Southern Living

I love our corner of the world. Especially this time of year when it starts to get hot. When folks from up north visit in October and it’s still warm enough to swim, they want to move south. But when summertime comes to Alabama you better love hot weather. I once saw a guy from up north sit down in his Lexus with leather seats and it was so hot it made the synthetic fabric of his shorts melt to his legs.I could almost hear him say “what in God’s name was I thinking when I moved here?”

Blackberries love this weather too, and I love blackberries. I went out this evening and picked about a half gallon. Tomorrow, Jilda will wash ‘em up and cook up a blackberry cobbler pie and I’ll spend a little time in heaven.
Picking blackberries is no picnic. I always come home looking like I’ve been in a catfight. You also have to be careful.

My mother always warned me before I went out picking blackberries… be careful or you’ll get on a snake.

Now I’m not really that afraid of snakes. If I see them first, I just steer clear because my philosophy with most critters is live and let live. So today when I was picking in the field behind my house, I could hear my mother’s words in the back of my mind. I had already picked this blackberry patch last week so I had me a path stomped out. It was a spur of the moment decision to go picking, so I didn’t bother putting on long pants, I just picked up my basket and went at it. I was finding berries as big as my thumb and I was about waist deep in a patch and reaching high up to get the bigger fruit when I felt something on the back of my leg and I jumped straight up. I’m telling you, had I been in an Olympic high jump event, I would have won hands down. It was as if I were in slow motion because I turned in mid air expecting to see a rattlesnake as big as my arm coiled and ready to strike. What I actually saw was our new puppy that had silently slipped up behind me and it was she that had licked me on the leg. That was almost one less mouth to feed in the Watson household.

After I checked my britches to make sure there was not a problem there, I picked a few more berries and headed home.

In reflecting back on the days when I was younger, it is truly a wonder that I made it this far. My friends and me used to take advantage of the warm weather and we swam every day. We would go to the strip pits around Sloss Holler and dive off of rocks forty feet high into the cool green water. Several years ago I went back to the old strip pit to fish and it had not rained in some time so the water was down and I saw a gigantic rock protruding up right in the area where we used to dive. It was only by God’s grace that one of us didn’t break our neck.

I remember one time in particular that a bunch of us went exploring. There were about ten of us and we had all tied a rope around our waists and we were running up hills and down the other side and we did this for hours laughing and screaming a cursing at each other. Joe Plunkett was in the lead because he was the biggest at that time Johnny Rainey was second, I was third, my cousin Mickey was behind me and my other cousin Robby brought up the rear. Joe stepped in a Yellow Jacket’s nest and he didn’t get stung. Johnny got stung once and about ten Yellow Jackets nailed me.

Mickey got stung too many times to count, but by the time Robby arrived at the nest those vicious insects were mad and they took it out on him. Having the rope tied around us proved to be a mistake as well because when folks started to get stung, we no longer were traveling in a straight line. In fact, we were going in every direction and it was pandemonium. When we finally stopped, we looked at Robby and he was literally covered in Yellow Jackets. We had to beat them off of him with pine tops. We took turns and carried him home. The escapade earned him a trip to the doctor, which rarely happened in those days.

Life is a funny thing. I know there were those who were more affluent than we were and probably think I’m crazy for saying this, but even if I could turn back the hands of time and change the circumstances of my youth, I would not. It is all these experiences that make me who I am today. And although most folks would not consider me rich, or famous, I am happy, and to me, that’s worth a lot.

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