I don’t remember doing a lot of berry picking as a kid.
I certainly don’t remember receiving strict instructions to come back with full pails — or else.
The few foraging expeditions that do stick in my head are remembered as relaxed affairs, but we were still expected to come back with something. These trips definitely weren’t the equivalent of a prison chain gang, but neither were they the same as a stop at the Dairy Queen.
As a result, the story I am about to tell was quite a departure from how I had previously remembered berry picking.
It was the summer of 1983, and I was living in North Battleford, Sask., while working at one of the community’s two weekly newspapers as a cub reporter.
The editor, who had graduated from journalism school a year ahead of me, was often on his own on Saturdays because his girlfriend worked at the local library.
As a result, he had a lot of time on his hands, and we often found ways to fritter away the gorgeous summer afternoons.
We once spent a day at Jackfish Lake in Battlefords Provincial Park, and because Dave didn’t put on sunscreen, I figured I didn’t have to either. What I forgot is that my friend’s rather dark Serbian complexion provided him with quite a bit more protection than my pale northern European skin.
It didn’t end well, and I remember learning about the healing properties of aloe vera for the first time.
But I digress.
On this particular Saturday afternoon, we headed out of town to find saskatoon berries. I don’t even think we brought pails, which probably signalled our intentions from the get-go.
We stumbled across the mother lode, and for the next hour or so we grazed.
I couldn’t believe it — no pail quotas, no maternal expectations, no nothing except quiet, determined eating.
I say quiet because I don’t remember talking much. It was just two guys out to eat as many wild saskatoon berries as they could get their mitts on.
It’s one of those glorious events that has gone down in my own personal history as among the best days ever.
In my list of best days, it immediately follows my wedding day, the birth of my two daughters and the first time I saw The Tragically Hip live.
It was one for the ages.