Life is Berry Bittersweet


Me, berry picking. Tell the kids, “I’m only getting what is easy to get to this morning. I’ll be right beside the driveway, won’t be out long.”

Three hours later I’m carrying two gallons of blackberries, I’m drenched in sweat, and wondering where on earth I am and if my cell phone would get service here. One patch leads to another….and then another….and then another.

I live in southeastern KY. This is the best year we’ve had for berries in the past seven years. Before that I didn’t own land and didn’t pick. Our property is covered this year. It’s such an overload that I’m only picking half of what we have and letting the rest go to deer and seed bc I can’t make the jelly fast enough. I pick every other day. My arms and legs are covered in scratches and my hands are destroyed. On jelly making days my hands are purple and I generally burn myself at least once.

I just can’t let them go.

When I was a child my Papaw Tacket loved to pick berries and we did it every summer. I remember riding in the pack of his truck and we’d go to these remote places that he knew of and had permission to pick. Hours and hours were spent in berry patches and he rarely let me go far. Sometimes I was alone and left under a tree or in a certain area bc the patch was so dense and they were afraid of snakes. I’d just stay put and they’d yell every now and then and make sure I was ok. Papaw was always so proud that I’d stay put and not complain. He toted a loaded rifle along, just in case of wildlife. We grew up knowing not to touch guns. We packed sandwiches and glass bottles of Dr Pepper and chips. Papaw let me eat all the berries I could hold. Then we’d go back to my grandparents house and they’d empty the berries into pans and wash them and mammaw would start the jelly making process. Sometimes she just washed them and froze them and made jelly later. Picking was hard enough work for one day.

This morning on top of a mountain, totally lost, singing to myself in the drizzly rain and putting handful after handful of ripe berries into a gallon jug. I was sweating profusely and getting scratched to pieces by briars I just stood there for a minute in total solitude and looked around. Since his death in 2004 I had never been so aware of his love for me. All the things he taught me by dragging me along. All the sacrifices he made for me that I may never even know about.

Hug your family tight today. Tell them you love them. Do not fail to make your kids spend time with you even if they don’t like it. Make them help out bc you’re teaching them how to adult even if you don’t mean to.

Because life is short.


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