“Belle’s $5.00 Sun Valley Pies,” Ensign, Jan. 1985, 64–65
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?”