Evil Berries Vanquished

image bowl of blackberries

Fit for a Pie

One evening, I was cooking bacon, and my son was sitting in the next room.

Now bacon is tricky. And treacherous. I can’t be the only one who has noticed this. At one heat, it just sits in the pan doing nothing but laughing at you. Turn it up a notch, and its spitting hot grease. Fortunately I wear glasses.

So, I was doing this. The bacon dance. Turning the heat up and down, and heading forward and back, occasionally making little “Ooh. Ah! Ouch!” noises as I jumped back from the hot grease.

“You know Mom.” my son piped up from the other room. “For you, cooking bacon is an extreme sport.”

And speaking of extreme sports, this week is the week that I look forward to all year. It’s blackberry week.

There’s a patch up the street. I watch it carefully. Of course, some years I forget to, and the week has come and gone before I catch on. Other years my husband has willfully scheduled a vacation for that week. Tragically, some years, I watch as the berries grow larger, turn red, begin to turn black, and then, just before they reach that dropping off the vine stage, the weather gets hot and dry and they just all shrivel up and die, right before my very eyes.

But this year, none of that happened. I wasn’t working. I wasn’t vacationing. And my babysitting duties weren’t all-day.

So, I prepared to do battle. In the past, my companion in arms was my daughter-in-law. We would approach the patch together, and steal off with those deep black orbs. Then, she would bake the worlds’ most delicious pie, and we would all eat.

But this year she abandoned me for an internship. But that’s a subject of a different rant.

So, this year, I approached the patch, alone, with trepidation. I think those berries are sentient. I put on sneakers and long pants, despite the heat. My daughter-in-law has been known to pick in flip-flops and a sun-dress but as we all know, the young are invincible.

It is a good-sized patch located on the slope of a drainage pond, one of those developers are required to put in. It is a slippery slope. The three or four bushes on the top can be reached easily, but those yield barely enough for a snack. To pick enough for a the summer’s blackberry pie, you must descend into the pond area. (Its not an actual pond of course, or at least, I’ve never seen water in it.)

Now, my balance isn’t what it used to be. Or course, fortunately there are multiple plants that you can grab when you…


All the plants have small barbs. This surprises me each year.

Getting to the middle of the patch involves either going down the slope, or up the slippery slope. It’s also complicated by the fact that you can’t really tell which berries are ripe until you touch them. Ideally, the berries will consent to being picked, and just fall off into your hand. If they resist, you should wait until the next day. Time is on your side.

But, sometimes, tragically, you brush against a bush, only to see several ripe berries jump off onto the ground, chortling.

“Curse you Blackberries!” I cry.

My blackberry obsession actually stems from my childhood. Our house stood on a hill, and an old trolly car track went through the woods behind the house. On the slippery slope where our well stood were several blackberry bushes. I don’t think my mother paid any attention to them, but we snacked on the berries while we ran the water hose down the hill in an attempt to create roads and hills and floods. I don’t remember those berries as sentient, but those were the days when I was invincible.

But this patch is sentient. They call to me from below.

“Look at us.” they cry. “Look at us just glistening in the sun. Just lean over a little bit more. A little bit will do. Just think of that pie.”

This year I don’t fall for it. (Ha, Ha.) I know that if I lean forward an inch more, I will topple head over heel, down the slope. Years later, they will find my skeleton, intertwined with those evil blackberry vines, triumphant at last. Or at least I will have to call my husband and have him help me hobble out on a sprained ankle, all the while reminding me that I should have been more careful. I’m not sure which is worse.

From above, the evil bushes just want to prank me.

“Carol-Ane. Think of the pie. Just lean forward. Just a little more.’

Then they will crackle wildly when I do a face plant, and become the hideous barbed lady.

This week, I resist their cries. I have all week, I tell myself. Time is on my side. I have enough for today. Tomorrow, I will be back.

And miraculously, by the end of the week, I had fed enormous quantities of blackberries to Abel, Max, and Augie and by the last day, I still had enough for my husband to make a magnificent pie. He drove a couple of the pieces down to my daughter, and her husband, and gave two more to my son and daughter-in-law.

I ate my piece, while surveying the scratches on my hands and arms.

“Take that you evil berries!” I mumbled, licking the sides of my mouth.

And I thought to myself, ‘see, I can still do extreme sports. Want some bacon anyone?’

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