As I sank my teeth into a ruby-red raspberry the other day, the sweet-tart taste took me back to my berry-picking days in Western Washington when I was a kid.
And, truly, I wasn’t much more than a kid – maybe fourteen or so – when I sleepily dragged myself out of bed at 4:00 in the morning, threw on some grubby clothes and met my friend Elaine up at the corner, where we waited for the “Berry Bus”. Now, it was definitely not a bus. It was a rickety pickup truck with old wooden slats on the sides and benches in the back. (Oh, those days before seat belts!)
The truck would stop, we would clamber up into it and then we were off to the next stop to pick up more berry pickers. The truck worked on a circuit through our area of the city – we were some of the first being picked up; but it meant we were some of the last to be dropped off. I’ll tell you later why that was significant.
Picking raspberries wasn’t bad – at least you were mostly upright. Strawberry picking we avoided – that was backbreaking work and, given the choice, we chose picking raspberries. First thing when we arrived, we got in line and were given our baskets to fill, which came with dire warnings against sneaking rocks or, Heaven forbid, unripe berries into the baskets. Of course, in the cool of the summer morning, we would pop one berry in the basket and pop one into our mouths; but that got old pretty quickly, especially when we weren’t filling our baskets very quickly! So, we worked. We really did. When we finished with one holder, we would stand in line to turn them in. They would check them and punch our tickets. At the end of the day, those ticket punches determined our pay for the day’s work. Up and down the rows we went, searching for that flash of red hiding shyly behind a leaf or twig. There was quite a bit of bending and twisting but we were young and agile.
At the end of the work day – probably around 3:00, we stood in yet another line for our pay. Mine was $1.40. Yes….one dollar and forty cents. I think Elaine’s was similarly paltry. Somewhat less enthusiastically,we climbed up into our “berry bus” for the ride home. We were tired and impatient by then and, rather than being jostled in the truck any longer, we got out at the downtown stop. We immediately went to Woolworth’s, bought some candy and then got on the next city bus going to our street.
When I arrived home, looking a bit discouraged and disheveled, my mother asked me how the day had been and how much money I made. When I told her,$1.40, she was stunned. “$1.40!? How can that be?” I mistakenly sought sympathy and said, “Yes! $1.40! AND I spent a dollar on candy and the bus coming home!”.Immediately I knew I should not have offered up that information…”You girls!”, she exclaimed. “You probably just talked, ate berries and wasted time all day.” I argued my case about how hard we worked and how many baskets we filled. I’m sure she didn’t believe me. Then, to my horror, she announced she was going with us the next day.
So, there we were, the three of us – my mom, Elaine and me – waiting for the berry bus bright and early the next morning. Boy! Did my mom work! Elaine and I did, too. I was thinking that, surely,we would make a lot more today. But, we didn’t!. Elaine and I only made a little more than the day before and my mom only made $2.00! She was disgruntled.
After that day, we never had to go berry-picking again.
“But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in his work alone, and not in another. For each one shall bear his own load.” Galations 6:4 & 5