Grandfather had planted blackberry vines all along the fence by the chicken pen and they had grown into a huge tangled mass. The chickens didn’t seem to bother the fruit until they were really ripe and ready to pick. Because my hands were so small it became my job to pick them and take them in to Grandmother for the jelly she would make.
I would pick every berry that was ripe on Grandfather’s side of the fence first and when my little bucket was full I would take them to the house to Grandmother. Then run back to the garden, hoping Grandfather hadn’t noticed that I hadn’t picked the ones on the other side of the fence.
Once I arrived back in the garden, we would sit together for awhile and I would watch him water and I would start up the questions again. “Grandfather, why does the squash have that funny shape? Are you sure there are potatoes in the ground? I can’t see them; can we dig some up for supper? Grandfather, why is that one piece of hair so long on the top of your head? It has blown over and is touching your shoulder on the other side.” He would give me a stern look and push the wayward piece of hair back across the top of his head, hoping it would stay in place. After a few more questions he had heard enough and it was time for me to pick more blackberries.
My little bucket was handed to me and he would lead me to the fence by the chicken yard. That meant only one thing; I had to go into the chicken pen to pick the berries.
He would tell me, “Be very quiet and pick the blackberries, I will be right here by the fence.” He would then lift me over the fence and set me down in the chicken’s yard. After I checked out the yard and was certain that the chickens were in the coop, I would start to pick the berries as fast as my hands would move.
I would pick a few handfuls of berries and then look over my shoulder to see if I had company. Then would glance towards the fence to make sure Grandfather was still there. He was always there and that would give me courage to continue to pick the blackberries.
I knew that eventually the little Banty rooster would hear me or just sense that I was in his territory. It was just a matter of time. I never managed to pick all the berries before he figured out I was in the pen.
Then the sound I had been dreading; a little crow from inside the chicken coop that would send a shutter down my spine. I knew he was awake and on his way outside. I started to pick faster and faster trying to fill my little bucket before the little tyrant made his entrance into the yard. Then he would come strutting out into the small yard that was about 10’X10’.
The little rooster was all white with the little red comb on his head and the fluff of feathers around his ankles that concealed the deadly spurs on his legs. He would crow and strut up and down in front of the fence on the other side of the pen.
He’d stop now and then to look in my direction to see if I was impressed or had left his yard. All the time he was making noise and strutting, I was picking blackberries as fast as my hands would move and glancing over my shoulder to keep an eye on him.
Grandfather would be standing by the fence watching as the scene unfolded in front of him. He must have been amused by the whole situation as I squirmed under the scrutiny of that little Banty rooster.
If the strutting and crowing hadn’t worked and I was still in the yard the little rooster would resort to more drastic measures. The little warrior would make several mock charges into the center of the pen with his feathers all puffed out, squawking at me to try and scare me.
Little did he know I was already scared. If that didn’t work he would fly at me with his feet up in the air coming right at my back. His mission was to get me with his spurs.
This was the moment I went into panic mode and started to scream and jump up and down. Grandfather would reach over the fence and scoop me up and get me out of his path just in time. Somehow he always managed to get the berries across the fence with me.
Several times I heard Grandfather chuckle when he grabbed me up to get me out of the little banty rooster’s yard. I can’t remember him ever really laughing, but that little chuckle would slip out now and then.
He must have had a very strange sense of humor to put a child in a pen with a little banty rooster to pick berries. Maybe it could have been a little payback for all the questions I had been asking.
The rest of the day in the garden was usually quieter. Grandfather would usually wait several days to have me pick blackberries again. We would spend the rest of the day sitting on the up turned buckets while he watered the garden by hand and I would think about blackberry time in Grandfather’s garden, and the trip into the little rooster’s domain. To contact Sandy: email@example.com