By Otis Griffin
Everyone had to try blackberry picking’ with their friends as it was just a way of life. Such as larrupin’ apple pie, snipe huntin’, skinny dippin’, corn cob fightin’ and grape vine puffin’! In most cases there are consequences you don’t want to own up to, or admit since you would be called a ‘sissy’. How about losing another battle with chiggers?
Remember when those little skin diggers had claws sharper than a chicken hawk and teeth that could cut an atom molecule right in half? Those scavengers loved to make a seven course meal out of a country boy’s torso, especially mine. As we say in the wonderful South, “they’d eat you alive!” If I had listened to Momma I wouldn’t have gotten tortured. But no sirrreeeee, I had to learn the hard way.
Oh, I was so proud of myself for picking all those juicy blackberries I had forgotten to put my garb back on for the purpose of protecting my skin. Years later as we sat on the front porch reminiscing, Momma informed me how she observed me strutting across the back yard like a fan-tailed, bellowing peacock while she was peeking out the double kitchen window. I was stepping high and didn’t realize the diggers were presently gnawing their supper. Once I bounded up to the sagging screen back door trying to balance on the concrete, wobbly blocks we called steps, headed to the porch, Momma was solemnly already surveying the upcoming enterprise.
The fun began as I had to take a Saturday night bath in the middle of the afternoon in our number-three washtub strategically positioned in the middle of the backyard. To this day I reckon young know-it-alls have not ‘figgered’ out why Mommas and Daddies know what a future self-proclaimed genius is planning even before he thinks about doing it. This will drive you crazy enough to go out in the middle of a cotton field, silently hunt up a sawed-off gum stump, sit down, contemplate the situation and quietly meditate.
Studying the situation caused my little ‘skeeter’ brain cells to click like a broken horse shoe with a nail head worn through causing the hoof protector to dance a little jig on the hot, runny tarred blacktop in sixth gear. For the life of me, “how did Momma know what I had done as she wasn’t even there, I don’t think anyway?” Am I ‘hainted’ and was Casper the flying ghost present?
I did get some relief and satisfaction knowing I wasn’t the only one that got caught! Paul and Lynn’s Momma, ‘Miss’ Bonnie, while running Mr. Babes telephone switchboard at downtown Rosemark had received a call from one of the nosy neighbors. Further, Rabbit was being treated along with Emerson and Paul House’s Momma was scouring him down too. It appears the soothsayers are out in full force in our small community.
To make matters worse I had to draw some cylinder bucketed well water and fill up the tub for my upcoming soughing. That’ll learn you, durn you! The solar sun system quickly warmed the cool well water. One of those scrub hard soakings with home made lye saturations while Momma hovered over me like a Queen cackler protecting her young soon to be oyster shell peckers.
Satisfied I had been tortured enough, Momma dipped me in some white gooey stuff out of a blue bottle that resembled Phillip’s milk of magnesia. It was supposed to kill the chiggers, but not all the time. In the middle of the night I have woke up peeling the hide off my little bony legs. If I hadn’t known better, my extremities looked like I had fallen through a hole in the rotten hay loft floor with the jagged edges creasing me like one of Momma’s Sunday morning starched collar shirts that would cut yo’ neck similar to a Case whittlin’ blade.
Can you recall how shiny, clear finger nail polish was used to suffocate the little diggers? For about three days it was miserable as I recall every time I flew by Momma she would remind me, “I told you to stay out of the patch and away from those chiggers.”
I had scratched so much my fingernails were down to the quick and would never need trimming the rest of my life. My body resembled a ‘skint’ white-face yearling. Those diggers will get in areas you didn’t know existed. Although I hadn’t worn homemade Martha White flour sack diapers for years Momma said, “Bo, it looks like you done got yo’self another case of the later in life diaper rash like yo’ younger sister.” Whispering softly, “yes m’am I know, ’cause I can sho’ feel it.” Just a hard lesson in the learnin’. I doubt it! Keep on itching and scratching and hopefully in about a year it’ll go away.
I Still Love Blackberries, but Not the Side Ingredients — GLORY!
By Otis Griffin