The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

An Early Morning Adventure

By Beulah S. Fox © 1987

Issue: June, 1987

"I know where you can find some big blackberries," my dad said. "If you and Ruth would be careful crossing the fences, there were two of them, you could take your buckets and pick enough berries for Mother to bake a pie." That sounded like fun to us. He told us to go across the bridge, cross the fence, go down by the creek until we came to a second wire fence and cross it. Just on the other side by the creek there was some bottom land with a hill behind it. In the bottom by the creek we would find some wild blackberries. He said they grew best there because the loam was deep, mellow and damp and that there were plenty of young running vines which had grown from the roots of the old plants.

We dressed as though it was winter wearing Dad's long sleeved shirts, and our brother's overalls with high top shoes and bonnets tied under our chins. Mother had told me to be sure and keep my bonnet on, for I had a history of taking it off and dragging it on the ground.

After we crossed the bridge we were careful to help each other over the fences. Finally, carrying our lard buckets, we came to the tangles and thickets of blackberries. There we saw berries that looked to us like swollen jewels. We put one in our bucket and two in our mouths. The berries were on growths that looked like little thimbles which stayed on the stem when the fruit was picked. We were careful not to pick the red ones or the ones that were too soft. The berries were so big that it didn't take us long to fill our five-pint buckets. Just as our buckets were about full we noticed a little animal that we thought was a pretty little kitten playing around near us. It was the size of a small kitten, had a long pointed nose, arched back, and short legs. Its fur was long, thick, and shiny black with a white stripe down the back. It had a white patch on its forehead, tail long and bushy, black on top with white underneath, very attractive. It walked like a person that had on shoes that were too tight.

We decided we wanted it for a pet and began chasing it. It ran through a patch of skunk cabbage, a soft-stemmed plant which is found in low swamps, and then started up the hill. We ran behind it. There were times we almost had it, but the beautiful creature got away.

We took our berries home and gave them to Mother for a pie. When we told her about the little pet getting away, Mother replied, "That was no kitten, it was a skunk." We had frightened the little skunk and he had squirted out the fluid with considerable force. Even after Mother washed our clothes and we bathed in the creek, the powerful unpleasant odor stayed around for awhile.