The other day I was picking over Daniel’s fresh strawberries. He picked them in central Minnesota, while at the cabin with Granny and Gramps. The berries were small by grocery store standards, but huge by wild northwoods strawberry standards.

There were many layers of strawberries floating in the dish tub, so I had plenty of time to sort through strawberry memories. We went picking a lot when we were kids, with my cousins sometimes. I remember nasty hot rotten ones pelted in the patch. I recall my mom sitting in our teeny city backyard picking them over so she could make soooooo many jars of strawberry jam.

I have a particular memory of visiting my grandpa (Pop) in Wisconsin during strawberry season. He ate LOTS of strawberries, as he ate sweet corn during the corn harvest, and tons of raspberries when they were ripe…. This time, his 93 year old friend Roy Jones was visiting, so Roy came picking with us. Roy had once been a hired hand at my grandpa’s farm, at least during the summers, and they were pals. Pop said when his dad would call upstairs for morning chores, at 4:30 or 5am. No matter how late they had been out gallivanting the night before, all you would hear from Roy was “Yup, BANG” (the BANG was the sound of Roy’s feet as they hit the floor). Anyhow, Pop and Roy were chatting in the strawberry field that day, and the stories of their antics would just crack them up. I remember the way they were laughing made the years disappear; they were young guys and the shenanigans they had orchestrated were REALLY funny. For a minute they felt like they could have been my peers. Then, I remember feeling a little alarmed when suddenly Roy Jones wasn’t picking any more. He was lying between the strawberry rows. Not dead though, it was just time to take a little snooze.

When we first moved to Tuscarora, the strawberries were just ripe—as they are right now. One of the first things the kids and I did while exploring was to go out picking. We realized pretty quickly that it was a little futile to try to keep any. They just aren’t that plentiful, and they’re so tiny.

A mother bear and her two cubs have been hanging out around Round Lake road this summer. Jim Colbert caught them eating strawberries on the snowmobile trail last week. He was downwind, and when he startled the mother she stood up to get a better look at him. She huffed at him or maybe to her cub in the tree before she waddled away. Jim and I have both noticed that she has been raiding the ant hills along the road as well. (Jim has tasted the ants at one time too, and liked their limey taste). I’ll wager she is looking forward to the blueberries and raspberries ripening as much as we are. They’ll make for a more abundant lunch.

As I finished picking over Daniel’s stash, I realized that strawberries have been kind of a big deal in my life, even though I don’t even like them. I try at least one every year. They look so delicious that I forget that they make me gag. They sure are pretty though, I guess I’ll keep trying ….and looking forward to when the raspberries and blueberries are ready for me and the bears to start feasting.