After weeks of hot, muggy weather, dry, cool days this week have been a refreshing change. This morning before work I picked wild blackberries in a jungly patch not far from home. A light dew covered the plants, and the only sounds besides birdsongs were my squeals when I tangled with the thorns. Don has a flight suit he traded with a Navy pilot for a pair of jungle boots before he left Viet Nam; now it's consigned to our berry picking forays, and it works pretty well. Last night I sprayed it thoroughly with bug spray, so when I waded into the brush this morning, I didn't have to worry about chiggers. Too bad they don't make a spray for blackberry thorns. By afternoon, embedded thorns and little cuts on the backs of my hands started to cry for attention, and I slathered them with liquid bandage. Other than that, I came out unscathed, and I have at least enough berries for one pie.
I grew up on the Northern California coast, just south of the Oregon border. The sign at the edge of town read, Fort Dick, Population 500. Just beyond the sign were miles of land overgrown with brambles. My brother and I spent what seemed at the time like way too many Saturday mornings picking those tiny wild sweet blackberries. Even in the summer, the mornings were cool there, and we breathed in the salt air, but we hated the drudgery and the punishing stickers. Of course, Mom told us that if we wanted any of her pies or jam, we had to pick, and the incentive was just too compelling. We were pretty sure that Mom made the best blackberry pies in Del Norte County.
That was a long time ago, and now a federal prison now sits right over that great berry patch. But whenever I pick blackberries, in my mind's eye, I'm back in California, and that entire prison is replaced by 2 kids filling up their pails and dreaming of blackberry pie.