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Country living was exactly what Jim and Mary Pearce were looking for when they eased toward retirement a number of years ago. They’d lived in Dallas and a few other large communities and Smith County, with the rolling terrain that spreads northward from Lindale, was what they were looking for.

The area, just off a main highway, provides easy access in all directions and is home to numerous ex-city dwellers, many who own cattle, others horses and the Pearces, well they own a small vineyard.

They tried retirement and Jim says “it didn’t take” … and they’ve busied themselves working just enough that they know retirement is just around the corner.

In the meantime the vineyard has been a project that grows a bit each year and with it the tradition of having friends, some long-time and others quite new, show up for the Blessing of the Grapes.

Those invited gather for a quick breakfast as the sun clears the tree tops and the shadows are long… but more importantly, before the temperatures reach into the 90s, which is normal for mid-August in this part of the country.

Jim reads a blessing of the grapes and then for the next half hour to 45 minutes grapes are hunted down like shoes at a department store sale. None are left unclaimed, though perspiration dripping from the tip of one’s nose can be a bit distracting.

Then a portion of the grapes are crushed in a hand-operated crusher that isn’t half as much fun as stomping a vat of grapes, though we suspect it’s a bit more sanitary.

He harvested between 1,500 and 2,000 pounds of grapes, keeping enough to make himself 20 gallons of wine and selling the remainder of the grapes to a nearby winery. “He laughs lightly as he says “I give away more than I drink.”

Before the visit ended there was a tasting of last year’s wine, which turned out to be a wonderful, slightly dry wine.

As the dozen or so who took part in the morning’s events were heading for their vehicles there was a reminder… “If you get invited once,” the voice was saying, “you have to come back next year.”

That’s part of country living.