Wednesday, June 29, 2016

You Never Know

Some days life flows along with all the predictable mundane duties that result from a family of five children. You do laundry and clean up messes and cook meals and wash dishes and scrub dirty toilets and tubs with alarming regularity. You settle fusses and dole out punishments and kiss ouchies and  listen to the ever repeated refrain of "Mom. Mom! MOM!!"

Then there are days when chance collides with circumstances and you find yourself in the back of a stranger's vehicle doing something completely out of the ordinary. If you're on your toes, you might have the presence of mind to snap a couple of photos and turn your adventure into a story before the opportunity passes...or you might nearly miss it, like me.

Last year my girls discovered wild raspberries growing around the edges of their grandparent's property, where we live. They waded through weeds and brambles searching out the tiny little treasures, returning to the house triumphantly with purple fingers and just enough berries to whet their appetites for more. Once, they found enough to turn them into a couple of pies but mostly the meager piles were carefully divided and quickly consumed.

This year, they've been at it again. The berries are just beginning to ripen well and Monday they arrived back inside all hot and sweaty with a nice bowl of them.

But the excitement of the nice bowl of berries was quckly forgotten in the hullabaloo of words.

"Mom, we were down by the road picking and this man stopped and asked us if we're berry pickers? We were kind of scared but we were like, yeah, we're picking these wild ones."

These days one hardly dares to let their children do anything on the road alone, even if ours is a quiet, country one. Stories abound of all the bad things just waiting to happen when we are least expecting it. But this time it was a good thing.

"He said he has a raspberry patch that needs to be picked and he wondered if we'd want to pick it!"

"For free?" I wondered. I'm not a Mennonite for nothing, after all.

"I think so. He said he would stop in here after he talks to the neighbor man and, Mom. If he knows the neighbor man and the neighbor man knows grandpa then he's probably fine, right? Can we go, Mom? Will you go with us?"
Somebody was bubbling with anticipation at this point.

Sure enough, minutes later a red vehicle pulled in and I met the grey haired gentleman on the sidewalk.

"Hello, young lady!"

He clasped my hand and gave it a shake while he introduced himself and explained about his berries that he couldn't get anybody to pick.

"They all say it's too hot to pick em but when I saw them girls along the road I said, there's my berry pickers! If they'll go to that much work to get berries..." he chuckled heartily.  "It's not a big patch but I've gotten five gallons off a there already."

I assured him we'd love to pick berries and he left with the promise to return in 20 minutes to pick us up. When he got back, the two youngest had been sent up the hill to grandpa's and the three of us were waiting with pails and water bottles in hand and shoes on our feet.

We piled into the back of his vehicle and headed off, with him keeping up a steady commentary and us wondering where in the world we were going? He drove right past the lane where I knew he lived but the mystery was soon explained when he told of owning four (or was it six?) farms and that where we were headed was about fifteen minutes away.

We bounced along on a dirt road while he filled us in on the terrible coal company people who he is fighting tooth and nail to keep from ruining the land around where we live. That wasn't the only subject, by any means, but it was obviously one dear to his heart. Talk turned to school and carrying concealed weapons.

"Now are you Amish or Mennonite?"


"Which was it that had that school shooting? You know, where they visited the fellow that did the shooting." I confirmed it was Amish. "I just don't know if I could go that far and respond the way they did, could you do that?"

Well, of course. I'm a Mennonite; nonresistant, turn the other cheek. Thoughts can go through your mind in a flash, you know, but an honest answer was what came out of my mouth.

"Well, I'd like to think that's how I would respond but if it came down to it and that was my children, I have a feeling it would be a lot harder than I think."

"That's right. That's exactly right." He seemed pleased with my honesty.

We finally came to a few tumble down buildings amongst waist high weeds and he turned into a narrow driveway.

"Here's where you start wondering if you're getting kidnapped," he chuckled.

I laughed and told him I wasn't too worried.

We bounced along a bit further, and came to a stop. To our left we saw an overgrown berry patch that someone had obviously planted at some point in time, judging by the fence around it. We climbed out with our pails and he showed us the best place to pick.

"Whatever you pick in an hour you can have!" He told us. And we set to work with a will.

The sun was hot, and the berries? The berries were beautiful. Nothing like the tiny little things the girls had been picking at home! These were bigger, and much more plentiful.

Picking berries must have taken all of the old fellow's concentration because the stories ceased and we picked in silence. Except for a few mutters of "Ouch" here and there, and him assuring us that we should feel free to trample down the brambles in our way, the only sounds were berries being dropped into buckets.

I'm not sure how long it took us but we soon had the top part of the patch picked, which was all he wanted done as his brother was coming in in a few days and he wanted to save the bottom of the patch for him.

The air conditioning felt awfully good as we situated berry buckets and got ready to leave.

"Are you in a hurry?" he asked me, as he turned his vehicle around.

I assured him we weren't, thinking maybe he had some other errand to run on the way home.

We turned left, instead of right, as we left the narrow lane and I had no idea where this road would come out. But I wasn't too concerned. All the back roads around here connect to places you'd never dream of and, sure enough, we eventually came out to a place I recognized. The only puzzle was, at the stop sign where we should have turned right to go home, he again hooked a left and I watched with interest to see where this would take us. Maybe he needed gas?

Understanding dawned when he pulled in at a little, country drive-in and wondered what we'd like? A rootbeer? An ice cream cone?

It was then that I finally had the presence of mind to recognize a good story when I saw one. As we drove away, with ice cream cones in hand, I grabbed my phone for a hurried snapshot to prove that this all really happened.

We have other things to prove it, of course - purple fingernails, scratches on our legs, delectable raspberries to turn into desserts, and a new friend who's red vehicle we will recognize and wave at when he drives by. I hope the next time he needs berry pickers he comes straight to our door first thing!

I told him to stop by that evening and I'd give him some crumb cake but he insisted he wanted us to have it all.

So we went ahead and enjoyed it ourselves.

And so, that is how the old saying proved true -
You never know what a day
will bring forth.


Dorcas said...

I love how openness to new experiences leads to all kinds of stories. And also how you caught your new friend's vernacular so well!

Betsy said...

What a wonderful story of the kindness of another's heart. And to think that he topped it off with a stop for ice cream! He sounds like a very nice man. I enjoyed your story very much in a world of not so good news stories these days.

LMJ said...

LOVE this story!

Bethany Eicher said...

I've been taking lessons by reading things written by people like Dorcas Smucker... ;)

Lucinda J said...

So much fun and so unexpected! What an interesting and well written story.