Andrew Dys

This peach season is the pits

Ralph Fyffe of Elyria, Ohio, checks out the peaches Tuesday at Farm Market off Cherry Road near Interstate 77.
Ralph Fyffe of Elyria, Ohio, checks out the peaches Tuesday at Farm Market off Cherry Road near Interstate 77.

YORK -- This week other years, Canadian Harmony and Blakes and Windblown and Contenders would be elbowing each other for space on the shelves. Three types of whites would shine like summer full moons.

People who have no shame would overdo the generosity of peach farmers like Ben Smith and Dori and Orestes Sanders and Jimmy Bryant, and try one or two or four of each variety on the sales table until their face was so slick that flies would stick. People with no shame, like me.

"Try 'em all, pick what you like," I heard Smith tell me through a grin every summer for years.

Generous, peach farmers are.

"Goodness, those children have grown," Orestes Sanders would say about my three daughters. "Sure appreciate you stopping here."

No, it was me who appreciated it. Chewing the fat and chewing peaches. Conversation and smiles. Dori Sanders the author waxing poetic about Clover.

Cost? Who cared?

I would buy enough peaches for a platoon. My kids would smell like peaches for a month.

Not this year. The 2007 Easter Massacre, the murderous freeze, brought emotion. Selfishness. I want mine. York County peaches, the best on Earth.

They are the best because you and I live here, and we know.

Local stands are selling peaches, but they come mainly from Edgefield and Saluda counties. The lack of crop pushed Miller Coggins, who ran Springs Farms' almost 100 acres of peaches in Fort Mill for 27 years, to retire a year early.

"No fruit, no use staying on until next year," Coggins told me.

Coggins, a legend in the peach business, deserved to go out with people fighting over his crop at the Peach Stand at the corner of U.S 21 and S.C. 160. I once used my three kids as a roadblock at the Peach Stand against two oldsters driving a pearl-white 1986 Coupe DeVille Cadillac with Michigan plates.

I didn't feel guilt. I wanted those peaches. I would have slashed their white-walled tires with a screwdriver for those peaches.

Me and others who know that 34, 35 varieties, maybe more at some spots, ripen during the summer, a week or 10 days of window per variety. Each variety had its suitors.

A guy from Virginia who so loves the York County Red Haven peach would drive five hours each way just for a bushel. An 80-plus-year-old lady from Charlotte who drives a blue Buick LeSabre would buy $100 worth from peach farmer Arthur Black every other week, just to give to neighbors.

"She called, hoping, but there isn't any," said Black. "No local peaches, and no hope for peaches, this year."

One lady from North Carolina who died this year came every summer, twice a month, for 47 straight years.

Ralph Fyffe from Elyria, Ohio, was in York County this week with his daughter for the NSA girls softball tournament. "We have peaches up there, but yours are sweeter," Fyffe said.

Previous Fyffe trips from the Great Lakes to the beach meant area peaches. Not this year.

Some Hmong people from Hickory, N.C., where there is a large contingent of immigrants from highland Vietnam, drove to York because they wanted to pick their own White Lady, that white peach as delicate as a lotus blossom, sweeter than a passenger seat kiss from a brown-eyed girl.

Arthur Black had to say sorry. No sweet kiss, no White Lady.