I am pretty sure it was always somewhere around a hundred degrees outside, and we had at LEAST thirty bushes to pick between the two of us.
My mom would tell you that I am exaggerating. If fact, she will chuckle and say all of this is exaggerated. And maybe it is.
But it is what I remember.
It was the middle of the summer and it was hot. My long hair was damp and clung to the back of my neck, my forehead, and my cheeks as I would stoop to get the berries from the lowest branches.
The ugly camouflaged hat of my dad’s did nothing to keep the deer flies from swarming around my head, but it did help them stay out of my hair. Because no one wants to pick tangled, angry flies from their long hair. Nobody.
It maybe wouldn’t have been so bad, but the bushes were so far from the house. My brothers and I, buckets in hand, would trek down the path through the woods in our backyard out to the clearing where my dad had planted apple trees and blueberry bushes–the two fruits that completely Michigany.
The apples were to feed the deer. The blueberries to feed the humans.
My brother also insisted on lugging along our little boom box so he could listen to Ernie Harwell call the Detroit Tigers’ games through the loud buzz of AM radio.
We would spend more time trying to find just the right spot to get the least amount of interference than actually picking berries. Many times we would make our baby brother hold the radio and move around until it was how we wanted it.
Stand closer to that tree. No! Farther away. Ok put one foot on that stump and hold the apple tree branch with the other hand. Maybe if you put the antenna in your mouth. STOP! That is exactly perfect. Oh quit crabbing. You don’t have to pick.
Starting on different ends, we would go for the brilliantly blue ones first–the ones our dad warned us that the birds would pick off if we weren’t out here every day. The ones our baby brother would munch on if we didn’t put him on radio duty.
The ones we would pop into our own mouths so we could taste summer while we worked.
We didn’t say much as we picked. If anyone said anything, it usually resulted in arguing and someone storming off in tears to “tell”. So we quietly listened to what there was to hear.
thud thud thud
Until the bottom was covered and the second layer of berries began.
Plop plop plop
The shuffle of bare legs in the tall grass as they moved around the bushes.
The occasional slap at a mosquito or deer fly on our legs and arms.
The rustle of blueberry bush leaves as our hands moved around them.
The relentless plopping of berries on berries.
And the strike of a baseball bat hitting a foul ball with Ernie letting us know that “the kid from Freemont caught that one.”
My parents still have those bushes, although when I venture back to the clearing there are only about eight bushes. My nephew loves to help my mom pick, and I wonder if Eddie will stain his hands and lips blue just like I did when I was younger.
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