Blackberry Patch

Appalachian Vocabulary Test 57


Blackberry Patch written by Glenda Council Beall

Mother’s voice rises above my bawling.
“Stop pitching a fit and get your bucket.”
I plant myself on the top step
bare feet refusing to move.


My dread lies coiled deep in the brambles.
He slithered out when I thrust my hand
in to grab a plump one.
Fear-prickled, I danced in terror,
then streaked home screaming.


An ominous cloud shadows the sky.
Fat raindrops plop in the yard dust.
Reprieve. Blessed reprieve.


I hope you enjoyed Glenda’s poem. She’s an old friend of mine. I started out as one of her employees and by the time I moved on to a new job I felt like I was her daughter. Glenda teaches writing classes at local colleges, the John C. Campbell Folk School, and in her own writing studio Writers Circle Around the Table. Glenda also writes on her own blog Writing Life Stories.

There are a lot of Glenda’s poems that I love, but Blackberry Patch is one of my favorites. While I was never afraid of snakes in the blackberry patch, Granny was terrified. You should have seen the get up she wore to keep herself safe from snakes and bees. I love the image of two little dusty feet planted on the step unwilling to move and of those fat raindrops that plop in the dirt when a hard rain begins after a dry spell.

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  • Reply
    July 11, 2018 at 3:35 pm

    We would go blackberry picking with my mom and dad when i was a young girl. Moma and daddy was alot faster filling their buckets than we were. And where we lived back in a holler, it was black snakes, copper heads, and rattlesnakes , water moccasins and a few others too. Shew i didnt like em and still don’t. My dad would always say, watch out for snakes. And we got 100,s of chiggers. It seem like when one would start itching, they all would. Enjoy all the post. Love reading them.

  • Reply
    June 15, 2018 at 12:00 pm

    Black berries and snakes! Such an unfortunate duo!

  • Reply
    June 13, 2018 at 8:12 am

    I love this poem! Tells the whole story, in just the words needed, and makes a person feel like it’s their own feet planted on that step and their own relief at the first drops of rain 🙂

  • Reply
    Lee Mears
    June 12, 2018 at 2:15 pm

    Blackberry picking with Granny. What wonderful memories. My mind goes to where we picked in old apple orchard and all you could hear were the bees and a lone cow bell in distance. If I could go back just one more time..!
    Granny took the 410. Sweet memories and so many stories. How I love blackberries. My very favorite is blackberry compote hot on buttered biscuits. What a treat when Mother made this to go with breakfast and I still make it as well.
    Somewhere there were a few Dewberry bushes but I don’t know where and never picked those myself. ?
    Thanks for this story and poem Tipper.

  • Reply
    Cheryl Soehl
    June 12, 2018 at 12:02 pm

    Our house in Tallahasseehad a huge blackberry patch in the ponding area behind our home. I had to compete with the neighborhood kids to pick them, and always took a stick or garden tool to beat the bushes before trying to pick, making sure the snakes that might be hiding there had fair warning. I believe that a snake bite was responsible for the loss of one of our cats, who was fond of hunting in the berry patch.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    June 12, 2018 at 11:55 am

    I remember daddy and my older brothers going Blackberry Pickin’. I was too little to go with them, so I stayed home with Mama. In about 3 hours they were back, and had 5 Rattlesnakes hooked on the back bumper. They took our 4 Fiests with them and those little dogs really knew how to deal with Snakes. They’d stay back so the Snake couldn’t reach them, but when it struck, One of the dogs on backside would jump and the war was on. They were like Indians circling a wagon train and in just a jiffy, the snake was lying motionless. The fiests were the best snake dogs in the World. My older brothers told stories about how the dogs took care if them snakes, and it made me wish I was there. …Ken

  • Reply
    June 12, 2018 at 9:34 am

    For many years 2-4 nephews and nieces would spend a couple of weeks with us in the Summer. One year we had 4 that didn’t get along together. My solution was to find one thing each hated. When I would hear a slight disagreement that’s what they had to do. The jobs were in different areas and they coulfn’t even see each other. One mowed grass, one picked blackberries and another picked blueberries. I don’t remember the task for the forth one. After about half an hour I called them in and they could play well for another hour or so. By the end of the two weeks they could make it almost all day until the smallest one got tired and cranky. That first stanza reminded me of Brandy squalling her way to the blueberries. She’s about 40 now and still avoids blueberry picking.

    • Reply
      June 13, 2018 at 8:10 am

      Jackie, that’s some good thinking – stop the squabbles AND get some chores done!

  • Reply
    Pamela Danner
    June 12, 2018 at 9:27 am

    I really enjoyed Glenda’s wonderful poem! I love blackberries and have one in a big ole’ pot on my deck so no snakes there! I have picked a good little bit of berries off that plant and they are so good, big too! I am terrified of snakes!!! My grandma was bit by a copperhead stepping down off a step. They lived up in Unaka and Copper Creek area.

  • Reply
    June 12, 2018 at 9:09 am

    We used to always have a good snake dog around when we would go blackberry picking. A dog can smell a snake and “tree” it. A super snake dog will attack and kill the snake before you even know it is there but and any dog will alert on one. The problem is having a dog that will stay close by. If they wander off summers and find a snake it ain’t helping nothing.
    In lieu of a dog, a hoe, shovel or just a long stick is a necessity. A good sharp hoe is best though. You can spot and identify Mr. Snake and have him euthanized before he can draw back to strike.

    Glenda Council Beall – where have I heard that name before?

  • Reply
    June 12, 2018 at 9:07 am

    Mom never owned a pair of pants in her life. When blackberry picking time came, she would put on a pair of Dad’s jeans and one of his long sleeve shirts. It was a sight to see! Here was this bean pole skinny woman wearing clothes owned by a man that folks called Big Tom. We came from Rattle Snake country where caution was taken any time a person stepped outside.
    Dad was bitten by a snake when he was a little boy. His mother cut around the bite and sucked out the venom to save his life. He complained of pain in that area of his leg all his life. My uncle lost some fingers from a snake bite while hunting. He ran his hand under a large rock to retrieve what he thought was an animal his dog was barking and pawing at.

  • Reply
    Janet Smart
    June 12, 2018 at 8:33 am

    Hi Tipper. I enjoyed the poem. I went on many blackberry-picking trips when I was a child. I enjoyed them and they will stay a memory forever. I remember the boots, the long sleeves, the tramping up the hill and the squeak, squeak, squeak of the coffee cans with wire handles attached. I also remember the hot sun beating down and a few snakes. I still pick blackberries, but they are in my yard. But that doesn’t keep the snakes away. Once there was one laying on the wood trellis we had built for the berries. I reached in, saw the long black snake and quickly retrieved my arm. I think I dread the large spiders that sometimes spin their webs between the vines even more. Their presence makes me shudder when I accidentally thrust my hand in one of their sticky webs.

    • Reply
      June 12, 2018 at 9:44 am

      Janet – Your use of the word “retrieved” put a big old smile on my face this morning. In my mind I pictured you jerking back so quickly that your arm ripped right off and you had to go back and retrieve. Today is going to be a good day for me and it was you that made it that way, with just one word.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    June 12, 2018 at 8:21 am

    I only ever knew of one person snake bit. He got bit by a rattlesnake while pulling weeds around the foundations of a cabin he had way back in the woods. Picking huckleberries is a lot more dangerous snakely speaking than blackberries; too much of you down in easy snake reach.

    Around here this looks like a very good blackberry year. I planted four thornless ones some years ago. The deer won’t let three of them have a chance but the other one came up inside the garden fence and I let it have a spot about 3 foot by 6 foot or so. It keeps trying to take more and I have to dig up the invaders. I dislike doing it but if I let it alone it would take the whole garden.

    • Reply
      June 12, 2018 at 8:52 am

      “snakely speaking” I love it!

      • Reply
        Lee Mears
        June 12, 2018 at 2:05 pm

        Me too Papaw. Snakely speaking !!!!!!!

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    June 12, 2018 at 7:59 am

    This seems like the year for snakes. It seems like every time I go out to the garage or to walk the dog there is a black snake. Killed one copperhead so far between the garages. We do not have a berry patch and live in the woods so I don’t know what is drawing them in.

  • Reply
    Sue Stormoen
    June 12, 2018 at 7:36 am

    Absolutely love this poem. Kept re-reading it.
    Does Glenda Beall ever offer on-line classes?

    • Reply
      June 12, 2018 at 1:16 pm

      Sue-not that I’m aware of, but if I discover she does I’ll let you know 🙂

  • Reply
    aw griffgrowin
    June 12, 2018 at 7:21 am

    Enjoyed Glenda’s poem.
    I only know of one person that got copperhead bit picking blackbeeries,, and that was 40 yrs. ago. What scares me in the blackberry patch? Chiggers! One time my wife got over 100 chiggers on her legs.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    June 12, 2018 at 5:26 am

    I remember two things vividly about picking blackberries as a kid….chiggers and snakes. My mother was always admonishing me to watch out for snakes because they like blackberries too! The chiggers, well there was a lot of itching.

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