Big, blue smiles make it all worth it
Despite last week’s column, I am a serious blackberry picker ” it’s a relaxing, peaceful activity, and I’m always left strictly alone to do it.
People will wave from afar and keep on going because they’re afraid I’ll ask ’em to pitch in and help.
I no longer resent that the very biggest, juiciest berries grow on vines overhanging a 200-foot drop into a rocky ravine, and flourish exactly two inches above my highest, straining-on-tippy-toes reach. With age and maturity, I have learned to accept my miserable limitations, although I have noticed that my reach seems to be mysteriously shrinking each year. Huh.
I have also discovered that every year when I gear up for blackberry season, I seem to need more and more rope to tie my gallon milk jug container around my waist. I spend a lot of picking time contemplating these mysteries, but I have no answers.
Gary “Green Thumb” Zielinski cultivates a hugely productive blackberry patch at his pace; pick four or five berries and you’ve just about got pie timber. He’s given me a ton of squash and zucchini … what heaven. Thank you, Gary!
I was there last week, happily filling my milk jug. My son Chad was standing about two feet away from me, idly munching a berry or two, keeping me company. Gary was off doing something, and we were completely, utterly alone.
“Chad,” I murmured, “If you’d like to pick about a quart of these, I will make a blackberry cobbler for you, spiced with sugar and cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.”
I said this to him in a voice so quiet, so soft and whispery that only the baby angels snuggled in God’s arms could’ve heard what I said. (Baby angels have great hearing, y’know.)
Up popped Russell Rowland from a good 30 feet away, whooping, “Blackberry cobbler! Did I hear somebody say blackberry cobbler?!”
Then Ricky Eaton stood up 10 feet further back from Russell bawling:
“That’s what she said, all right! Blackberry cobbler! Yahoo!”
All three of them took off like the Keystone Kops of old, falling all over each other, picking in fast forward, plowing through the bushes like Godzilla through a trout farm. I sat down in a handy plastic lawn chair and commenced admiring the evening sky.
“There are enough berries here that we can all pick a bunch. We need to cooperate,” said Ricky.
“Get away from me, go pick somewhere else. Forget cooperation. I want cobbler.”
In about fifteen minutes, their eyes bright and expectant, hopeful grins on their faces, the guys presented me with at least a gallon of berries. A gallon! Yes, the cobbler got made, and that’s the kind of work I like to do any day of the week.
Last Friday, 17-year-old Sid Meyer and his friend Patrick dropped by with a bread wrapper full of berries, also after cobbler. Sid picked it up later, red-hot from the oven, and raced away. He returned the pan a couple hours later and thanked me, of course (Sid is very mannerly) and then flashed a great big, shiny, grateful smile. All his teeth were a brilliant dark blue, as were his lips and tongue, and I’ll tell you what, that blue smile just totally lit up my heart for the rest of the day.
I know Bigtown is more convenient for everything from movies to medical care to anything you could ever want from all the shops and stores, and there are times, I do declare, when I wish I lived there. But then I wouldn’t have these two blackberry stories to give to you, and that would be a shame.
Vivian Herron is a longtime resident of the town of Washington whose column appears on Saturdays. You can write her in care of The Union, 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley, 95945.
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Six months ago, the future looked pretty bleak in terms of the live music scene, and I could not have predicted where we are now.