Like some other parents of earlier decades, my quiet and discreet father considered sex education a delicate, but necessary, matter. So it was that before spending every summer in rural northern Michigan, my dad took me aside and told me that "country boys grow up faster than city boys." Then he mentioned something about all those farm animals, which completely mystified me.
The height of the local country boys around our cottage was still more puzzling to me. These gawky adolescent country boys seemed to be the same height as the city boys, and I didn't think they grew any faster than the boys back home.
But, there were clear and definite differences between country kids and me, a city child, and I felt them keenly. I yearned to have the special skills that came so naturally to my country summer friends. Among these were painting fences and outhouses quickly without spilling paint, seining minnows and coming up with enough to fill a bucket in one or two tries, making ringers playing horseshoes, and above all picking wild strawberries.
Picking these strawberries, small, seedy and impossibly sweet, was a nearly daily pastime during the short, 6-8 week season in northern Michigan. But pick as quickly and carefully as I could, my pail was never close to full as we brought the berries home. Those kids were so adept at picking the small dark red berries our of the ground cover of spreading, ground-hugging plants that their mother regularly made wild strawberry jam during the season. An absolute wonder!
Strawberries go back in history. Roman children ate wild strawberries, and it seems that then, too, picking the berries was children's work. Virgil wrote expressly to children about strawberry picking, and he considered strawberries a fruit to be eaten only by children, too.
These American wild strawberries (F. Virginiana) were ... Continue
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