This is a little story about a contraband plum. Let me begin by expressing my respect and regard for the California fruit industry, and for all efforts to protect it from crop disease. I was born and grew up in California, and treasure my recollections of the golden state and its many rich agricultural resources. I eat California grown produce as often as I can find it. So I happily stop at their border agricultural inspection stations and cooperate fully, and gladly with the nice people who staff them. But I can’t help laughing about a very special plum.
I took a trip on our two lane roads into and through Utah, Nevada and California in November. Early on the third day of my travels from Washington on route to Bluff, Utah, I stopped in Green River Utah. As I am wont to do, I stopped to photograph the Midland Hotel, a marker for the old Midland Trail of the teens of the last century.
Green River is the name of a soft drink of my youth. And for you real history bluffs, the name of a anti traveling salesman ordinance. So I have a kinship with Green River.
Across from the Midland Hotel is a nice grocery store and I stopped to pick up some snacks for the road. Some bananas, a couple of plums, and a breakfast bar. In the next several hours I consumed the breakfast bar, the bananas and one of the plums. I left the lone remaining plum in it’s thin plastic bag, and I probably tossed it into the back seat. There it stayed for four days, in the sack, untouched, and forgotten.
This was no special plum. In fact it was a bit mushy, judging by its companion I had eaten along with the bananas. It crossed the great Utah and Nevada deserts, and experienced four days of fascinating adventures, and now was still with me, on the back seat in its thin plastic bag as I entered California
I won’t mention where I entered California, but it was a splendid vista, broken only by the Agricultural Inspection Station that loomed mid road, and through which all traffic was directed to pass, stopping first to check, as I now know, for plums purchased in Utah.
I want to repeat that I am empathetic with the intention of the agricultural inspection stations. They have interrupted my road travels since I was a boy, and that is longer then we have had jet planes. For all I know, the stage coaches used to stop to be checked for fruit. I know the routine as well as I know what to do at a signal.
The nice lady asks me where I have been and I try to recall. This isn’t easy for a 77 year old to answer on short notice, and I should write it down before I get to California. Lets see, I was in Utah, then Arizona, and then Nevada, I passed through Provo, and Bluff, and Kanab, and Las Vegas….and she interrupts me there.
OK, we have established that I was not in Central America. So next, do I have any fruit? This is where it gets funny. If I was carrying fruit that might be disease ridden, at this point I am supposed to confess. Right……..! But I am secreting a lone plum, purchased in Utah. I confess.
But I don’t recall where I bought it. “It was in the morning after I left Provo….” I blurt out. Obviously that was some sort of clue that triggered greater vigilance. I am directed to park the car and hand her the plum. Now this is getting serious.
They take my plum into the inter station, and another woman comes out and they confer. The cars behind me are being directed through the other lane now, while I sit waiting for the outcome of my plum inspection.
I’m thinking, tell her to keep the plum, it is mushy anyway. But I fear this may be perceived as a ploy to escape further inspection. I envision them opening my sack of dirty laundry in the trunk, and perhaps making me explain the fruit stains on my trousers.
In about five or ten minutes the nice lady returns and hands me back the suspect plum. She explains that the problem is that it was not “grown in the US.” I can hardly choke down laughter. I could spend a month trying to find a plum in a grocery store in November that was grown in the US. They all come from South America in the winter and I could have told her that.
But the California fruit industry can rest easy that no Peruvian plum purchased in Utah is being snuck into California uninspected. Long live the inspection stations. Really!! I hope they are still checking fruit when I take that long last drive. I would truly miss the experience.
Keep the Show on the Road!