Whistle While You Work
Such sweetness came from small reddish berries,
By today's standards, they'd be left behinds.
When not whistling, a sneak pop in the mouth
Gave this six year old boy, satisfaction.
Earnestly, the old couple told us to
Whistle while we picked so we wouldn't
Eat too many - "For Public Sale" - berries.
It wasn't a joke to them, but for real.
Seventy some years ago in northern
Chester County at a farm on Jones Road
My older brother and I joined other
Local kids hired to pick strawberries.
Very young, my wages went to brother
Andy, four and a half years my elder.
Daiquiris were unheard of way back then,
But I fell in love early with shortcake.
Berry patches at harvest time, fragrant
To bees also youngsters, both salivate.
Honey bees tend to back off if brushed
Away, but, don't underestimate them.
Unlike strawberries of today, which are
Pithy and plump with little sweet fragrance,
Berries of my youth were not thumb like, but,
Pinkie size, blood red, succulent, tasty.
Every kid knew strawberries, they grew wild.
All home gardens seemed to have a small patch.
At ripening time, it was their sweet juice
Most wanted by my mom for our deserts.
In those prewar days, fruit out of season,
Strawberry jam was our Sunday toast treat.
Years later, frozen food time, mashed berries
On cake cupped sought dab whipped sweet cream.
The vivid memory of succulent
Strawberries lasted these past seventy
Years, maybe more so, than most other things.
Their imprint is probably on my DNA.
Ronald C. Downie