Blackberry pickin’ time

Dan ArpOur Town Outdoors, Powell

Even though I can’t recall blackberry winter this year I suppose it happened. I have seen a few cars parked on interstate and highway shoulders with people next to brambles with buckets and Walmart bags.

Whenever I think of blackberry picking, two people almost always come to mind. My Aunt Flaud and Tate Fortner.

Aunt Flaud and Uncle Thea lived in New Hopewell on a hilltop farm. Every year about this time Aunt Flaud would get up way before sunrise. She powdered her whole body with sulfur as a defense against chiggers and ticks.

She put on a pair of Uncle Thea’s long wool underwear, a pair of his bib overalls, one of his flannel shirts, a scarf and a bonnet. Thus attired she was ready to face the blackberry patches on the farm.

She carried at least a gallon of water plus 2 five-gallon buckets. By daylight she was picking berries and continued until dark. With full buckets in hand, she returned to the house having secured enough berries in one day to provide jams, jellies and preserves for the whole year.

Tate Fortner was a hired hand on the May family farm on Wilkerson Road. Tate lived in a small trailer on the farm. In addition to doing the required work for the May family, Tate also did work for others in the community. You knew it was springtime if you saw him coming down the road with a team of mules pulling a wagon. In the wagon he had a plow and a disc. If you needed your garden prepared, he was the man to do it.

In mid-July you could count on a knock on the door and there stood Tate with two galvanizes buckets full of blackberries. Even if you hadn’t seen the blackberries there was no mistaking what he had been doing. His hands were stained blue from a day’s exposure to berry juice. I don’t remember what mom paid for the berries but if you have ever picked many you know almost any price is a fair price.

We have a small patch on our place but mercifully the birds seem to be beating me to them. Anyway, I hate the smell of sulfur.

Dan Arp is retired. He’s the Dan Land part of Dan Land and Cindyville.

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