Blueberries.. and other memories.
Blueberries… they have to be the most perfect food. If you were raised in Northern (upper) Michigan like I was, your life probably stopped also for blueberry season. Was there a child alive that wasn’t sent out to swat mosquitos, dodge pricker bushes, avoid bears, and uh.. pick blueberries?
Since the berries we harvested were about half of the size of bunch in my hand, it took twice as much lunging and scavenging to get even that much. Entire families were sent into the bushes–“the woods” as we called them to gather up the supply. My 90 year old grandfather and 88 year old grandmother only “quit” their blueberry duties a few years ago.
It wasn’t a question of “if” you should go–just “where” you should go. Some years would yield a “bumper crop” and others.. slim pickins.
Now for the newcomer, (someone who’s only lived there 15 years or so), would probably be relegated to buying blueberries from the store, since only the “locals” knew where their secret picking grounds were. If they did share it with you, it was so quick and easy to find.
Directions went something like this. “You know that old road that is behind the xyz..? Well, just look for a dirt road and follow that until it forks 4 times, then head into the bush due west for 400 yards. You’ll see such-and-so’s camp there… now look for a trail.. be careful because that’s bear country.. etc..” Incidentally, none of these so-called secret patches seems to be owned by anybody. But the one who found it first, well.. it’s theirs!”
So, really.. you have to be local after all. So, what happens when you actually do get there?
You plunk yourself in a pile of bushes, with your companions within eye distance. Try not to lose sight of the car or the trail, or you’ll be sleeping out there (with the bears, remember). If you don’t get eaten alive by mosquitos or sunburned, stay for about an hour. Unless you hit a big patch and are SURE someone else is going to find it, then stay until your neck and back hurt because that’s the least you can do, right?
The next day, make sure to boast to all of your friends that you meet at the IGA and the Five and Dime about the great finds. “Yaaahhh, you shouldddaa seen ‘dem.. Huge, eh!” (try out your yooper accent in advance so you don’t look like a newcomer)
Now for as crass as some yoopers are, it is out of the realm of yooper propriety to actually ask “where did you get them?”.. because everyone knows that picking grounds are sacred. It’s like.. like.. asking where your deer blind is or something! Very rude.. very newcomer-ish.
So, they kind hint around at asking about the general location of such gold mines.. “I hear they’re good out by the cemetery.” or “out on 553 seems to be looking good”.. just as a teaser. Maybe, just maybe they’ll share enough information to get you going in the right direction.
Then you can act all nonchalant about it, “Yaahhhh, we’ll be firing up the sauna tonight.. come on out for a swim.. ” etc. and then secretly DASH out to the spot. See, how easy that is?
So, now the whole world knows how to find the perfect blueberry patch. As for me, well, I buy them at the farmer’s market. HA!