Thursday, July 31, 2014
You've asked me to give you a narrative of what happened yesterday in the huckleberry patch. Here it is, as nearly as I can remember.
Around mid-morning I was following my brother, Schnicklefritz, up a mountain road where we were to meet some friends to pick huckleberries. Schnicklefritz was riding on a moped. The moped began having mechanical trouble and we decided to tow him behind the car. It seemed like a good idea at the time. After driving this way for a couple of miles, I noticed that there was an old Jeep behind us. Since this mountain is rather popular among pie pickers, I didn't think much of it. Presently, however, I noticed a red, flashing light on the dash of the Jeep. I stopped. The driver commanded me in a very authoritative voice to pull over at the next wide spot. Being a law abiding citizen, I did. At this point the driver pulled up beside me and asked if I was okay. I told him I was. I noticed that he was one of three males in the Jeep. He said they were rangers from a local ranger district and proceeded to pass me. Immediately, I said to my children, "They are not rangers. The are not in an official vehicle. They have no government plates, or uniforms."
I didn't think much more on the subject because it quickly became apparent that towing a moped was not in Schnicklefritz's best interest. (He nearly catapulted over the embankment.) We determined that he would push the moped the rest of the way up the mountain and I would go on to find our friends. Along the way, I passed a lady and a teenaged boy who looked like huckleberry pickers. Their eyes, however, were a bit wide and they looked slightly rattled. Again, I didn't cogitate on it. Now, I have to say, I have a great weakness. When I set out to pick huckleberries, I'm, shall we say, focused. Knowledge of this will help in understanding my response to the rest of the day's events.
Presently, I came around a corner and spotted a tent and a car. In front of the car was a gentleman who was a dead ringer for Bilbo Baggins. He was short, had curly, mouse-colored hair, wore only summer shorts, no shirt, no shoes. Apparently this Bilbo was feeling deeply connected with his Took side, as he was pacing back and forth in a guard-stance. He had an AK47 slung over his shoulder and puffed smoke rings in the air.. He flagged me down and asked if I was a commercial picker. I said I wasn't and he stated that there were rangers checking permits. I then discovered that Bilbo was in our group of pickers. He politely laid down his weapon and we introduced ourselves.
We began to compare notes and he stated that the "rangers" flashed a badge at him and said they were under-cover, checking permits. (That covert operation didn't last long. "Hi, I'm under cover.") I was busily pulling out buckets and bear spray and was listening with mild interest. He repeated another tidbit or two that sounded downright unprofessional of them. They had frightened the other pickers so badly that they left. I raised an eyebrow when he said they all had shotguns lying on their laps. "You know, Bilbo," I said casually as I tromped over the bank for the first purple gold, "I don't think they are rangers."
By this time, I was beginning to realize that Bilbo was a slightly paranoid soul. It occurred to me that I shouldn't have pointed out the fact that these undercover rangers were likely just bullies armed to the teeth. At this point I did notice that I was in a rather interesting situation, but, the berries are really good this year, and I was focused. Besides, there were others there, whom I knew, and I felt safe enough. After some chatting, Bilbo's brother, Lundy Taylor, decided to check with the police. (Think Lundy from the tv miniseries, "Christy". He isn't at all like Lundy, but Laughing Water's first siting of him was through the berry bushes and he gave her that distinct impression.) The police confirmed that they had no compliance checkers in the area and were keen to check up on the story.
The berries really are amazing and we were in some good patches. When the real ranger got there, I gave him my story. He gathered Bilbo's story, too, though I noticed that the AK47 was no longer slung over his tanned torso. I went back to picking. Presently, I heard the officer leave. Then the Jeep. The Jeep however, began driving back and forth by our area and I began to worry about my car. I left the most amazing bushes to check on my car. About the time I arrived, the Jeep came back, with only the driver. I was wondering where Undercovers II and III were, when Undercover I stepped out of his vehicle and tried to engage me in conversation. I noted that his side arm was, at least, in its holster. Bilbo and his reappeared AK47 were on my other side. (My bear spray was feeling slightly anemic.) We chatted briefly about lies for a moment and I decided to move on as it appeared that he was trying to escalate the situation, and, frankly, I had berries to pick.
After that, it seemed best to remove the children, so I offered to take a Grandmother, and the four children between us home - just in case. Bilbo magnanimously offered to patrol ahead of me for a bit, which did not set my mind at ease. As we rolled slowly down the road, Bilbo sauntered back up to meet us and only then did I realize that he intended to go with us. Now, we were crowded. Every seatbelt was used up and my son was sitting in the way-back with my berries. Bilbo graciously showed me how he was unloading the AK47 and then jumped in the back of the car and we drove the 45 minutes down the mountain trail. We didn't see Undercovers I, II, and III, but we were told they left the mountain about 10 minutes behind us.
After taking everyone to safety, I returned to mountain and had a peaceful evening picking huckleberries with Schnicklefritz and Lundy. I netted about three and a half gallons. - Nanette