Chokecherry Pickin’

by Linda Potter

Chokecherry pickin' As a Midwestern farm girl, I would return home as often as possible during July and August — my favorite season. I shared my parents’ love for the good Nebraska life. Farming creates a deep connection to the land. Whenever I arrived at the farm, my senses were awakened. The surrounding fields full of corn, soybeans, alfalfa, fruits, and vegetables pulsed with life. My parents still lived the simple rural lifestyle they were born into nine decades earlier. My return promised opportunities for special activities for the elderly couple. And they had plans!

Before long Daddy and his girl sat on the porch swing taking in birds’ songs in the cool of the morning and watching the Black Angus cattle graze in the south pasture. We knew we had something special, joined as securely to this place as baling wire tightened with pliers around fence posts. But now it was time to get up and do something worthwhile and active. Something we used to enjoy in the past.

Let the pickin’ begin

“Linda, how ’bout we go pick some chokecherries?”

Hmm, I wondered, thinking about previous years when Daddy’s health crises — a broken ankle, a severely burned leg, and a broken shoulder — prohibited this venture. We can make it work, I thought; this is important.

“Daddy, do you know where they are?”

“Yes, there’s a big patch about a quarter mile east of the Naponee bridge. They ought to be ripe about now.”

Chokecherry pickin' “So how are we going to do this?”

“Get my walker, a couple buckets, and a folding chair.”

“A couple buckets? You’re pretty optimistic.”

“Well, we’re two pickers. We both need something to pick in.”

“Oh, you’re right.”

Loaded up and ready to go

So I loaded up buckets, Daddy’s garden walker — with no wheels and duct tape securing the tips — and a sturdy folding chair. Will there be any ripe ones? I wondered. We at least need to give it a try.

Chokecherry pickin' We drove three miles down the gravel road right to the spot he indicated.

“Daddy, look! Those bushes are loaded with dark, plump berries. This is going to be great picking.”

I was more surprised than he was, but nobody could have been more pleased than Daddy. He’d been dreaming of doing this for several years. Now it was really happening!

Getting down into the sloped ditch alongside the road was an obstacle, for sure. But chokecherry shrubs, 6 to 12 feet tall, were there for the picking. I’m thinking: Keep safe. He’s thinking: Let’s get this show on the road!

I grabbed a folding chair, surveyed a suitable route for descending, trampled down native grasses, and positioned the chair under a shrub loaded with ripe, black berries. Climbing back up the grassy slope, I gave Daddy his walker. He shuffled unhurriedly toward the chair and then with me gripping the suspenders on his bib overalls, we descended the slope. Whew, we arrived safe and sound.

Sittin’ down job

Sitting under a bush weighed down with berries, Daddy delightedly started picking.

“This is a good sittin’ down job.” he stated. Then after awhile, “Will you pull another one of those branches down to me?”

I picked where there was standing room only. Popping a tart, mouth-numbing berry in my mouth, I thought, Yep, this is why they call them chokecherries. Raw, sour berries puckered our mouths, limiting their consumption.

Time passed and then Daddy said, “You want to pull down another branch for me?” As Daddy and daughter, we worked side by side. I realized that time had in no way wiped out the past. It was unreal, fulfilling dreams together like in days gone by. Thank you, God, it is not over yet. Basking in the warm breeze, we didn’t want this time to end. We picked for one, two, maybe three hours. Finally, with buckets boasting about eight fruit-filled quarts, Daddy asked, “You suppose we’ve got enough?”

Chokecherry pickin' “I think so.” Like the Pawnee — our predecessors in this river valley — we took our share and left the remainder for wild game and birds. Driving back home we anticipated the chokecherry jellies and jams Mama would prepare and can. They sure would be good on pancakes.

Makin’ chokecherry jelly

After the typical farm dinner at noon, Mama and I made chokecherry jelly. Mama still canned even at age 89. Why? “Because it’s there and needs doing,” she would say. Besides, she knew it would please her man — something she eagerly wanted to do.

As the sun set, three hot, tired Nebraskans sat peacefully again on the front porch, enjoying the certainty of a day well spent. We had tasted the good life together and looked forward to more delightful outings in the days to come.

Linda grew up in rural Nebraska and taught school in Kansas for 4 years.

She joined Wycliffe Bible Translators in 1978 and spent 12 years serving as a Literacy Specialist in the Peruvian Jungle. She developed basic reading materials with the Ashaninca Campa indigenous people group and taught teaching methodology to bilingual public teachers from various people groups in the Peruvian jungle. This was later extended to training the local trainers of the teachers.

Her next assignment with Wycliffe was in Papua New Guinea as a Literacy Consultant for three years.

Currently she serves colleagues as a travel visa coordinator for Wycliffe Global Alliance and SIL International and their primary partners. She lives in rural North Carolina south of Charlotte.

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Nebraska Rural Living

Nebraska Rural Living’s mission is to market the very real benefits of a rural lifestyle. We highlight the amenities of rural communities and spotlight successful entrepreneurs, who make good livings, free of the stress of urban environments.

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