IMG_0488On Nov 9, 1991, on my way to the Farmers Market in Muskegon, Michigan, the sun was shining so brightly that ever after that I remembered what a wonderful day it was. It was the birthday of my oldest son, he was 37 and I called to wish him a great day. I could always remember because he was born when I was 20 years old, followed by three more brothers in the next few years. I had been widowed three years before, and it had taken some time for my life to become joyful again. But I had found new friends at my church, Unity of Muskegon, and a special one, Loyce Tapken, had sent me on my errand today. She had been at the market and a friendly farmer had given her an apple to try, a Mutsu.
So she said to me, “Verlie, you have got to get some of these apples! They are so good!” The following weekend I followed her advice and headed for the market. When I got there I parked very close to the stall and strolled over to look at the marvelous display of apples of every color you can imagine. My favorite had always been been Macintosh because they made such great pies. With four boys and a husband I had always made pies three at a time and there were never any leftovers. But immediately there was the smiling face and outstretched hand of a farmer offering me an apple. We talked and talked, and then I bought my bag of apples. He offered to carry them over to my car and then he spied my Colorado license plate.
And THEN he said to me, “I always wanted to travel, but I haven’t got anyone to go with.” Bingo! I heard the message loud and clear. “Neither have I as I have been widowed.” I said. When you are single a message like this rings a bell very quickly.
So we talked a little more and then I left for home, 16 miles away. By the next Saturday I had given most of the apples to my daughter in law, Tammy, and so of course I had to go back and get some more! When I walked up to the stall he continued our conversation as if I had never left. By the time I had left, with more apples of course, I had given him my card and phone number. A few days later he called and I invited him to come over for a home cooked meal.
And he did come over on a Saturday night, he got lost on the way, and had to call from the gas station. This was before cell phones, of course. And he invited me to come up to his fruit farm the next day and I accepted.
We drove all around his six hundred acres the next day, row by row, tree by tree. He knew every one of them intimately and told me all about it. By the time I left I was so impressed with the knowledge, determination and wisdom of this man, Bob Rider, his work efforts, that I knew right away that this was what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. Later he talked to me of the rough time the farm had been having and how he needed a partner, and I said to him, “You don’t need to worry about that. I’m a bookkeeper.”
This was November. By Feb we had decided to get married, but he said it wouldn’t work out until after Apple season. Little did I know what that meant, but I sure learned. Living on a full time farm with over thirty seasonal workers, actually growing, spraying, picking the fruit, and going to the market three days a week from July to Dec. left little time for a wedding.
Our children, my four and Bobs three, were all happy that we wanted to take care of each other. It was a big relief to all of them, I think. As time has gone by it has proved to be the best thing that could have ever happened to us. Our families have bonded well together over the years. Never thought I would be the mother of seven children but here we are, and life is good.
It has been 26 plus years since we had a church wedding, and that is amazing. When Bob gave Loyce the apple, just look what came out of all of it! It must have been fate, for a generous man to give part of his heart away to end up with me.