On the way to the woods to pick blueberries Pete told a story about growing up on the rez I hadn’t heard before. Just when you thought you heard them all several times, a new one told with a color only Pete can give it.
We drove down the road through the jack pines, pulled off on a little trail I’ll never give up the location of, and headed off into the woods in different directions. I’ve spent a lot of time in the woods with Pete and very seldom seen him. Today was no different.
No sound but mosquitoes buzzing around my head and wind in the pines and blueberries hitting the bucket and nobody but an old dog for company.
Late in the day, off in the distance I heard Whhhoooooooooppp. It’s how we call in the dogs and sometimes each other and it wouldn’t mean anything to anyone that doesn’t hunt with us. I called back. An hour or so later we met back at the truck. It was hot. The bugs and ticks were bad. Been a good year for wild blueberries, we made a pretty good haul.
Sitting around the table later with an ice cold beer, cleaning blueberries and getting a lot of grief because I’m a dirty picker. Even the grand daughter was having fun with me. I might start throwing more sticks in the bucket just to keep them happy.
Pete told about when he was a kid and his dad took them to the woods to pick blueberries and he went back to the car because he was lazy and he was fooling around with his knife and cut himself and that was the only scar he ever got. Lisa must have about three or four miles of scars and I’m wondering what she must be thinking.
And about how they used to parch the wild rice, always stirring to keep it from burning, and then those Indian women would throw it up in the air with a big wooden bowl over and over on a windy day to get the chaff out. That was the old way.
And Lisa told us about the day her mom brought the truck keys with her to work because she was tired of staying up half the night cleaning blueberries. Her dad drove the tractor over to grandpa’s and he came and picked them all up and drove them to the woods. Lisa’s mom came home to a pile of blueberries that day.
We picked again the next day and the next because you might not get any next year. Blueberry season goes by fast and then it will be sweet corn and tomatoes and home made sauerkraut and fire wood and deer season and time to run the dogs and winter.
The seasons keep going around and coming back and the kids take the empty places at the table working and having fun and learning the stories and storing up food the same way it’s been done for thousands of years.