San Joaquin Valley

By Masumoto, David Mas | Sunset, May 1998 | Go to article overview

San Joaquin Valley


Masumoto, David Mas, Sunset


Baachan/Grandma trudged behind me, slouching forward, her 80-year-old feet shuffling through the damp vineyards following an autumn shower. She carried her shovel over both shoulders like a peasant lugging produce down a country trail. Her pant legs grew dark, stained with the morning dew.

This was our family farm, claimed from the hardpan soil of California's San Joaquin Valley. Baachan immigrated here in 1918, labored in the fields, but our family was not able to buy a farm until 1948.

During the past summer, I had flagged 30 struggling grapevines with scrawny canes and stringy bunches. We now wanted to plant "runners"pulling a long, thick cane from a neighboring vine, burying it next to the weak one and tying the end up a stake. Within a year, new roots would begin to flourish, gradually replacing the old.

As I searched for a healthy cane, Baachan began digging out the old vine. Her hands were callused from work. Despite her age, her face was taut and her biceps bulged under her flannel shirt. I heard the thud first, then saw her arms shaking. …

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