Belle’s $5.00 Sun Valley Pies
It was many years ago, when I was set apart as branch president in Sun Valley, Idaho, that Belle Tadlock came into my life. She was a widow and was definitely of the old school: seventy-eight years old, piercing blue eyes, and an exacting personality. With her there was no beating around the bush. If you needed to be “told how,” whether it be in quilting, punctuality, or plain honest dealing, Belle could and would dish it out firm and straight.
You don’t deal with such frank and unflinching honesty every day, so she caught me a little off guard the first time we met.
Her small, humble home was nestled at the foot of Baldy Mountain. She took care of it entirely by herself and earned her living by taking in washing, ironing, and other work. That summer the city was putting in a new sewer system, requiring everyone to abandon their old septic tanks and hook onto the city’s central line. This involved quite an expense, so the elders quorum decided to undertake the work as a service project and save Belle the labor costs.
At five o’clock on a crisp piney morning, fifteen of the brethren were at work with picks and shovels, digging the trench from Belle’s house to an open area; then Brother Ratto dug it on out to the street with his backhoe. The pipe was laid that day, and I showed up that evening with my new tractor to back-fill the trench and level up the yard.
When I finished, I stopped the tractor and got off to lock the blade in place to travel home. Belle appeared with an old leather coin purse and removed several hard-earned bills, carefully folded. “How much do I owe you?” she asked.
“Why, nothing Belle. I ought to pay you for letting me try out my new tractor.”
“Don’t give me that old talk,” she said stiffly. “How much?”
“Listen, Belle,” I pleaded, cleaning some soil out of the tractor cleats, “it was a pleasure for me to do this, and the hook-up will cost you $150. Why don’t you save your money for that?”
She eyed me critically for a minute, then a look of gratitude softened those blue eyes. “Thanks,” she said.
Before she could say any more, I said, “Tell you what, Belle. I’ve heard that you bake unequaled pies. I’d be glad to have one for full payment.”
“You’ve got a deal,” she said stoutly, and the next day I tasted the most luscious pie ever baked, not realizing at the time that this pie was the start of something big. The great event came about four months later when the snow was four to five feet deep on the roofs of the houses. In a personal priesthood interview I learned that Belle’s house was really weighed down, so the next evening four of the brethren went over and shoveled the snow from the roof.
Her house was a cozy little home but was aged and weathered by many hard winters. Once the snow was gone from the roof, I could see that the old asphalt shingles were deteriorated beyond repair and future leaking was inevitable. I broke the news to her that her roof was gone and she would definitely have to have a new one put on. She was a little crestfallen at first and asked if there was any way it might be repaired. But the others in the group affirmed my diagnosis.
There was no way she could afford a new roof so soon after the sewer installation. We both knew that, so I quickly said, “Don’t worry about it Belle, I’ll find a way to take care of it.”
“No, you save the Church’s money for someone who really needs it,” she said. “I’ll find a way.”
We started to leave, but she called us back. “You forgot your pies,” she said enthusiastically, handing us each a giant beauty.
I suppose it took the hot pie on my hand to make me recognize the warm whispering of the Spirit in my heart. “Belle,” I said, “you’re so stubborn that I’m going to make you handle this problem and pay for your roof yourself.”
My mock severity didn’t faze her at all. She stuck her chin out, squinted at me, and said, “Now you’re talkin’. How do I do it?”
I hefted the huge apple pie. “I’d say a Belle Tadlock Sun Valley pie is easily worth $5.00. Your roof—a good metal one—will cost $225, Belle. Do you know how many pies that is?”
That she did, for her arithmetic was as good as her determination. Our deal with Belle was that she would sell enough pies to buy the roof, and we (the priesthood) would put it on. Brother Miller, who operated the service station on Main Street, took orders and the $5.00 pies sold like hotcakes. Belle was like a one-man factory, and before the next big snowstorm, her house was the proud owner of a gleaming new metal roof, from which the snow would slide easily off, never needing shoveling again.
Time went by, and I moved away from Sun Valley. I returned for visits occasionally, and forgetting to order at least two of Belle’s pies during those visits would have been like going to the famous Sun Valley ski resorts and forgetting to take skis.
Belle died a few years ago. But though she is gone, in my mind I will always see a determined widow saying, “Now you’re talkin’. How do I do it?”
So Much for So Little
When the Teton Dam above Sugar City and Rexburg, Idaho, broke on 5 June 1976, news of the disaster spread like a shock wave. Our hearts went out to those in the path of the ravaging waters who suffered such heavy losses.
Before fast Sunday the next month, we received a special request from our stake president. “Double your present fast offerings, or more. Do the best you can for these good Idaho Saints.”
We had a small sum tucked away—money we were saving for food storage or fall school clothing. Though it was insignificant compared to the losses suffered in the Snake River Valley, we gave it with the feeling that small contributions from many families would soon add up.
Later, when our monthly bank statement arrived, we were surprised to find that we had an extra one hundred dollars in the bank. We assumed it was a mathematical error, yet every deposit, every check seemed to tally.
We knew by our “Hyde’s Law” that we had better not spend the “extra” money, because next month we’d find out what the mistake was. Surplus just didn’t happen.
For a short time, though, we allowed the pleasant thought to linger: “What if we really did have a hundred dollars extra? We could use it for food storage, school clothes, …” The Teton Dam disaster had been a startling reminder of the need for adequate food storage. Serious business problems several years earlier had made it necessary for us to use our stored supply, so we well knew how important a storage program is.
Our business situation had improved since those hard times, but we were still feeling their effects. Bit by bit we were rebuilding our storage, but we still needed more. So we began to pray for the means to get it.
The answers to our prayers came in seemingly ordinary ways, on a small scale at first.
“I know a bag of sugar is a strange birthday present,” said a favorite sister in the ward. “But when I thought about what I’d like, that’s what I decided to give you.” Later she also brought cherries and raspberries for canning.
“Could you use some extra fruit and berries?” another friend asked. “We have more this year than even our family can use.” We both laughed, for the amount of food her family of fifteen children consumed was legendary. But this year their fruit trees and berry bushes had outdone all past records.
Next, our neighbor came over and mentioned that they were leaving on vacation. She had already picked and canned all the pears her family could use. Would we be able to use the rest? We would do her a great favor if we’d take them so they wouldn’t go to waste. Then, while we were picking the pears, this good neighbor noticed that she had an oversupply of cucumbers as well. Three kinds of pickles graced our storage shelves that year along with the pears.
But this still was not the end. A family in our ward closed down a small clothing store and asked if anyone could use the remaining items at greatly reduced cost. We bought many things for our children for the coming school year—better clothing than we could normally have bought, and for much lower prices.
Then the wheat we had ordered in the spring was delivered in the fall for exactly half what we expected to pay. With the remaining money, we bought extra beans, rice, and split peas for our storage.
A job we usually did at Christmastime for extra funds began a month earlier than usual.
We received half a beef as a Christmas gift.
The blessings went on and on. Within six months after we began praying for help in increasing our food storage, we had what we felt we should have.
It was more than just our prayers. We feel certain it was also the increased payment of fast offerings that made these things a reality. We have long had a testimony of the power of the priesthood, of healing, of the effectiveness of the Word of Wisdom, and of paying tithing. We now have a fervent testimony of the value of giving a generous fast offering as well. We received so much for so little.