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The following article appeared in the KC Star (July 2012)
By DONALD BRADLEY
The Kansas City Star - Wed. July 6, 2012 Jara Mumma is a confident, pretty 17-year-old farm girl who can buck bales, run a tractor and sing in front of a crowd.
But the other night at the bandstand in a park in Rich Hill, Mo., the senior-to-be stood speechless as bidding on her Strawberry-Rhubarb pie climbed toward a thousand dollars.
She almost wanted to yell out that she had never made that kind of pie before. Wouldn’t have mattered. Her grandpa — in straw hat and overalls — was right in the thick of it and if there’s anything thing he loves more than a good piece of pie, it’s his granddaughter.
$1,100…$1,200…$1,300…Wait, is this for a pie or a cow?
Jerry Mumma, 74, had already bought Jara’s pie once moments earlier for $700, but donated it back and said sell it again at the pie auction, which helps Rich Hill pay for its "Famous for the Fourth" celebration. He was determined to get it twice.
Problem was, a few of his friends figured on that.
$1,400…$1,500…$1,600 — the town had never seen anything like it.
Mumma’s wife, Linda, squirmed in her lawn chair. She had the checkbook. The crowd grew. Bid takers started to sweat. One would say later it used to be a big deal if a pie went for more than a hundred dollars.
$1,700…$1,800…$1,900…Boy, with friends like these…
Larry Hacker, the Auctioneer, hadn’t expected much action this year because of a depressed economy and perhaps even a depressed regional mood.
"We’ve got the flooding up north and Joplin down south," said Hacker, the town’s retired Postmaster. "But this town time and time again has amazed me by how the people here step up to help."
Mumma isn’t a native son. He came from Pennsylvania where he shod horses at a sulky track. In the late 1960s, he arrived in Rich Hill to work as a farm hand. He fell in love with the place and a girl and never left.
$2,000…$2,100…$2,200. Linda Mumma had quit squirming by this time. Her hand covered her mouth.
They had married in 1970 and later had two sons. Now the boys and the four grandkids, including Jara, live nearby, and they all run cattle and row crop about 1,400 acres.
Linda described her husband as a "quiet, hard-working man".
Well, now the quiet man is the talk of this town about 75 miles south of Kansas City.
$2,300…$2,400…$2,500…finally — $2,600 — Sold!
The earlier $700 brings the total for Jara’s pie to $3,300. Jerry and Linda could have flown round trip to Paris for that.
But they just wanted to take their pie home.
"It’s pretty cool he did that," Jara said Wednesday about her grandfather. "Before the auction he asked me what kind I made, and he said he would keep an eye out for it."
That he did.
Hacker, the Auctioneer, said that when a pie hit $400 a few years back, he thought that would be "untoppable."
But last year, Mumma paid $1,000 for the winning pie.
"This year it sure didn’t hurt that it was his granddaughter’s pie and that he had some people pushing him," Hacker said.
The pie auction raised about $7,000 to help with the town’s celebration that draws thousands of people every year.
"We don’t have a fair or rodeo like a lot of small towns," said Natalea Hoeper, head of the celebration committee. "We have the Fourth of July, and that’s what Rich Hill is known for."
It’s likely to be known for its pie auctions, too, from here on.
So, how was that $3,300 pie? The family ate it the next day.
"Great," Mumma said Tuesday. "But I guess some people think I eat too much pie because they sure tried to keep me from this one."
Tuesday, things weren’t exactly going smooth on the farm. Hydraulics went out on a tractor. "I’ve had better days," Mumma said.
Too bad there wasn’t any pie left. He sounded like he could have used a $400 piece.
To reach Donald Bradley, call 816-234-4182 or send email to email@example.com
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