Sam Bucus

Donald Shephard

Hob was descended through many generations from the legendary Sam Bucus the originator of elderberry wine and the gnomic equivalent of Bacchus. In those ancient times, when the whole world was attuned to Mother Nature and her bounty, it was well known among the particular population called Mankind that crushed and fermented grapes make an elixir that mellows the mind before it befuddles the senses. What mankind knew the gnomes were sure to discover. It was Sam Bucus who brought oenology to the little people of the world.

Sam was a particularly large and jolly fellow but, at twenty barleycorns in height and as many in girth, even he was bowled over like a nine pin when he tried to handle the berries of the grape. His first attempts at making wine left him and his helpers both purple and blue. The great contribution to the quality of gnomic life that Sam Bucus made was to substitute the elegant elderberry for the unwieldy grape. The berries were smaller and more manageable, the skins imparted a beautiful red color and the juice fermented into a delicious wine with good legs, a hint of chocolate and raspberry flavors and a good finish. That inspired idea earned Sam and a long line of his progeny the right to produce wine.

Each generation of Sam’s scions enhanced the process in some way. As you are so painfully aware, some bushes are lower than others. It was Hob’s father who introduced the dwarfing stock which produced the low-bush elderberry. Hob’s challenge was to take this easy-to-harvest variety and improve the quality of the wine produced from it.

In his youth Hob had consumed his share of elderberry wine. He had made a good faith effort to take care of Nob’s share also. He had no chance of getting even a sniff of a snifter of the share attributed to Glob-the-Obese. Now that Hob was married and raising a family he took a great interest in breeding. Lest the ill-bred among you think otherwise, let us make that plant breeding, particularly elderberry plant breeding. After becoming a member of the triumvirate he spent a great deal of time studying the archival records and samples which Ob the Keeper-of-the-Wines stored. Buried below the dust and pipe ash in Ob’s little used study were several curious books with some strange facts.

Hob read of his great-grandfather’s attempts to make elderberry brandy, an idea that appealed to Hob’s efficient nature till he discovered that it took fifty kilograms of fruit to produce one liter of brandy. He paid no attention whatsoever to his grandfather’s experiments with an elderberry cordial which the old gnome had diluted with water before drinking. Whenever Hob was reading in that small second-hand room, Ob would offer Hob a glass of the very substance under study. In this way Hob’s palate was trained by the most discerning connoisseur of gnomic beverages in the village of Newtonia. Ob told Hob that, although it was obvious that the elderly elderberry wines were the best, it was Ob’s belief that the aging process was only part of the reason. Ob suggested to Hob that the wines made by the elders started out as superior wines. Hob was skeptical, but just to show that he was a willing student, he offered to drink a glass of each of Ob’s wines in the order in which they were produced. In later years, Hob often wondered how he had survived the experience. As Keeper-of-the-Wines, Ob had a monstrous cellar in a natural cave containing historic samples of all vintages dating back to Sam Bucus himself. Perhaps there were some gnomes who felt that Ob the Keeper-of-the-Book-of-Law did too little in the way of governing the village. These may even have been a majority but no gnome considered Ob inadequate to the task of maintaining the wine collection.

Hob’s adventures into sampling old wines began on the evening of the spring equinox and lasted until his second child, a son, was born. When it was all over Ob set up blind tastings. Ob would select five or six wines and it was Hob’s task to date each wine within a decade or so. Eventually, Hob felt as competent as Ob to date a wine. Ob issued a final challenge. Hob was to taste just one wine and give its date, the vintner, the recipe and the aging process.

Hob was confident that Ob would choose an ancient wine. In fact he felt that his old friend would select one of a handful. The only question was, which wine would the obtuse Ob choose? Would it be a two hundred and fifty year old vintage or would it be a relatively younger wine? Hob took along his son on the day of the final test. The glass awaited him in Ob’s cellar. There stood Ob with a mischievous twinkle in his eye. Hob tasted the wine. He hesitated. His son, who happened to be learning his colors, pointed to the glass and said, “Red.” At least that was Hob’s interpretation of his son’s word. This sparked a memory in Hob’s mind and he identified the wine immediately as a 1776 Aeldrum Elderberry. Ob regarded that wine as the very best in his cellar.

“Well done!” said Ob. “Excellent! How did you get it? It was hardly Hobson’s Choice.”

“No, but it was Hob’s son’s choice!” Exclaimed Hob. “He reminded me that our forefathers switched from red berried fruit to black berried fruit in 1776.”

“No doubt you will be a great vintner,” Ob said as he ruffled the youngster’s hair.

Hob smiled at his son as they walked home.

“You did well today my little friend,” he said.

“Red,” said his son.

“Red, indeed,” replied Hob. He became pensive. What would happen if they returned to the red berried elderberries? Could they achieve the standards of their founding fathers? That was the beginning of Hob’s life-long quest. History tells us that it was Hob who brought Newtonian wine to great renown throughout Sheepshire, Elseshire and The Rodings. It was his son, who came to be called Aeldrum, who lived up to Ob’s prediction and achieved his father’s holy grail of producing the finest of all elderberry wines.

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