Be true to who you are…..

And the family name you bear……

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Gatherers

The word gets out like Sutter's Mill. They're on!
It's happening like gold in the sluice box,
the huckleberries are ripe.

Hmmmm. How does one describe the flavor of a huckleberry? I don't know. But that little berry has been the cause of my August mountain trek for almost twenty years now. It has been the draw for thousands of others for decades before me. While Shane and I were dating, I told him of the huckleberries we use to harvest in the mountains of Montana. He surprised me one day by taking me huckleberry picking in Idaho???!!! Who knew?

From that time forward I have gone every year to the same mountain and rarely has it failed me. That mountain has shared many memories of life with me. One year I sought relief from my aching head and churning stomach in the fresh air as morning sickness threatened to consume me, the next year David rode in a back pack as I picked berries and Cody grew making me just as sick. Summer after Summer my boys played and romped in those hills escaping our city lot. There is the dead tree, lovingly dubbed "the ship"... where my toddlers played for hours as I picked in the "Huckleberry sea" If you gave me the real name for that canyon I'd be lost but when one of the boys reports "There's berries at the ship." I always find my way.
There was the summer that Shane worked in Florida and I was so lonely, The hills again were my consolation the summer his mother died, and the summer my father died. There was the year Rob tumbled down the hill and when he hit the bottom all anyone wanted to know was "did you spill the bucket?" There was the summer we moved to the farm and now it only takes seventeen minutes to make it to the mountain! How about the year we traded a gallon for a goat? Or the year Grace ate the cow pie......... memories, memories shared, to be brought to remembrance year after year.

I guess before you turn me in for letting her eat a cow pie, I should tell you that Grace was a year old and couldn't walk yet... I set her down in front of a bush so she could pick and eat, she loved to pick and eat, when her bush was bare she started crawling up the trail to me and stuck her hand in a fresh cow pie..... before I could jump up to get her~ she licked it off.. The forest resounded with gaging noises... hers,mine, the family up the hill......
Not one of my mothering moments that brings a swell of pride BUT we did live through it.

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.

No comments:

Post a Comment