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Reflections: Blackberry Picking in Lowndes County

My Grandmother Mary Katherine Weaver Maxey had 32 grandchildren, all born to her five sons that resided on the Maxey Bros. Dairy Farm near Artesia, Mississippi.

Blackberry picking was one of the highlights of our day in the hot humid South out in west Lowndes County. Most summers there may have been 15 to 20 cousins present, once school let out. And we all loved to go blackberry picking.
After milking in the morning and if some of us kids were not needed to drive cows or tractors, we would grab out molasses buckets and head to the fence rows surrounding our 760-acre dairy farm. The fence rows were one of the few places that might not be mowed clean as every acre of land was cut and baled into hay. Nevertheless, we would head out, barefooted, bareheaded and unafraid.
Now blackberry picking should not be a dangerous sport, and usually it is not, but occasionally we would run up on a sneaky snake. Not that we were afraid of snakes as long as we could keep an eye on them. Bear in mind that snakes will leave when you come around but we being kids that we were, would follow the snakes just to see where they were going. I’m sure the snake is thinking, “What is wrong with these idiots?” Needless to say the snake would silently wiggle on off, out of sight, but not out of our minds.
Snakes were the least of our worries; red wasps or yellow jackets don’t mess around. They will pop you before you know they’re even there. Wasps love to build their little paper houses on just any old bush they want to, usually in some out of the way place that we kids might not see. Bam! They pop you and run. Yellow-bellied cowards! This is when the serious expletives would flow along with a few tears because wasp stings do hurt and swell up. Remember, we were just kids and we needed Momma to kiss it and make it better.
Watching for sneaky snakes and flying wasps, you have to also watch out for spiders; not that we were afraid of any spiders except the black widow and she usually hides out in the outhouse. Spiders will usually run off, but the spider webs always catch you in the face somewhere, especially in the hair, which had all of us beating ourselves all over, trying to find the spider that goes with the web. Spit! Spit! Why does it always get in your mouth?
Berry vines can be innocently deceptive as the barbs are close to the vine, and you can catch your hand or arm when you pull back because of the reverse hook on the end of the barb. Look close the next time you go berry picking.
You can always tell when someone has been picking the berries because they are all scratched up and their fingers are purplish black. You can get the purple color off by rubbing your hands in hot soapy water. Good luck with that. Lemon juice works, too.
Last, but not least, are the nasty little buggers that go home with you and you don’t know you even have them on you until they’ve buried up in your skin and are itching like heck. There are many remedies to get these little red buggers (chiggers) off: 1. Oatmeal bath. 2. Cool shower. 3. Cold compress. Many other home remedies are ineffective, too! Last of all: Do Not Scratch! LOL.
Occasionally we will find lots of berries and into the bucket they go, but some get popped into the mouth first. Just to see if they are worth taking home! Yeah! Eventually, we might get a half bucket, and we head to the house. When we arrive at home we splash some water on them and then pour into a bowl of milk with sugar sprinkled on top. Talk about good, they are so good.
Sometimes we would pick a whole bucket full and Momma would make blackberry jam and jelly, plus a blackberry cobbler. YUM!
Now, I just eat them when I see them, right off the vine – unwashed, spider webs and wasp poop.

Enjoy our “Reflections” post — one of many vignettes and stories featuring memories of days gone by. This installment is from Dottie Dewberry of Maben, Mississippi, as seen in “The Oxford So & So.”
If you would like to contribute your own Reflections story, send it, along with photos, to hottytoddynews@gmail.com.

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