Appalachia Profiles of Mountain People

Picking Blackberries

Today’s guest post was written by Charles Fletcher.

Canton NC


Blackberry Cobbler written by Charles Fletcher

There are many ways to make a cobbler with peaches, apples, pears, blueberries, and even figs but none of these can take the place of the old standby, blackberry cobbler. And to enjoy it the most, you must pick the blackberries yourself.

One of the many chores that my brother, TJ, and I had during the summer months when not in school was picking blackberries. We picked them not only for our table but also to sell to the “city folks.” They would pay us ten cents (10¢) a gallon for our berries.

One summer day we were up early, long before daybreak, and we headed to the mountain where the berries were big and plentiful along the edge of the woods. On this day we were going on the side of Pressley Mountain, Grandpa Pressley owned one side and the Patton’s owned the other side. Although the Patton’s were wealthy, they would take half of your berries if you picked any on their side of the mountain.

We always traveled on grandpa’s side but sometimes we did venture onto the Patton side because their berries were never picked. By noon we had our buckets full of big juicy berries. We had about five gallons total. That meant four gallons for sale and one gallon for our favorite cobbler.

It so happened that my little white dog had come along with us to the berry fields. This was okay with us until something strange happened. Without warning, our dog began to run around in circles, barking and crying like he was going mad. This scared the living daylights out of TJ and me. We didn’t know what was happening, so we both climbed up a tree where we would be safe from the dog in case he had gone mad. After running around in circles and making a lot of noise he stopped and seemed to be back to normal. We came down from the tree, got our buckets of berries, and went on our way.

We were not far from the main road. Taking it would be a lot easier walk home than climbing back up the mountain. We never gave any thought about being on the Patton side of the mountain. Soon we were down onto the road and on our way home.

Suddenly two of the Patton boys appeared; where they came from we didn’t know. They were near twenty years old, and we were not yet in our teens.

They told me and my brother that we had picked the berries from their mother’s property and that half of the berries belonged to them. They made us go to their house and took us into the kitchen. There, a woman was working over a hot, wood burning stove. The boys said, “Look here. We have some berries for you to can.”

“I don’t have time for canning them,” she said. Then she gave us permission to leave.

We were on the road again to take four gallons of berries to town to sell for forty cents. Then it happened again. Our dog began another one of his fits. He was running all over the road.

It was very rare to see a car pass by on this road, but one just did happen to come by. Our dog ran in front of the car and it hit him. This killed him instantly.

TJ, my brother said, “Guess the dog is better off”. We had lost our little dog but we didn’t have to be afraid of the “mad dog” anymore.

Years later, I was told that these fits were caused by the dog having worms in its stomach.

TJ and I had earned twenty cents each, and the whole family had a big blackberry cobbler to eat that night at supper time.

Charles Fletcher


Hope you enjoyed Charles’s guest post as much as I did. Now if only we could find some blackberries at that price today!

Charles has written several books about growing up in the mountains of western North Carolina. If you’d like to purchase any of Charles Fletcher’s books-they are available at many of your local book stores-or you can contact him directly at [email protected]




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  • Reply
    July 22, 2015 at 12:28 pm

    Thank you Charles for sharing a nice story with us. I love reading most anything you write, cause you have lived the Mountain Experience.
    My brother and I use to pick lots of blackberries for $.50 cents a gallon. Lordy, we thought we’d get rich supplying all those imports that weren’t from around here. Seemed like they always had money, and they
    was real nice to us.
    I heard The Pressley Girls again
    today singing “Bury Me Beneath
    the Weeping Willow Tree” on WKRK. They’ll be a Big Hit as they open for Mike Westendorf this Friday evening around 6:30 at Murphy Baptist.
    Congradulations to all the girls
    on Winning the CD’s. Dolores has
    been a loyal reader and commenter
    on the Blind Pig for years…Ken

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    July 22, 2015 at 12:18 pm

    When I was coming up, my mother always thought in hundreds when it came to putting up food. Beans, corn, apples, peaches, tomatoes and of course blackberries. She wasn’t happy until she had at least 100 quarts of each. The lady next door was of a similar inclination so whenever they got together, talk was always about picking and canning.
    I was at this same neighbor’s one evening at suppertime. The mistress of the house came out with a cake of cornbread. When she broke it to offer me a piece it was purple inside. “What is it?” “It’s blackberry cornbread!” I declined the offer but now wish I hadn’t. I would have liked to have known the recipe.
    She’s gone now to that big blackberry patch in the sky where even the smallest ones are bigger than your thumbs.

  • Reply
    July 22, 2015 at 11:14 am

    He certainly captured the day. Only those who are fortunate enough to grow up in the country can truly understand the difficulty of picking blackberries. Then to be confronted by the mountain bullies, and the loss of their pet is so sad.
    My childhood was filled with loss of pets to worms and other diseases, as it was unheard of in those days to take them to a vet. My favorite was shot by a neighbor who thought he was a fox. Brownie was tough, and we had him for a long time. We survived and actually moved with us from Coal Camp to mountain farm. We children gathered and cried, but in a very short while life was back to normal–no bad feelings toward neighbor. We adjusted easily, as that seemed the mountain way. Now, I only briefly think of the little loyal dog when I read or view anything that stokes the memory. Thank you, Charles Fletcher, for giving us such down-to-earth writings!

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    July 22, 2015 at 10:27 am

    I would be interested in which Pattons Charles encountered. My Patton family was in Patton Valley, a bit west of Franklin on the south side of US 64. Then my great grandfather, Burgess Patton, wound up in the Elf Community in Clay County.

  • Reply
    July 22, 2015 at 9:41 am

    I really enjoyed this story. I used to pick mulberries as we had a humungus tree in our yard. One had to be careful while picking as the birds loved that tree also. In our foothills home there are some blackberry bushes; I have picked a few ripe ones, but have left the rest for the animals.

  • Reply
    Pamela Danner
    July 22, 2015 at 9:21 am

    Oh my goodness, it is Christmas in July! Thank you so much I am going to really enjoy the CD! Congratulations to the other winners!
    I had some exciting news this morning. My youngest daughter Amy and her husband Daryl had their first baby at 2:51 a.m. this morning! her name is Ruby Ann and she weighs 7 lb. 15 oz. and is 21 inches long. We are so excited! This is our sixth grandchild.

  • Reply
    Henry Horton
    July 22, 2015 at 8:13 am

    My pointer mix Baxter, The Hunting Dog With ADD, who lives with his foster daddy (it’s a long story) on the other side o Cedar Knob picks (and eats of course) all the blackberries he can reach before said buddy can stoop to pick em. Don’t know how many prickles he has in his tongue but i’m sure it beats a porcupine sandwich and tastes better. Forwarded this with a warning it be too sad to read to Bax!

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    July 22, 2015 at 7:23 am

    Good story, thanks Charles! The wild blackberries of the mountains are a fine thing indeed.
    You know the Blackberry Phone. Don’t you think the folks who names it were trying to convey to the public that their phone is a very fine phone just like it’s namesake.

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