We have a crop of blackberries this year and I have been picking almost everyday. As I go out to the arbor holding up the plants I have memories of days gone by. Why it seems as if it was just this morning when Momma said to my sister and me, "The blackberries are ready to be picked and we have a lot of orders." Momma sold the berries for 25 cents a quart and she rounded up her quarts. My sister and I were paid a nickel a quart to pick them. We loved to pick when there was a rain during the night because the berries were larger after the rain. We had tame berries but they had thorns on them, and of course it was summer and the temperature was hot.
When you picked the blackberries, there was a dress code. Long sleeved shirts, jeans and boots, Momma always added her kerosene rags around your ankles to keep the chiggers from getting all over you. Hot weather, lots of clothes, the reminder that snakes like blackberries and will be under the vines made for an interesting morning.
As I have told you before my sister is 11 years older than me so the last thing said, "Do not let anything happen to Bootsie. You take care of her." This was something no one needed to say to my sister, she did her best to always take care of me. Daddy was able to cut the grass around some of the vines but the vines where some of the biggest berries grew he could not cut with the hay mower. In would go my sister to stomp down the grass and then I would follow her and pick the berries. I picked all of the low berries and she would pick the ones I could not reach. Because Momma did not want the berries to pack down she would give us the quart baskets to pick in and bring the berries home. She would go through the berries and pack the quarts for the customers to see and they would bring something to put them in. This way we had plenty of quart baskets for picking.
My sister loved country music and she would sing when she was picking the berries that way I would always know where she was. "Come over here, there are some really big berries." I would trot off to find her and pick the big ones she left for me. After all the baskets were filled we would head off to our house and get out of the hot clothes.
As we walked home with the harvest my sister would spend the money in so many ways with what she would buy. I knew she would buy another record by Elvis or Hank Snow because she loved to hear them sing. We always pooled our berries and if we picked 10 quarts and 50 cents was the take for the day, I would get half. Momma taught me to save and I had to put some of the money in the bank and it would earn 2% interest. I would put away the money I would deposit in the bank and if I was able to buy a new cut-out doll book when we went to town and that made all the hard work worthwhile.
As I am standing by our berry arbor, not to concerned about snakes as the berries are not in the pastures. I can almost hear someone stomping down the grass. I am overjoyed at the size of some of the berries but I can see a finger pointing to the biggest berry of the day. I pick it and put in my basket. After the berries are all picked, I am walking to the house and I can hear someone singing "I've Been Everywhere" a little off key. I do feel the presence of my sister when I am picking blackberries and I surely received a whole lot more than a nickel a quart. My memories are priceless.
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