There’s nothing that says “American” like apple pie. That’s why Betty was determined to do something even better. The 1976 United States Bicentennial was fast approaching and the whole country was abuzz with preparations for grand celebrations. One sleepy little town in backwoods Georgia was no exception. The flags were flying and perhaps the only thing bigger than a nation turning 200 years old was the “Great American Bake-Off” sponsored by the Sunset Homemaker’s Club.
Normally Betty wouldn’t be concerned about such a small town competition. Folks called her “Betty Crocker” for good reason. She had been featured in at least three women’s magazines and her brownies were famous all over southeast Georgia. But everything changed a few months ago when a double chocolate triple layer cake showed up at the church pot-luck. Everyone assumed Betty brought it. It was devoured, while beside it sat a carrot cake with one missing piece. Betty’s husband was no fool. However, after seeing some dark crumbs on his shirt, she suspected that he slipped a piece of the chocolate cake. But there was no time to worry about it. Betty was on a mission to find out who brought the mystery cake.
The answer came the next morning in the form of a lemon meringue pie. Betty answered her door to find a woman named Wanda bearing a smile and the pie. Wanda and her husband recently bought the farm down the road. Betty invited her in and they talked awhile. Wanda was thrilled to find a new friend, but Betty had difficulty concentrating on the conversation. She was wondering just how Wanda got her meringue so fluffy.
In the months leading up to the “Great American Bake-Off”, Betty casually brought the topic up to Wanda on numerous occasions. Each time, Wanda brushed it off saying she “really hadn’t thought about it” or mentioned “whipping something up at the last minute”. Betty knew better. She knew Wanda had a plan. She just needed to know what Wanda was making. Then Betty could think of something that would top it, something original.
Betty asked around at church, at the homemaker’s meetings, even at the bank. She got nowhere. Betty was desperate and she knew it. It was time for drastic measures and she had one last resort. She was not above eavesdropping.
Rural living offered one option for phone service, a shared line known as the party line. The unique ring assigned to Wanda’s phone on the line was well known to Betty. Wanda got a lot of calls and Betty had mistakenly answered them in the past. Now she was picking up with no mistake. Betty was hoping that Wanda would mention the contest to someone. She felt a surge of excitement each time she listened to a conversation. This was the most rebellious thing she had ever done. At times a twinge of guilt would creep in but Betty shook it off. After all, everyone knew that nothing was private on the party line.
It was the week before the big celebration and Betty was ready to give up. She heard the phone ring and knew it was for Wanda but she let it go. After a few minutes Betty decided to listen to one last call. She picked it up and heard someone crying.
“A bad heart? How long will he live?”
“A few months, at most,” Wanda sobbed.
“I’m sorry, Wanda. If there’s anything….”
Betty hung up the phone and gasped. Wanda’s husband, George, was dying. Poor Wanda, Betty knew she needed to let her win this contest. George was her inspiration; she may never bake again if he passed away.
The Bicentennial Celebration was underway and the Sunset Homemaker’s booth was lined with delectable desserts. Betty dropped off her apple pie beside ten of the same and noticed a blackberry cobbler baked to perfection. She saw Wanda nearby and knew exactly where it came from.
“Hello, Wanda. Is that your cobbler? It looks delicious.”
“Thank you, Betty. It’s George’s favorite. I just had to do something for him. He’s been so down lately, with his horse and all.”
“Yes, his beloved thoroughbred has a heart problem and won’t live much longer. I cry every time I think about how much George is going to miss him.”
Wanda went on to explain the details, but Betty had difficulty concentrating on the conversation. She was wondering just how Wanda got her cobbler crust so flaky.
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