Friday, July 16, 2010

Blackberry Season

Been thinking a lot lately about the scuffles in Congress over regulation and reform of the finance industry... about great institutions (e.g., the press, the clergy, banks) in which the placement of public trust was such a given that we never thought of insulting them with such an unnecessary superfluity as "oversight."

To me it began to seem that trust -- and trustworthiness -- existed in no corner of the universe anymore and anyone who did trust was so absurdly naive that s/he deserved the rip-off s/he was bound to suffer.

So it's with awe and delight and much annoying effusion that I tell you my tale of finding just such a corner right here in River City, a.k.a. St. Charles, Missouri.

Last week, Husbing expressed a wish for some homemade blackberry pie. But blackberries at Schnucks, Dierberg's, et al might as well be rubies right now, based on the current asking price. As serendipity would have it, though, in the next day or so, out driving around, we spotted a very small, very unassuming, hand-lettered sign that whispered, simply, "BLACKBERRIES," at the entrance to a gravel driveway leading off a main local drag. The drive was a bit overgrown with foliage, so we couldn't see past the first 30 feet or so, but we could tell there was a house back there somewhere. We exchanged a glance and a shrug and pulled in.

At the end of the drive, past a house with an open garage, another hand-lettered sign ("STORE") with an arrow directed us to the right. Husbing stopped the car and I hopped out for a look around.

First impression: a sense of being way, way out in a field somewhere... big patch of blackberry canes off to the left... cicadas singing and grasshoppers swinging on the canes... to the right... a rather jury-rigged tent/greenhouse arrangement sagging in the hot sunshine.

The tent was open on one side and I stepped in. To the right, a glass-doored cooler stocked with pints of berries and an inventory of day-lily corms. At the back, boxes of beautiful gnarly heirloom tomatoes. Dead ahead, more hand-lettered instructions, complete with arrows where necessary (for example, one pointing to a mailbox perched on a counter of wooden planks: "Leave Checks Here") and a price list:


1 pints $1.75
2 pints $3.50

and so on.

Oh, and a pick-your-own option, too... $1.25 a pint.

And scales, for weighing what you picked, and the tomatoes.

I opened the cooler and took out two pints of berries... and then cautiously opened the mailbox.

Inside, a syrofoam cup stuffed with bills and coins.

I added my four ones and made my own change.

Back to the car... we drove away with our berries, having never seen a human being.

I spent the rest of the day in the glow of an unfamiliar but delightful feeling... of having been trusted unconditionally. It lasted while I rolled crust, sugared berries, and ate pie a la mode. It still suffuses me when I think about "Leave Checks Here."

I also wondered how long it would be before some marauding teenagers out joy-riding or an addict seeking an easy mark ruined this little corner of trust for good.

What's that?

Where, exactly, is this stand?

Sorry, but I can't tell you that.

I just don't trust you.

(No, no... kidding. If you're local and I know you, email me and I'll tellya. Of course then I'll have to killya so you don't put it on Facebook.)


Anonymous said...

aww... love this story
We have a few farm stands like this left in the Hamptons, but not many. Most of the farmers doing it are dead, or sold off the land to someone who built McMansions. It's a strange ghetto going o now where a lot of wide open space and fresh vegetables used to be!
Love, Patricia

Margie Summers said...

Sigh. Same thing playing out here, over and over. The recent free-fall in the real estate market has put the brakes on some of the developer rapaciousness in St. Chas. county, but I sense them hovering like turkey buzzards, just waiting for the market to recover so they can spread more asphalt, build more strip malls. You need to come see us before it's all gone.