Friday, April 23, 2010

Summer Memory

I've been over in the vacant lot next door cutting branches to use for supporting my next crop of peas. It's about the same size as my lot, a little over an acre, but in the years since Mrs. Mabry passed away and the they tore down the house the place has really overgrown with all manner of stuff. Lots of blackberry, poison oak,scrub pine, privet and magnolia. It is now a real struggle to navigate.

I came back in to change into shorts before I head to the garden and when I put my hands under the cold water to wash up I flashed on a memory from my childhood that I haven't thought about in years. I used to spend the bulk of my summers with my grandparents in the town where I was born. A little place right on the New River as it flows into West Virginia called Narrows, after the way in which the river has cut through the mountains and left only a narrow gap just big enough for the river, a railroad grade and a highway. Anyhow, one of the events of early summer was blackberry picking. My grandfather used to head 'up the creek' (Wolf Creek which joins the New River at Narrows) to pick blackberries along the roadside. It was exciting with the warnings of rattle snakes and bears but also trying with the thorns, poison ivy and oak and scrambling up the steep banks along the road without sliding back down through the 'stickers'. We would fill ice cream can after ice cream can (ice cream came from the local dairy in quart cans with a metal lid like a cookie tin in those days) and would wind up with gallons. Blackberry cobblers and blackberry preserves would be forthcoming. The final event of blackberry picking would be a stop at the Narrows park(The Boom*) along Wolf Creek to wash off the dirt, poison oak and ivy. After spending the better part of a day in the sun and struggling up and down the steep hills the water in the mountain stream was like ice. We would slip into the water downstream from the swimming hole and scrub down with Ivory soap and come out very blue in the lips from the frigid mountain water. It wasn't long before we would be having blackberry cobbler fresh from the oven to warm us up though.

I guess it was scrambling through the just blooming blackberries coupled with the cold water that triggered the memory and a good memory it we just have to wait for the blackberries.

* Many of the locals call the park "The Boom" because loggers used to float logs down to the Mill Pond, located a small distance from the park, to be cut into boards.  As the logs arrived at the pond, they banged against other logs already in the water, producing a loud boom.  The area where the park is was known for the volume of the "booms" created by the logs, thus calling it "The Boom".

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