The very best of times
On the prairies, pies come in two forms.
And the inedible.
One kind is made from prairie fruit.
The other comes from cows.
One smells wonderful.
The other . . . doesn't.
Sooo . . . prairie fruit.
This comes in the form of raspberries, strawberries, some apples, choke cherries and saskatoons.
The first three are grown mostly in gardens.
The latter two, in the creases and folds of the landscape near water.
The first three can be picked at any time during the summer, as they ripen.
The last two need planning.
Especially the saskatoons.
Their picking requires a family adventure.
And that's where the fun comes in.
Sometime in the summer, Mom's stack of pails would magically appear.
It was the signal for all of us kids to quickly get into our swimming suits because we were making a trip to the river to pick berries and go for a swim.
The best of times.
Mom had several favourite berry-picking spots.
All of them thick with bushes.
And none of them near our house.
She would load us, our pails and our towels, into the car.
And in a cloud of dust, we were off.
The saskatoon bushes started at the top of the cliff.
And grew downward.
Toward the river.
You had to move carefully.
And hang on.
Like little goats, we would scamper all over those bushes.
Or pretending to pick.
Mom's plan was always to have each of us fill a bucket.
If kids hadn't also come equipped with mouths.
One handful into the bucket.
One handful into the mouth.
And so it went.
After a while, each of us would have half a bucket of berries.
A blue mouth.
And full tummy.
With the hot, summer sun shining down, the smell of baking sage and grass in ones nostrils, and one's family gathered around, it was pure heaven.
Then we would swim.
And to top it off, fresh saskatoon pie when we got home.
Did I mention the best of days?
There is an addendum:
Picking chokecherries wasn't nearly as much fun.
For one thing, they are SOUR.
But they make the nicest syrup.
And that is another story.