For the last couple of years I have performed at Eckert's Market during the September Apple Season and the October Pumpkin Season. I really enjoyed telling to the kids as they waited for the tractor (the green limousine) to take them to the fields. They really seemed to get a kick out of my character...Aunt Billie-Bodine...or you can just call me "Aunt Bo." You can see in the picture below that I wore blue overalls and a floppy hat accessorized with a red bandana!
I told different stories for the apple and pumpkin seasons. They are listed below. In the picture above I'm telling inside because it was a cold, wet October morning. Usually, I'm outside in the open shed with the kids on hay bales. The sun comes up directly in my face for about two hours. In 2007, the fall was unseasonably hot and dry. The apples really suffered with a late frost and little rain. So, they took the kids on a scavenger hunt and gave each child a bag of apples. There just weren't enough to let them pick their own. At least, there were plenty of pumpkins for everyone to have a Jack 'o Lantern.
The first year I did this was back in 2003, at the Millstadt Market where I called the Pig Races. Then, they asked me to come to the Belleville store in 2006 and 2007. Although I enjoyed the pig races, I got to tell stories at Belleville. They gave me a script that I greatly adapted for telling and added a lot of audience participation. I usually started the event by playing "The Simpsons" theme or "The Hampster Dance."
If I do say so myself...I really got into the Hampster Dance. The only problem was that the tune haunted me for the next two days. I found myself singing it in the strangest places! http://www.hampsterdance.com/
After leading the kids in the Hampster Dance, I turned off the music and came out to greet them....
Well, I'd like to welcome you all here to Eckert's Market with a great big ol' HOW-DEE! Let me hear ya (Howdy!). Now, my name is Aunt Billie Bodine but around here they just call me "Aunt Bo". What do they call me (Aunt Bo). And I am thee storyteller and I'm gettin' fixed to tell you a story... a really truly story about my Great, great, great, great, great, great, great Grandaddy. His name was Johann...Johann Eckert and he came all the over from Germany. If your not sure where Germany is, look it up on a globe and see how faaaar this story had to travel to land right here today. Well, one day Johann went to his mama and he said, "Mama, I want to go to America...to the land of milk of honey." And, his Mama said, 'Well, all right Johann. We'll miss 'ya, but I give you my love and Godspeed." So, Johann left Germany, and he traveled alllll the way over to right here...to Belleville, Illinois. He started up his farm. Oh, he had a barn with cows, and sheep, and chickens, and such, and a nice little garden. Then he planted a big ol' apple tree in his front yard.
One day, he up and married my great, great, great, great, great, great Grannie Eckert. And, ooh-eee, was she ever a good cook. Why, they say when grannie was a-cookin' her apple pies or apple pan dowdy, you could smell them apples for miles around. In fact, I think you can still smell them today. Take a whiff of the air (sniff) - mm-mmm! Sometimes, a neighbor that lived 5 miles over would come over and sit down at the table. Grannie would serve up a big piece of that hand pie. One bite and he'd say. Mmmm-mmm-mmm-mmm-mmm (what did he say...mmm...) Why, Johann, these are best apples I ever sunk my teeth into. Where did you get those apples?"
And my granddaddy all proud like would say, "Well, I growed them myself."
"You did? Do you reckon I could buy some of them apples."
And my granddaddy would scratch his head and say, "Well, I reckon you can." And that was the start of the Eckert's Apple Orchards.
Over the years more and more apple trees were planted until...until there weren't anymore room here in Belleville. So, they started an orchard over in Millstadt and one, way up north in Grafton, Illinois. Until today, September, 2007, can anyone guess...how many apple trees are in those orchards? (take a few answers) Well, I guess I'll have to tell ya'....50,000...50,000 apple trees. That a heap of trees.
But, some people ask me. They say, "Aunt Bo...(sing songy) how many apples on those apple trees?" And I have to say...I dunno! Cause I lose count after my fingers and toes! So, we got a system here at Eckert's. We don't count apples...noooo...we count bushels. Now, you bein' city-folk and all, you may not of heard of bushels, so I am here to edgicate you (hold up small container) is this here a bushel (no). (middle size) Is this here a bushel? (no) (bushel) Is this here a bushel? (Yes) That's right, this here is a bushel and ever one of them holds about 40 pounds. That's like takin' one of you youngin's and tryin' to pick you up in this bushel. Now, those 50,000 trees gives between 2 and 5 bushels of apples. To my way of cipherin' that would be, let me see - 250,000...250,000 bushels of apples. Now, that's a heap of apples!
Now, you understand that for those trees to go around totin' all of them apples, they have to be strong. Let me see your muscles everybody (flex arms up and down). So, we work all year long at Eckert's to keep our apple trees strong.
For instance, in the winter, while your at home suckin' on hot chocolate and Krispy Kremes, we're out here givin' our trees a haircut! You heard me right I said a haircut. Now, when your mamas and daddies give you a haircut, what do they use? (scissors) That's right, but if we tried to use scissors, (mimic with hand) they would just bust in two. So, here at Eckert's we have a special scissors...we've got... (pick up loppers) LOPPERS! We go up to those trees and we snip-snip here and snip-snip there - takin' off any new growth or dead branches so all of the goodness comes up through the trunk and out to the branches makin' them nice and strong.
Well, winter is over...what comes next? (spring). That's right spring. Now, in order for the apples to come we need two things. We need the (point to sun)...(sun!) That's right and we need the (rain motion with hands) (rain!) That's right the rain. And when the sun comes out and the rain comes down, the buds on the end of the branches begin to blossom forth. (show blossom pic). (for 2007 show) 'Cept Mother Nature played a trick on us this year. We had an early spring and everybody said "Yeah, Spring!" Then, Mother Nature came along and she sent some snow and she sent ice, and some of those buds, well, they just died on the vine. But, don't you worry none, cause there were plenty of other buds that made it all right.
And those buds need a little help from our friends...do you know who that might...BEEE? (show bee puppet) (Bee!) That's right, the bees. Well, the bees come buzzin' in. Help me out here (ZZZZZZZ) Bee sniffs the air (sniff) Ohhh, he smells something good. He comes buzzin' down and gloms down on the flower and begins to slurp. Give me your best slurp everybody (sluuuurp!) Ahhh, Now he has a snout full of nectar, and it's time to take off for the bee hotel. That's right, I said Bee hotel! You see, here at Eckert's we take care of our bees. So, when you go out on the tractor keep your eyes open, you're bound to see them...little blue houses and inside is the honeycomb. The bees come inside and put the nectar into the honeycomb, and, before long, it turns to sweet, sticky.....(HONEY!) That's right. Honey!
Oh, I almost forgot to tell you. You see, the bees help out in another way...shhhh....this is a secret. We don't want the bees to know or they'll ask for double time. When the bee comes for the nectar, he gets his fuzzy little coat all covered with magic pixie dust. Oh, okay, around here, they like to call it pollen. What's it called? (pollen) And, when the bee goes from one flower to the next, he drops some of the magic pix..er pollen onto the flower. After that, the flower is polly-nated. What is it? (pollinated). After awhile, the petals fall away, and in its place is a small green apple (put down flower pic and show small apple pic).
Well, boys and girls, the spring is over, now what season is it? (Summer) That's right, summer. So, while you get to go swimmin' or campin'.. nah-ahh! Here at Eckert's it's time to go out on pest patrol. (pick up apple with worm on the inside). You see, we're not the only one who like them apples, there's also icky sticky...(worms!) Eeeewh! Let me hear an eeewh (eeewh). We come up to apples and pick off those worms (pretend to pull worm from the apple), so our apples will grow big and strong.
Whew! Summer is over...and now it's....(fall). That's right and the apples are going to fall from the trees. And it's almost time for you to go out on the tractor, or as I like to call it...the green limousine. (for 2007) But, boys and girls, I got to tell ya' that Mother Nature wasn't finished tricking us this year. You see, this summer it was hot...I mean hoooooot! And the rain didn't fall. So some of those apples just (drop apple) fell from the trees. So, you see, there aren't just a whole lot of apples out there for you to pick. So, this year, Eckert's has somethin' different. Instead of picking apples you are going to go on a scavenger hunt. That's right, keep your eyes and ears open so you can answer the questions and maybe win yourself a prize. Now, don't you worry none. You'll still get a bag of apples all right when you come back for your apple cider.
(look toward the back) Well, I see that your green limousine is ready for you. But, before you go, let's give Eckert's a great big ol' thank you (Thank you!) And thank you for bein' such good story listeners. Bub-bye!