When I was young there were strawberries. Rows upon rows.
Strawberries were a lucrative business in the Valley. Each spring, succulent, ruby red offerings matured. Nestled in their green leafy blankets they waited to be snatched from their protective straw beds to be sliced, mashed, crushed or dipped by eager consumers.
An early alarm had jolted me from my warm bed. Exiting the sleeping house I scooted down a well worn path to the patch. As usual, in a cool, damp foggy dawn my eyes strained to see familiar landmarks. The dilapidated hen house on the left, the outhouse, traded for a new indoor model, now a lonely sentry to the right. As if from nowhere, Skip, my neighbors’ dog, materialized from the mists.
Her familiar “yip” her only greeting, she joined my morning mission. We reached the edge. Skip slouched on her haunches, looked around, yawning as if to say” You go girl…too early for me!” Reaching into my pocket I found the sandwich I had made (I was not into breakfast), offering the crusts in the usual morning ritual. I surveyed the rows. The sun was beginning to peek through the mists.
Grasping the first of many quart baskets I scrunched down in the straw, examining the condition of the berries. Mother earth smell tickled my nose. Would I find feast or famine? Rooting among the leaves I imagined them all snuggled together in their berry bed muttering and complaining, trying to find a more comfortable position as the light shone in their eyes. “Wake up sleepy heads!”I muttered. How I wished I could trade places.
Though the fading gloom I could hear voices…words undistinguishable yet, like the babbling brook flowing nearby. I grab another basket. My nimble berry- stained fingers gathered..intent on their harvest. The older girls that work at the Canning factory would arrive soon…everybody gossiped about how fast they could work a patch. They only picked berries till the Cannery opens. “That was where the real money was.” they said. Cannery girls live in the Valley forever. I didn’t aspire to be a cannery girl…my fingers picked up speed.
Caio ~ Val