Grandpa could cajole anyone into or out of almost anything. While he was short on height, he was tall on energy, enthusiasm, and charm. All he had to do to get my attention was say, “How is my little Goldie Locks today?” and I was hooked.
Grandpa would sometimes come by our house on a summer evening to tempt my older sister, Judy, and me with an exciting expedition to one of his farms to pick fruit. Somewhere in the back of my mind I knew I would be sorry, but whether it was the need to feel special or sibling competition, I always said yes. “I’ll come by at 6:00 to pick you up,” he said as he walked back down the driveway, straw hat in hand.
The next morning two sleepy eyed girls, fortified with a breakfast of hot Wheat Hearts and homemade cinnamon rolls, were greeted with a cheery “it’s a beautiful day” as we piled into Grandpa’s rickety Ford pickup. Six years younger than my sister I was the smallest so I took my place in the middle of the threadbare seat wedged between Judy, Grandpa and the tall stick shift. In that position I got the full effect of the exhaust leaking through the floor, which resembled the bottom of a worn out shoe.
One of those summer mornings after nearly an hour’s ride, we arrived at a property close to the Tualatin River, referred to by Grandpa as #3, to pick raspberries (his prunes on a hillside above Dundee and the filberts on Rex Hill were #1 and #2). Even an eight year old could see that Grandpa’s farm was in no better condition than his truck. He thought the run down house was “fine” and the overgrown garden had “potential.” Perhaps I should also mention that Grandpa thought work was “fun.”
In the cool morning air with the vines so heavily laden with fruit, the job didn’t seem so big and I knew the berries would be sweet to eat. We started filling the little boxes in the wooden trays held around our waists with a piece of rope. At least it wasn’t as backbreaking as picking strawberries.
By the time I filled a couple of boxes, Grandpa had finished his first flat and Judy wasn’t far behind. It began to warm up as the sun steadily arched higher in the sky and before long my enthusiasm began to decline. The heat of the sun overhead, the intoxicating smell of the berries, and the pain in my back made me want to lie down in the tall grass and go to sleep.
Finally, with only a little help from me, the vines had given up their sweet fruit. We carefully stacked the flats under a canvas tarp in the back of the truck and began the trip back to town. It was a bit more exciting due to the downhill incline and the less than perfect brakes on the old truck. “Don’t worry your mother about this,” he said. I just closed my eyes.
Back in town, Grandpa stopped by the back door of Elle’s Thriftway, a local grocery store, to exchange a few flats of our freshly picked raspberries for a few crisp dollar bills.
When I returned home with stained hands, scratched arms and an unsettled stomach from too many raspberries mixed with too many curves in the road, I declared that I would never go again . . . all the while knowing Grandpa’s charm would make me forget my vow.