Veeder: Wild berry season is height of summer
Summer is a short and fast little season. We go to bed to a landscape brown and withered and wake to green grass shooting its way to the temperamental sky and a sun that's decided to stay out way past our previous 9 p.m. bedtime.
We're afraid to close our eyes, really, in case we might miss something. So we keep one on the horizon for a change in weather and another on the landscape to keep tabs on how things are growing while we saddle up a horse, strap on a saddlebag and head out into the hills to check the cattle.
And to see how if we can find some Juneberries.
Yes, we're in my favorite moment of summer: wild berry season. If you've ever tasted a wild raspberry pulled straight from the thorny, stickery brush in the middle of a cow pasture, you understand why.
For me it's more than just the sweet, wild taste. There's something hilariously powerful about how these tiny, unassuming morsels found among the weeds can convince the best intentioned cowboy to abandon the cattle trail and plant himself horse-ear deep in the middle of a brush patch while squealing, "Oooh, Juneberries!" as he stuffs his face like one of the kids in "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory."
Funny how fast priorities can shift from riding fence lines to dreams of juneberry pie.
Funny how my husband thinks I'm remotely capable of a Juneberry pie.
Funny how eating raspberries while standing under a big blue sky in the middle of July, in the middle of a cow pasture, reins dropped and horses munching on green grass while we dig our way through the tall grass and buzzing bees, reminds us of every other time in our lives when we've done the same thing.
"Last summer, in early August on a ride through the home pasture on the way east, remember? We came across that patch there over on the south side. I think your little sister was with us. Yeah. She was. There were hundreds of them. We should go back there."
"Once, when I was about 10 or so, my best friend and I rode back behind the house looking for raspberries. We carried grocery bags with us. We wanted to make something out of them -- you know she's always been good at baking -- but not one of those berries hit the bottom of that bag. We ate so many raspberries she got sick and threw up. But it was worth it. She said it was worth it."
"We need to transplant these to our backyard. We always say it, but this time we should do it. We could have raspberries at our disposal. Let's bring a shovel out here tomorrow."
But here's the thing. Despite our best intentions, we never come back with that shovel, we never find the same patch twice, we never fill our bucket and we never make that pie.
Because we don't get that far. And it doesn't matter at all. In fact, it's better really. Because no amount of sugar could make a berry taste sweeter than when I pluck it off of a bush and pop it in my mouth as I ride behind Pops and my husband through the cool draw and up the hill to gather the cattle.
Nothing is more satisfying than spitting plum pits at your innocent little sister as she rides by.
Because the point of berry season for me is not to bottle it up, pour it over ice cream or mush it in a pie, even if I did have a chance at creating a successful crust.
The same goes with summer in this place that gives us three short months of sunshine before it's on to turning the leaves golden and making snowflakes.
Yes, this season, like berry picking, is about the pleasant surprise in the weeds and thorns. It's about the brief discovery of something wild and really beautiful and the fact that we might be lucky enough to find ourselves in a cool draw at the right moment with a saddlebag and every intention to fill it up.
Veeder is a musician and writer living with her husband on a ranch near Watford City. Readers can reach her at email@example.com.