The older ones no longer play on the ship but they did show the younger ones all the great features it possessed before abandoning their post. They have stopped making stick guns to hunt down the "wild" cows that graze the bushes near by. And they no longer hide in the bushes from enemy cars coming to steal our berries. Now we have contests to see who can pick the most or who can go the longest with out eating one.... Zachary always wins that one, he doesn't like them.
We all pick different and have our favorite kind of berry to find. Shane keeps his bucket neat and clean, no needles or leaves, and what grates me is he still picks just as fast as the rest of us. I guess I am just a slob as NO ONE ever wants to clean my bucket of berries. Cody likes to find the tear drop shaped ones because they are the biggest and fill his bucket faster. The berries dictate the picking ~sometimes we pick alone scattered on the hill, other times close in a group all working in one patch.
As the boys have grown, they have capitalized on the huckleberry. When you have that many pickers you tend to get more berries than your family can consume. They along with hauling pipe and picking raspberries sell the huckleberries to earn their motorcycles.
We have met a lot of wonderful people through selling the berries, we have repeat customers year after year. My favorites, but the ones who break your heart, are the OP's..the spirit is willing to go but their bodies have betrayed them and they can no longer hike the mountain. They come with their own memories of huckleberry pickin'. They share their stories and we share a laugh but it always ends the same... a far off look and a shake of the head...." I just can't go anymore". What do you say besides "I'm sorry." They pay their money and promise to come back next year.
As the years roll on I know my time will come too. If the Lord wills that I live, there will be a time when I no longer can tread that mountain.
Then the phone will ring...
"Granny, do you want berries this year?" After all, my grandbabies will need dirt bikes too. I will answer "yes, I want two gallon, that's how many we had to put up when your daddy/ mommy was little."
But bring 'em to me fresh....not the berries, for like Zachary, I confess, I'm not a big fan. But the children.......... bring the children to me with the sunshine in their eyes, their hair full of the smell of pine sap and their lungs breathing deep of that mountain air. I want to see the lips, fingers and even their seats stained purple. Let them tell me their new memories and let me share my old ones.............
for that is the flavor of the huckleberry.