Picking and Licking and Talking

July 26, 2015

I spent the early afternoon picking blackberries and tomatoes at Farmer Orville’s place and, of course, sitting on a porch swing with the wiry philosopher himself. His wife Quilt Queen was resting inside having almost feinted at the Sam’s Club across the river.

“She was overdoin’ it,” Orville said. “You’d expect me to faint, count of the price of food.”

He invited me to tonight’s ice cream social at his Lutheran church. What’s the harm in that, you might ask. He has also invited me to the pancake breakfast, the Easter egg hunt, the Christmas party, the flea market, the spaghetti supper, the veggie swap, the book fair, the fish fry and the tenor-from-Africa-concert. All of this is a plot to get me into a church, but I am a staunch heathen and will not be led down the garden path for ice cream or exotic tenors.

“I cleaned the portable toilet this morning,” my friend said, nodding to a white-painted facility baking in the sun. He means, he used his “special spoon” to dig out the poop because, dang it, some berry picker dropped a load, and he’d be damned if he’d hire a service to clean the john. The toilet is supposed to be used for urination only, it is unspoken local knowledge, but every once in a while uh, stuff happens.

Reba the farm dog was crusted in horse poop—she loves rolling in it; she follows the horse around the pasture, hopeful for the next deposit. She lay across my sandals for a belly rub and licked my calves: a sure mosquito repellent and possibly a universal repellent.

Next I went to Mike and Cathy’s farm stand for peaches, corn and cantaloupe. They keep a lawn chair at the ready for me. I like sitting in the shade and chatting up the customers.

Today’s lineup: a charming four-year old girl named Michelia who showed me chewing gum tricks and told me I smelled (thanks, Reba); a gouty old woman who pronounced the food overpriced and walked away angrily; a hillbilly from Central Casting with a waist the size of five watermelons, his belt girding his bare belly and the threadbare jeans threatening to fall below, his beard thicker than a bramble bush, him spitting tobacco juice; a very old man dressed in a white suit coat and white cargo shorts and sporting two earrings and a huge chunk of turquoise for a necklace; a retired Air Force Colonel who talked about fighter jets; a customer who in informed Cathy that the corn here wasn’t close to the corn at the Godfrey Road stand, and Cathy informing her that the Godfrey Road stand was hers too, all the corn came from the same field, and the customer, well, she never.

Pick a little, talk a little, confirm or change your opinion re the human condition. Savor the peach juice and store it in the memory bank for winter. Press your fingers into the melon and hear it and feel it sigh and breathe. Explode the juicy corn with your incisors.

Ah, summer.



About Eugene Jones Baldwin

I am a writer: non-fiction, fiction, journalism (Alton Telegraph), essays (The Genehouse Chronicles) and have a website: eugenebaldwin.com. I've published a couple dozen short stories and had eleven plays produced. Current projects: "Brother of the Stones" (available on Kindle), a book of short stories; "The Faithful Husband of the Rain, short stories"; "A Black Soldier's Letters Home, WWII,;" "There is No Color in Justice," a commentary on racism; "Ratkillers," a new play. I am an avocational archaeologist and I take parts of my collection of several thousand Indian artifacts (personal finds) to schools, nature centers, libraries etc. and talk about the 20,000 year history of The First people in Illinois. (See link to website) I'm also a playwright (eleven plays produced), musician, historian (authority on the Underground Railroad in Illinois, the Tuskegee Airmen) and teacher.
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