Thursday, August 11, 2011

Evelyn Johnson, Betty Lou Mayfield and Infamous Battle of the Blackberry Pie

It was the first day of summer, the day of the annual town bake fair, and Betty Lou Mayfield had a bee in her bonnet. It seemed that Evelyn Johnson, had baked a blackberry pie to serve with hand turned vanilla ice cream topped with fresh nutmeg and a berry chocolate spritzer with fresh mint leaves, which as everyone knew was Betty Lou’s signature dessert. It had been for forty-two years. That dessert was a source of pride for Betty Lou and it was celebrated long before Evelyn Johnson was even born.

No one was sure of exactly what Evelyn was up to as she pranced down Main Street after delivering her contribution to the judges
of the Jig Jag Corner Falls Bakes and Sweets Contest, but no one asked her either. No. They all just watched, every one of them, as Evelyn waved and smiled at folks in her new garden green dress, set hair and perfectly manicured nails. They watched until Evelyn reached Betty Lou, who was still holding her tray of delectables for the judges and then each and every one of them stopped watching. There was nothing else they could do. They stared.

That sort of thing simply wasn’t done in Corner Falls and it certainly wasn’t done to Betty Lou Mayfield. Betty Lou was a wife, a mother, a baker, a beauty queen and all around charming and respected southern lady. Evelyn, on the other hand, had moved with her family from Chicago when she was only a pre-teen, and from the moment she arrived Evelyn Johnson was trouble. Her family owned more than half the land in the county so after two generations of city living Evelyn’s Daddy had decided to return so that he and his family could enjoy the country. It was then Evelyn had decided her money made her queen of just about everything. It was then that the other girls saw the fangs in Evelyn’s pearly whites and the claws camouflaged by the perfect petal pink manicure she always wore. The boys didn’t notice a thing. Years went by and they didn’t notice. Evelyn’s swanky figure and ability to stop men of all ages in their tracks with the way she wore her lipstick was known for miles around and she knew it. She stole boyfriends, flirted with husbands and charmed her way into getting anything and everything she wanted. And the thing was it worked. Evelyn Johnson was just about the envy of everyone and had everything a woman could want, everything but the direct line to a man’s hart, the five county famous recipe that was the crowning glory of Betty Lou Mayfield. And apparently on the day of the annual Jig Jag Corner Falls Bakes and Sweets Contest she’d decided to take that too. Evelyn smiled her perfectly sinful smile at Betty Lou, said, “Hello” then continued off into the crowd to be sure she was seen by everyone and anyone willing to look.

Who knew that Evelyn would stoop to competition with a respected lady thirty years her senior for the only crown she didn’t already have. It was scandalous. Downright cynical. Evelyn had crossed a line and the women of Corner Falls wouldn’t have it. Neither would the men quite frankly. This was too much, even for Evelyn Johnson, but the men didn’t say a word. Not one of them. The women would handle this one and they would take their cue from the revered and unanimously respected Betty Lou Mayfield.

Now Betty Lou, standing in shock, dessert in hand, took an understandable pause to consider the circumstances. She was down right livid and down right appalled, but she didn’t say a word or make a move. No. Betty Lou stood quiet in the middle of Main Street while the whole town watched and Evelyn continued through the crowd soaking up the attention and saying her hellos to the sea of shocked townsfolk arriving for the day of fun at the fair.

Almost ten minutes passed before Betty Lou redirected her attention and gave young Babs Taylor a wave. Babs was just seventeen. She lived in New York, but spent two weeks every summer with her Aunt Silvia, who lived just around the corner, so Betty Lou had known Babs since she was just a baby. Babs and her girlfriends were in charge of setting up serving tables so Betty Lou asked the girls to bring her a table right where she stood then she called her husband, who was still at the house, and asked him to meet her on the corner of Main Street and Falls Lane. Mr. Mayfield knew better than to ask for reasons when his wife was speaking in such a calm and even tone so he hung up the phone and headed her way without a second thought as to why, although he did wonder just what he was in for.

Babs and the girls set up two tables with covers then helped Mr. Mayfield take all of Betty Lou’s pies out of the car. Betty Lou didn’t give anyone around her a second look as she arranged her famous dessert across the tables, but make no doubt about it; she knew they were all watching.

When the tables were ready Babs brought over a chair and Betty Lou sat down. With the girls by her side, Betty Lou cut herself a piece of blackberry pie, topped it with a dollop of her hand turned vanilla ice cream and fresh nutmeg, then she poured herself a berry chocolate spritzer with fresh mint leaves, sat back and invited the girls to join her.

Babs and her friends dug right in, as happy as could be, while the patrons of the Jig Jag Corner Falls Bakes and Sweets Contest circled the table both curious and confused. Soon even the judges wandered over to ask Betty Lou just what she was doing. They needed to taste her sweets, of course, and she needed to officially deliver her entry so they all could get started.

As the crowd gathered and the whispers picked up speed the swirl of activity eventually got the attention of Evelyn Mayfield. Evelyn freshened her lipstick and smoothed her hair then casually walked over and stood beside the judges waiting at Betty Lou’s table for a response. After a sufficiently long moment of tension for Evelyn and the onlookers, with a big Southern smile and as calm as could be, Betty Lou Mayfield explained that she wouldn’t be entering Jig Jag Corner Falls Bakes and Sweets Contest. No. She enjoyed her baking and the joy it brought to the town she loved. It wasn’t important her to win and it wasn’t of interest to her to fight. Evelyn Mayfield could have the blue ribbon if she earned it. That wasn’t why Betty Lou baked. It wasn’t her purpose. Betty Lou did what she did because it made her happy and anyone who enjoyed her signature dessert was welcome to step up to the table and enjoy it with her. She would serve them herself.

Well, Evelyn Johnson turned a shade of red that made a cherry tart look pale and for the first time in her life Evelyn nothing to say. Seeing that she was flushed and shocked enough to faint Betty Lou kindly offered Evelyn a berry chocolate spritzer with fresh mint and a seat beside her to enjoy a piece of blackberry pie topped with a dollop of hand turned vanilla ice cream sprinkled with fresh nutmeg. Not knowing what to do Evelyn Johnson did just that. And that is how the Infamous Battle of the Blackberry Pie began and ended at the Jig Jag Bakes and Sweets Contest in Corner Falls on the first day of summer.

© Evelyn Johnson, Betty Lou Mayfield and Infamous Battle of Blackberry Pie