he knew would not last until Monday. He would sell them a few pennies above his cost and my grandmother would buy all that she could afford. He would also give her cabbage leaves, lettuce leaves, and items that had blemishes, a softening, or the beginning of rot. It saved him from having to pay for their disposal in the garbage.
Grandma would cut out the bad spots to salvage what was edible, cutting up the good parts of the fruit or vegetables to eat or to can. The rest went into the swill for the hogs to eat.
It worked out well for the both of them. He could cut his losses, not have to pay garbage disposal, and Grandma would get more of a variety of foods and fresher foods for her eight kids, herself, and for Granddad. It became a mutually advantageous deal for both of them.
She cooked on a coal stove and it didn’t take much for her to put on her canner and fill jars with the fruit. She would place the glass jars into the boiling water and can the food to store it for the winter months when fruit wasn’t plentiful and when the old peddler wasn’t making his rounds and selling his produce.
My grandmother would often talk about their friendship. She was so grateful for the old man, but my favorite story about him was the story she told the most. Several years had gone by with the old man selling his produce and Grandma buying what she could. The old vendor told my grandmother how much he appreciated her help. One year on his first springtime run, Grandma had bought all she could afford; he went back to his truck and carried back a flat of flowers. They were assorted colored Pansies. Pansies were my grandmother’s favorite flower. He had listened when they had talked and she had said, “I love Pansies. They’re my favorite. I think their flowers look like little boys with dirty faces.”
He handed the flat of plants to my grandmother and said, “These are for you. You have been a great customer over the years and I consider you a friend.”
My grandmother looked so surprised.
He continued, “They are for you. No charge. You have become a true friend over the years.”