Caubble Peaches

Odd Jobs, People, Seasonal, Traditions
on July 30, 2000

Crowleys Ridge is a geological oddity of the northeast Arkansas delta. Its rolling hills, forests, and fishing waters stretch 200 miles across the otherwise flat plains of fertile farmland. Basically, it doesnt belong here.

Jack and Tommy Caubble belong on the ridge, however, despite their even more unusual business of growing peaches.

The peaches of Crowleys Ridge, 32 varieties in the Caubble Orchards alone, stand out in a land known for established crops of rice, cotton, and wheat. Orchards have been on the ridge since the late 1800s, however, and nobodys quite sure why.

Theres just something about this ridge that gives them a flavor, says Jack Caubble, whose grandfather started the family orchard in Wynne, Ark., when he moved there from Mound City, Ill., in 1921.

Customers from as far away as Louisiana and Missouri come to buy Caubble peaches, drawn by the fruits distinct taste. Caubble even has shipped peaches to a surprised and well-satisfied customer in Atlanta, capital of The Peach State.

Georgia peaches cant compare, he says flatly. Customers agree.

Crowleys Ridge peaches are bigger and juicier, says Kristen Dunn, who grew up going to the orchard with her parents and still buys Caubble peaches. You cant just buy a bagful. You have to buy a bushel.

With more than 2,000 peach trees, eight varieties of apples, six varieties of plums, and six varieties of nectarines, the Caubble brothers have their hands fullparticularly since both have full-time jobs (Jack is a salesman; Tommy works for an insurance company).

So when the orchards were first turned over to them by their aging father, Warner, Jack and Tommy thought about turning the land into a private golf course, after they contemplated the daunting year-round task of working the 30 acres.

But the desire to continue the Caubble crop, nurtured by family members for almost 80 years, convinced the brothers to focus on peaches. Fortunately their wives, and often their grown children, help with the orchards.

Closing the orchards also would have meant removing a well-known town structure. The road into Wynne, down Highway 64-B, winds past the orchard and an old white shed where Margueritte Caubble, the family matriarch, sells peaches each year.

People see this as a landmark, Jack Caubble says of the shed. Shaded from the summer sun, Margueritte sits inside, filling plastic bags with peaches for her customers. The humid heat doesnt bother her.

This is about as cool of a place as there is, says the tanned mother of six, selecting ripe peaches for a waiting customer and handing over the heavy load. Ill turn on the fans for the customers, but the open air is better for me.

Margueritte is proud her sons have taken over operations.

It was hard making the transition, but I couldnt do it myself, she says. Im really happy about it.

Peach and apple orchards, once abundant, are now a rarity at Crowleys Ridge, having been replaced by soybeans and wheat. In fact, the Caubbles now operate the only orchard within Wynne city limits.

Margueritte picks through the variety of fruit baskets just inside the shed and selects a few ripe plums and a load of peaches for her next customer. The fresh fruit puts a smile on her face.

I can still see the little kids with buckets picking peaches, she says, remembering her children and grandchildren who grew up in her orchard. Its a good feeling.