By Otis Griffin
Everyone in our wonderful South at one time or ’nuther has been blackberry picking. There ain’t nuthin’ no better than a wide mouthed bowl of blackberry cobbler with some vanilla ice cream to top off a Sunday feast. We were real small when we were first allowed to go pickin’. It didn’t take a Harvard lawyer professor degree to snatch the little juicy berry. However, don’t squeeze too hard or the juices will end up in the bottom of the bucket or all over yo’ britches. Actually we got “Tom Sawyer & Huck Finn” pulled on us. But I remember my first few times. “I’m really doin’ sumpin’.” I can still hear Ann, June, Jackie, J. G. and Herbert laughing behind my back. But I tagged along.
Memory serves me recollecting all the blackberry patches were on the back side of nowhere. Most of the time the big bucket set out in the middle of the field hopefully centrally located amongst all the pluckers. Extracting a small amount, simply dump the fruit slowly into the bucket. Don’t pour fast as they are tender and you might hurt them.
Can you relate that most of the berries were right in the middle of the briars just out of finger nail length reach? No one wanted to be called a ‘sissy’ back then, so you shut your eyes, crawled on the sun baked ground and did the best you could to snatch, run, hope and not squall. Can you recall the smell of the warm juice? If no one was watching I would sneak in a little taste. To get the berries clean, simply blow off the fuzz, dirt, dead twigs and sometimes stickers. Otherwise your tongue will be sore for a day or so.
Momma wanted to protect her little boy ’cause she loved me and didn’t want me to get hurt. Before I left the house I looked like an Egyptian mummy encased with articles of clothing from the tip of my noggin to the calloused soles of my tootsies. Loose sleeved shirts with sleeves buttoned fiercely and britches cuffs fastened with sea grass string wound thusly to impede the burrowing miniature moles.
Proceeding on this exciting expedition Momma would holler out the back door, “Bo, watch out for the stickers and don’t let the chiggers git cha’.” As always, the answer was, “yes m’am”. This didn’t last long as the big, mean boys would tease us little tykes. So off came the armor as we had to be tough like the big boys. Yep! Wrong!
Remember when you filled the cans with fresh, juicy berries and wait your turn for the crowd to witness how well you did. With a busting chest protruding you had to remind your friends loud enough to be heard at Mudville, “well I got my share”.
For anyone stuck in a corn crib for a hun’ert years now the fun begins. Headed back to the house you put your shirt back on, but the sweaty sleeves started tingling the closer you got. Meanwhile, you are so excited in the newly acquired berry picking at first you don’t notice. You will.
I was so excited I didn’t realize I had more scratches on me than a Jersey heifer tangled in a barbed wire fence fight on the north forty. Similar to be run over by an eight row section harrow with newly sharpened teeth. The only remedy I knew was the wonderful cure-all. That’s right! A rag soaked with coal oil. It would burn worse than what the preacha’ bellowed on Sunday morning if we didn’t straighten up and ‘ack-rite’.
Now Momma is ‘gonna’ be mad when she sees the shape I’m in. The eighth wonder of the world has always been, “how do parents know what their ‘chill’un’ will do before they even do it? Or maybe even think about it? I sho’ am dreading what is coming up pretty soon. And there ain’t no way to get out of it.
I’m Got to Face the Music and I Can’t Even Play The Fiddle — GLORY!
By Otis Griffin