Pea sheller almost took on extra duty


I can’t imagine why I’m thinking about summer days here in February. There is one summer adventure in particular that is playing in my mind. The adventure of which I speak happened 40 years ago. 

On the morning of that day, I loaded three little girls (Michelle, Dawn, and their cousin Mary) and a tub filled with freshly picked peas in our vehicle. We headed for the farm supply store in town. We had been blessed with an abundant crop of peas that season and I had shelled peas by hand until I was about shelled out. After finding out there was a peas sheller within driving distance I was ready to throw some business their way.

The three little girls who were busily playing in our yard were not happy at all about the pea shelling trip. I piqued their interest by telling them while the peas were being shelled, we would go to the grocery store and restock our popsicle supply. With that in mind I decided I had better make myself a little more presentable. The blouse I selected to wear had cape sleeves, and please do remember the description of my blouse sleeves. It is an important detail of this horrifying summer adventure.

Upon arriving at the farm supply store, I went inside and politely told the man (who was busy explaining how to get bugs off collard plants to a customer), that I had peas for him to shell. “The sheller is around there,” he said as he pointed to the back of the building. I explained that I’d just drop them off out front and pick them up later. “I don’t shell,” he said. “I show you where the sheller is and then you shell your own.”

I knew I was in trouble as I’m no good with any kind of mechanical equipment. I had to take training to use an electric can opener! Now I was being told that I should shell peas on something that looked like a cross between an old-fashioned corn sheller and a miniature sawmill. “Lord help me,” I said as I deposited the peas where I assumed they were supposed to go. 

Michelle, Dawn and Mary looked troubled. “Be careful!” one of them said as I flipped the switch to start the shelling process. After the machine made a grinding, groaning sound, shelled peas began appearing in a tray. I added some more peas to the pile waiting to whirl through that strange machine.

I felt one of the girls pulling on my blouse sleeve. I turned to see what she wanted and discovered that it wasn’t one of the girls that was tugging at my cape sleeve, it was that pea sheller! My sleeve was winding around that torturous pulley as it moved the peas through the shelling part of the machine. I tried to turn it off to no avail. I was about to be shelled! That big machine was there to do a shelling job and it didn’t seem to know the difference between fresh peas and the one who picked them. 

“Run for your lives, girls!” I yelled. As my little girls made a dash for the car, in route one of them yelled, “Is it really going to shell you?” That brought me to my senses (somewhat). I gave a big jerk, heard a rip, and watched in horror as a piece of my lovely cape sleeve went flying through the shelling prongs. My blouse sleeve that had been rescued was badly torn and covered in black grease. It hung limply on my arm. I felt a bit limp myself. We forgot about popsicles, went home, and shelled peas.

LaVale Mills is Publisher Emeritus of The Red Bay News.