Thursday, July 13, 2006
Just A Passin' Memory
I was lookin out the window at the berry bushes in the back yard & a happy memory popped into my head. The summer I spent alone with Dad was a magical time to that now deliriously
happy young boy. He never let me out of his site for than a few short minutes, ever. He even took me to class & work with him & let me sleep in his bed at night until I insisted on sleeping alone again. I can still recall the smell of his sheets as they were scented with his aftershave.
Anyway, a quick flash came to me as I saw the blackberry bushes in the evening sun. Dad had taken me fishing for the first time with nobody else with us. We only caught a few brook trout, enough for supper if we added plenty of potatos & fresh picked peas & beans. Maybe some of my aunt's homemade yeast rolls too. As we rode in silence down the dirt ruts the ten miles or so to the main road, Dad spotted something & brought our big tank of a car to a halt.
He'd spotted a huge jumble of blackberry & raspberry bushes beside the weedy ruts, full to over-flowing with berries. After blowing the horn several times to scare off any furry berry-picking competitors, we got out & grabbed a couple of pails from the trunk that we'd brought to
hold the extra fish we neglected to catch. After showing me how to pick the ripest bush fruits
he turned me loose to do my best. This, in hindsight, might not've been the best decision of the
day. You see, he'd been too busy until that time to devote much time to training me on the finer points of wild berry picking procedures, and more importantly, the hazards involved.
I was doing great and had a pretty good crop of juicy goodness gathered when I happened upon a particularly good group of very ripe fruits. I immediately set to work picking as fast as my small hands could fly and still not damage the fruit or hit too many thorns. So lost in my efforts was I, that I wasn't real aware of my fellow creatures. If I'd been looking, a growing presence of hords of one of nature's wonders would've caught my notice. Unluckily for me, my first inkling of a pending disaster was when I stepped up onto a fallen log to reach the higher targets of my efforts. As I did, I noticed, but ignored, the sinking feeling under my left foot. It was soon made painfully clear that I had committed a grave transgression against a group of very perturbed flying honey making critters. I immediately pulled out my foot, covered as it was with a sticky combination of honey, wax, bark, and highly hostile honey bees. My father heard the ungodly screeches that came from the depths of my being as I ran out with this terrible mess coming along for the trip and still stinging away, those that hadn't left their tiny spears embedded in my already painful leg. This, I remember thinking, "is not good". Why that thought, I don't know. But under the circumstances, a totally concise and accurate assessment of things.
Dad reached me and scooped me up, hitch-hikers and all, and commenced a mad dash to a little brook he'd seen while he was picking. As we reached the tiny flow of water, he lay down in it with me still in his grip and shook up both as hard as he could. I, being stunned by all that had transpired in such a short time, was sooooooo happy to feel the cooling liquid as it rinsed away the unwanted mess from my leg. Finally, checking to see that the bees had lost interest in us in favor of repairing their poor, badly damaged abode, Dad stood and pulled me to my feet.
What a sight he was, all wet and covered all over his arms with tiny red battle scars that were swelling as we watched. I must have looked a fright to him too, as he looked horrified at the wet and badly stung boy before him. After determining that we looked far worse than we felt, we exited the water and walked the few yards down the grassy ruts to our hulk of a car. As we neared the beast on wheels, I took off at a dead run past and away from it, eliciting new yells from Dad. He quickly calmed down though, as I came running back with my hard-won pail of
berries, bees in hot pursuit once again. As I reached the car with its now open door, Dad scooped up me, berries, and his pail and dove in the passenger door over me and the pails, slamming the door with a flick of his panicked foot. I realized my window was still down and furiously cranked it back into place at the top of the door, trapping us & some bees inside, but many more without.
When we got to the farm, my aunt removed my pants & shirt to review the damage caused by the tiny lancers. From her gasp, I had an inkling it wasn't good. While she took the berries & proceeded to bake some delicious pies to top with homemade ice cream after supper, my Dad & uncle R retrieved a bright lantern from the barn to use for stinger removal. As there was only a generator for power at that time, and it being used to light the milk barn, the kerosene lantern was the tool of choice. I don't know how long it took to remove what they could, but it was long after milking was done, horses & other critters cleaned & fed, and supper gone from fixins to fixed. There was no lotion available that night, so I ended up being covered in "bag balm" to ease the smarting. "Bag balm" is the trade name of the stuff used to rub on the sore udders of
milk cows & goats and the sore hands that milked them on biting -40F winter days.
This story has a happy ending though, mostly involving fresh mashed potatos, peas, beans,
yeast rolls with hand-churned salty butter, and all topped off with fresh berry pies still warm enough to melt the homemade vanilla ice cream I was allowed to heap on mine, "just this once" as my now relieved Dad watched me chow down like I'd never eaten before. Take care.
Posted by Mike S at 7:56 PM