Chassell Strawberry vs. California Raisin

Better Than Yesterday

Chassell Strawberry Parade 1988.

My 12-year-old cousin was dressed in a plump, red Chassell Strawberry costume. Two giant, green, fabric leaves hung from the top of his head. His cheeks were painted with a rosey red glow. My 9 -year-old brother, the California Raisin, wore a dark purple costume stuffed with newspaper to make him the shape of a raisin. His purple hood had two eyeholes cut out. Another cousin wore a referees uniform and held a bucket of candy.

We turned a flatbed trailer into a wrestling ring, and I pulled it with our four -wheeler. Metal pipes for corners were adorned with red and blue crepe paper. A nylon rope wrapped around to form the ring. Signs hanging from the fenders read: “The Main Event! Chassell Strawberry VS California Raisin!”

Before the parade we all posed for a picture. The Strawberry and the Raisin stood barefoot in their cloth costumes. My cousin, a full foot taller than my brother, held a tinfoil sword to my brother’s throat for the photo op. Everyone was smiling.

The parade began, and they danced and taunted each other just like the professionals do. By the time we reached the post office the wrestling had begun. The crowd rose out of their lawn chairs emphatically cheering for the Chassell Strawberry. It was just like TV. People loved it!

As we reached the co-op I turned to watch the action. It was then that I realized we had given my cousin a license to kill. Hundreds of parade-goers were cheering on the Chassell Strawberry as he pummeled the California Raisin from one end of Chassell to the other. Their cheers caused a diabolical haze to come over the Strawberry as if he was the Ultimate Warrior from the WWF. He reigned down elbow drops, suplexes, DDTs and headlocks. My brother’s ear was sticking out of his eye hole and newspaper seeping from his armpits. At one point the Strawberry picked him over his head and tossed him over the ropes onto the street.

The strawberry worked the crowd bringing his hand up to his ear to get more cheers. The barefoot strawberry with red cheeks pranced out onto the hot blacktop and walked over to the prone California Raisin laying in a pothole. He grabbed him by the hood and drug him back to the trailer where he proceeded to choke him on the nylon ring ropes before body slamming him back onto the trailer. This went on for 45 minutes. Each new group of spectators fueled the Chassell Strawberry more. I wondered if my brother would live to tell about it. I wondered if the referee would stop the fight, but the ref was my 10-year-old cousin, and she wasn’t going to step in!

The parade ended, and we sped down Lake Shore Drive. I looked back. The California Raisin lay there motionless. The Chassell Strawberry, now out of the fog that had overtaken him, looked at me solemnly and said, “Get him some water.”

The badly beaten California Raisin took a few days to recover, but he survived and managed to revive in time for a Little League game.

Will this be the year the California Raisin reappears in the parade seeking redemption? Be in Chassell at 11a.m. today for this year’s parade and find out!

Micah Stipech is a counselor at Houghton Elementary School and owner of CrossFit Hakkapelliitta.