Cherry Red Orchards

Cherry Red Orchards

I phone my friends and ask “will we see you in Breckenridge, Co. exhibiting at the art fair?”  A long hesitation…..”Our R.V. Can’t make it up that steep mountain at 12,000 ft”.   

We set off by ourselves with a devil-may-care attitude.  We travel in an RV with a turbo diesel and we can do the high elevations, with significant effort.   So we set about putting together a western expeditionary tour of Colorado and Montana.

   We sell leathergoods made of buffalo hide to museums, State and National Parks.   If our help doesn’t mutiny on us, we can fill in with regional art festivals selling and increasing our trade area.

Breckenridge is a long way from Worthington, Minnesota and we usually don’t travel quite that distance for one show, so we have combined another the following week in Bozeman, MT. (700 miles distant).   This is not how anyone should try to make a living, but understand I have a cousin that is a cherry rancher on the Flathead lake near Kalispell, Mt.   It is an excuse to go visit him, nearly a three day drive!

   The art and craft festivals went swimmingly, we did okay, other than having some significant motorhome repair and high anxiety.

Flash forward to the main destination, “GETMAN CHERRY RED ORCHARDS” on the east shore of Flathead Lake, MT. It is another days drive farther west but it is the only way to see my cousin in a fiscally prudent manner (at this time in my life). Flathead Lake enjoys a micro climate that is known for its incredibly hospitable conditions for growing Bing Cherries.  Dan and his wife Sheryl moved back to this area about a decade ago and have seemed to make some significant headway in the historic marketing of Bing Cherries.

   They combined two orchards and moved forward with grandiose plans.  The orchards contained bing cherries, rainier cherries, apricots, apples, pears and peaches.  They also have added hundreds of grape vines while they were resting.   Dan is now the president of the Montana Wine & Grape 


They live and breathe their passions of growing fruit and entertaining those that appreciate their delights.   This very select geographic area is a perfect micro-climate for growing Bing Cherries and those that can do this are rewarded by being able to sell their products locally, nationally and internationally.   

   Dan has quietly stepped forward to push the envelope of growing bing cherries.   His neighbors that are also orchardists noticed that he has shipped in many many semi truck loads of soil and soil augmentation.  They had explained to him that this extra expense was frivolus.  Most of the Flathead Cherries are grown in rocks and rocky soil without regard to anything else.   Dan walks over and shows me a pile of peat and soil, he picks up a handful and states   “This is my Jesus”  this is what causes my cherries to be bigger than many….perhaps most.   His neighbors are slowly coming around, because Dan is selling his cherries in Paris, Moscow, Belgium, Singapore.  These are premier markets that can afford the very, very best.   Dan has had to call in the “air force” (helicopters) to dry his orchards when they got to damp from the morning dew.   The morning dew can reduce his cherries to the normal variety if they remain moist for to long of a time.   His grade “A Cherries” were bound for Paris! So send in the Air Force!

While we were there the phone rang, people just magically appeared, wanting or needing.  It is the peak of their season and we have come at an awkward time for a social visit.  They scramble and exhibit  unflagging respect and humility to an assortment of people that need something from them (we are not excluded).

In one way or another they have entertained 800 people in the past month and now they find themselves coughing and sputtering a bit.   They need sleep and rest.  I’m certain Dan & Sheryl plan on getting that rest in the next lifetime.

   They knew we were coming but they didn’t know we had picked up a hitch hiker from Belgium.  We’ve lived long enough to believe that it’s okay to pick up someone in need of a ride, now and then.  Once again….Devil-may-care.

   We introduce our new found friend Emmanuel to Dan and Sheryl and they don’t miss a beat, they too love him!   We tour the numerous orchards and then end the evening with a tour of the new home that they are building.  No where within my little community is there a home of this magnitude.  

They have a bit of history remodeling homes.  Years ago they owned a home that they had renovated in Los Angles,  it was the subject of a feature film on Home and Garden Television, a nationally televised station.  They weren’t rich and famous, they were young, artistic, daring and creative.   It worked and they eventually sold the home to a movie star that you all know.  

   With that behind them, they packed up and now find themselves in these beautiful new environs.

The new home that they are building is perched on the upper banks of Flathead Lake.  The home is “U” shaped with the exterior hosting nearly one hundred full panel doors as the fenestration.  The full panel doors all are all hinged as to open when the time might arrive.  Cararra marble is found throughout the stairways and landings.   Italian chandlers are too numerous to count, they are all the epitome of taste  with a big nod to Sheryl and her superior artistic and architectural notions.  She intends to give cooking classes in the expansive kitchen. We walk about nearly dumbstruck, this place is a dreamscape.   

This is the home of my cousin & fellow musician.    We  played in a rock and roll band back in the 60’s.   We knew three more chords than other musicians knew, so we got all the gigs and made $22.50 each performance.   We thought this was top of the world.

Today I look about and see the efforts of these two people and realize that many trod through life with dull uninspired work.  I look at my cousin and his wife who are currently tired and nearly ragged with undaunted efforts.  They imbue the aspirations of creativity and artistic genius.  They are creating a place of artistic and culinary destination.   The stoves in the kitchen are imported from the U.K. And I suspect they cost more than my first home.     

We pick one last lug (twenty pound) of apricots as we head down the road 

from Getman Cherry Red Orchards.

It is my hope that tomorrow they sleep in.


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