Downwind "Strawberry Fields forever"
A recent road trip with my wife to see my parents at the farm in downstate Illinois was a pleasant reprieve from the stay-at-home, mundane months of the stay-at-home order. We had not seen them face-to-face since Christmas…not good execution of one of my New Year’s resolutions. The trip brought back some suppressed memories.
Mom continues to put in a sizable vegetable garden (although it has shrunk slightly in recent years). If I had to estimate its size, 80’ by 20’ would come out of my mouth. That’s a lot of radishes, lettuce, peas, beans, potatoes, tomatoes, onions, radishes, zucchini, cucumbers, sweetcorn, broccoli, and popcorn. She normally tries to produce a couple “experimental” vegetables that I’ve never heard of as well.
As we arrived at the farm, Mom reported that she had just come in from the garden from picking fresh strawberries. Did I mention that Mom also has a small orchard and a strawberry patch (I think she took out the raspberry patch)? The harvested strawberries were piled in the kitchen in various containers.
This was quite convenient as I, in recent years, have regained my interest in consuming strawberries. Now, you might ask, “Why did I lose interest in consuming strawberries previously?”
Strawberries and I go way back. Strawberries were a staple in the Rohrer house in many forms growing up, for snacking, topping cereal, salads, ice cream topping, pie, crisp, jelly and jam, and a host of other tasty food products.
Mom and Grandma had strawberry patches and when those patches didn’t yield the necessary strawberry volume, we went to the Strawberry U-Pick farm down the road two miles for additional supply.
When I reached the “ripe” old age of 14, I was offered a job by that Strawberry U-Pick farm to weed and help harvest the four acres of strawberries. This was my first “paying” job (at $2.50 per hour) after years of toil without pay from Mom and Dad (except for that comfortable bed, 3 squares per day, and all the milk I could drink from Flower the cow).
That is when I gained some useful insight about life:
- I discovered Social Security withholding from one’s paycheck at age 14 was not something I appreciated.
- I discovered I appreciated a 12-speed bicycle over my banana seat 1-speed version when it came to transportation to/from the strawberry fields. The first thing I purchased with my newly found wealth was a 12-speed.
- I discovered I preferred working with my brothers over working alone by myself; I soon talked them into joining me in the fields.
- I discovered sitting in the middle of a strawberry field all day, hunched over in the heat, was not my preferred future no matter how much I enjoyed working with my brothers and listening to good tunes.
And my musical tastes blossomed:
- I discovered I enjoyed listening to music as a distraction from weed extraction and finding reasons not to pick ripe berries.
- I discovered that extra batteries were a necessity for the cassette tape player if you plan on rocking all day in a strawberry field. And, blaming your brothers for not bringing the extra batteries adds to the silence of the day.
- I discovered that I loved the Eagles, CCR, REO Speedwagon, ELO, the Cars, Styx, Genesis, Van Halen, Foreigner, Pat Benatar, and more (sorry – not the Beatles). It was quite a change of audio scenery from the “crack of dawn” and “noon break” country radio station preferred by my parents for the weather, Orion Samuelson farm shows, Paul Harvey’s “Rest of the Story”, and all the agricultural commodity market updates.
- I discovered that there are some things too good to be true. The 2nd thing I did with my newly found wealth was join the Columbia House Cassette Club’s 11 cassettes for only 1 cent if I agreed to buy another 6 additional cassettes over the next year.
- I then discovered that if I did not stop the cassette tape delivery on a timely basis, I would receive an overpriced cassette tape of music from an artist that I had no interest in.
- In addition, I discovered this thing within a contract called “fine print” as well as “shipping and handling”.
During the course of that job, I also discovered that strawberries, no matter how sweet, had lost their appeal.
Over the years, we all know that some things change while others stay the same. Now, I’m thinking…
- Social Security sounds nice.
- Biking remains a great way of locomotion.
- My brothers still work too hard for me to keep up.
- I prefer listening to the country station, Orion Samuelson, and I wish Paul Harvey could still tell me the rest of the story.
- The cassette tape has moved to this thing called “the cloud” (whatever that is).
- After working in an office all day, I love to work outside in the heat in the garden and on manual projects.
- Most importantly, the taste, appeal, and temptation of homegrown, juicy ripe strawberries is back!
Thanks, Mom, for the heap of strawberries and great memories!