Memories, Mulberries, and More
There are just so many things going on right now that I want to tell you about, none of which warrants an entire blog post of its own though. Not only that, but everything is just so beautiful, bountiful, lush and green right now that I have way too many photos to share, and it might be akin to sitting at your friend’s house back in the sixties watching slide shows of their summer vacation to the Grand Canyon.
But I can’t help myself. I just have to do it. I have to torture you with the little tidbits of life that happen around me that I find so amazing, which keep me pushing forward. I won’t throw them all at you today–just a few.
Do you remember this man, for instance? He was featured in a post about alligator hunting way back in September 2008, a post I wrote while escaping two major hurricanes. We call him Mr. Godfrey, and I’ve had the great fortune of visiting with him and his wife a couple times recently. Most recently was with Stephanie and her photog while they did a follow-up interview to their 2008 filming of his gator hunt.
And what do you think we found out during that interview? He told us that 2008 was the last ever alligator trapping season of his career. He had gotten gypped that year by the buyer and lost a lot of money. That’s when he decided his gator hunting career was over–too much hard work for very little return, which has become the story of many an old-time wetlander’s trapping career. What are the chances that Stephanie captured footage of his last season ever for all posterity? That was no accident, my friend. Fate was at work those two days.
Even at the great age of 83, his mind is like a steel trap. He told us the year he started trapping, the year he moved back from the marsh to the place he is now, the year he worked seismograph for the oil field, and on and on. We sat and visited in the house in which he has lived for 65 years. Can you imagine? If you can, then I think you are one of the fortunate ones. He shared some wonderful stories with us about his growing up years, and all the jobs he had since he took over his father’s fur trapping business at the age of 13. Married 57 years, he and his wife, Enola, raised 9 children in the little 100-year-old house that still sits on the fringes of St. Michel Plantation, where he worked many, many years.*
Their story is a tribute to bayou people and a legacy to be passed down to their descendants. And it will be, because some of the grand children interviewed him on video and made a copy for everyone in the family a couple years ago. What an everlasting gift.
While the documentary interview was going on, Mrs. Enola and I picked mulberries. Ever heard of them?
The red mulberry is a native tree, and the berries have a mild sweet flavor all their own–not like a blackberry or raspberry, either. Mrs. Enola explained how someone had given her the tree (now as tall as the house) in a little pot. She sat it out in the yard, and it grew through the pot and is still bearing fruit some 20 years later. Oh, to have such a green thumb. (I suspect reader Cammy and her mother are botanically gifted like this!)
I had acquired two red mulberry trees in pots back in 2004 after I learned while birding on Grand Isle that the migratory birds love the berries, which ripen about the same time the birds come through. That was my first birding trip to Grand Isle, and I can still hear old Mr. Santiny’s raspy voice telling me that the same birds would stop in my yard along their journey if I offer them the same amenities. But after getting the mulberry trees established in my yard, along came the saltwater flood of Hurricane Rita in 2005, killing them both. Snapping me back from my memories, Mrs. Enola then pointed out a flower pot sitting on an old table underneath the mulberry tree, and in it was a little mulberry tree seedling. “You want it?” she asked. Well, of course I did, but as I told her, this time I would keep it in a big pot so I could save it from saltwater. And I will go back another day and get it so I have a reason to visit again!
When we head into the cypress swamp portion of my wetland tour, I honestly never know what wonderful sights nature will provide for us that day. Sometimes it’s my little Belted Kingfisher, flying from tree to tree overhanging the swamp, zig-zagging from one side of the narrow waterway to the other, as though inviting us in and guiding us along his path.
Sometimes, it’s Mr. Green Heron, sitting at his post as Sentinel of the Swamp. Other times, it’s Miss Little Blue Heron, who also flies from one side of the waterway to the other, leading us deeper into the Spanish moss laden trees. One April, it was a fallen log covered in snakes, warming their cold-blooded skins in the warm sun. Often it’s just the song of the Northern Parula taunting me from the upper tree branches. At a mere three inches in height, they are very difficult to spy without binoculars, and while on tour, I’m not inclined to have a pair of those up to my face. But while on standby with Stephanie up in the Mandalay last week, I pulled out my binoculars and began talking sweetly to the tiny brightly-colored warblers that were trilling all around us. I asked over and over, “Please come closer. Please show yourselves. I won’t hurt you. I only want to gaze upon your beauty.” And with Stephanie as my witness, one by one, they flew into the lower branches of the willow trees, and not only did I see one, I saw four at one time!
Now, if you’re a birder, you know what an exciting occurrence this is. It truly was as though they wanted to show off their magnificence and were just waiting to be asked. I’m sorry I don’t have a photo, so a link will have to suffice. They are very difficult to photograph, because they don’t sit in one spot very long, and I just don’t think my lens would have done them justice.
Also back down in my swamp, we occasionally hear what we call the Swamp Canary. It’s true name is the Prothonotary Warbler. A sweeter song might never be heard in the swamp, and certainly a brighter yellow is not displayed. I stopped the boat after seeing a streak of bright yellow flit across in front of the boat. And when I heard it singing, I tied up to a little camp, because I had a feeling if we were just patient, we would be rewarded. And we were, as the little song bird landed just above us on a willow branch and sang his heart out for us.
I know you’ll probably think I’m crazy, but I talk to the birds. Just about anyone who has been on my tour can attest to that. I don’t know when it started or why, but talking to them now is just as natural as talking to a pet. And I believe they have come to know me and trust me, and I consider them my friends. I hope they consider me theirs. And if you think I’m crazy or delusional, or both, you might just want to keep that to yourself or chat about that among yourselves, because you will never, ever convince me that I am either!
So there you have a just a few things that have occurred in the past two weeks that I wanted to share with you. Even if you don’t have an escape as wondrous as my wetlands, just putting out a bird feeder and sitting on the porch or looking out the window to see what nature provides for you could do wonders for your overall disposition. Maybe you could buy a new flowering plant for the porch or patio–one you’ve always wanted but never dared splurge on. Go ahead, do it. I give you permission! Or take a Sunday drive outside the city limits and see what’s in bloom. Surely there is something you can do to take advantage of Nature’s slide show this spring. Then come back and tell us what you discovered!
Happy Resurrection Sunday,
*Mr. Godfrey and my father would be about the same age, and listening to him reminded me so much of my father’s own story of going to work at the age of 13, selling magazines door-to-door, to help with the family income, because his own father had passed away at a young age.
Fun post…great photo o’ Mr. Godfrey – ye can just see the glint in his eye and the edge o’ that grin when he’s ready to launch into one o’ those great stories from a grand life! We’ve seen/heard those Canaries on many occasions (and the wee warblers on a few)…I think we’ll call ’em “Swamp Canaries” too – the “official” name is worse than Latin verbs – though the origin explains a lot “This bird was named after officials in the Roman Catholic Church known as the protonotarii, who wore golden robes. It was once known as the Golden Swamp Warbler”
Beautiful photos. I could almost taste the mulberries. And Mr. Godfrey reminds me of my late uncle.
The trees are native to La. Do you also have them in TX? I ate some off the tree, but other than that, I think I would leave them for the birds and now try to make jam or anything. Wait! Maybe a mulberry cordial?
here we hunt down mulberry trees and kill them before the robins get the fruit. Nasty trees. Get some purple flowered sheet if you hang laundry, girl.
Well, there’s the Blufloyd I remember. Guess you know now that I don’t hang laundry. I have way too many trees and too many birds to use a clothes line down here. However, I do want to go on record as saying I HAVE had one in years past . . . . great for sun bleaching cloth diapers.
You’re not crazy. I have a mockingbird named Frank.
Yes, well, I think you and I must have been bird nerds in another life! No, wait, we’re bird nerds in THIS LIFE!!!! I’d love to meet Frank one day. He must be a plain talker, lol!!
What a great collection of memories. Those danged mulberries don’t get any respect from me, though. They’re nothing but trouble to me. The birds who enjoy them so like to sit in the rigging of the boats I work on, and believe me – it’s extraordinarily difficult to get mulberry stains out of fiberglass.
The warbler’s beautiful. I did have the pleasure today of eating lunch outside a church parish hall in a small town, and there were cardinals, wrens, and chickadees galore. They’re common to most folks, but a real treat for someone like me who mostly gets to see water birds.
As for talking to birds? Of course! I speak fluent mallard, and passable cardinal. When all else fails, I use English. Why wouldn’t you talk to the birds – or the chickens, or trees, or clouds, for that matter. They make more sense than quite a few of the people I know!
I hope your Easter Day was a happy one. We have a gorgeous week coming up, and I hope you do, too.
I knew you would be a member of the “Dr. Doolittle family”, Linda! The more time we spend out with these creatures, they become our companions and friends. I love the call of the chickadees, don’t you? This past weekend was GORGEOUS. I went out in my small skiff both days all by myself! Amazing that no one called for a tour!
I love the mulberry taste but, yes, the birds do love to use them to dye everything. Especially our vehicles which are parked beneath the pecan trees! Mom did have a fruitless mulberry tree but, the drought killed it. Her chickens used to roost in it during the hottest part of the day.
Mom also had a bunch of different colored birds there during the fall migration. She said they were every color she could imagine and very small. She keeps feeders out for them and throws the pecan hulls out also w/pieces of pecans still in them. She was on the porch last week picking out some pecans she had stored and said a little bird flew right down to her and landed on the edge of the bowl she was putting the pecan meat into. She told it to go to the yard where the shells were because it wasn’t getting the ones she had worked to pick out!:)
Oh how I love your stories about your mom. Those birds might be painted buntings, but I didn’t now they migrated that way. Shoreacres would know, though. I never thought about them eating pecans.
Collectively, they are called T-Pops. They come in red, blue, green, yellow, pink and orange.
Well, I don’t have a problem with Mulberry droppings. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen one. When I first saw the berries, I thought they were Dewberries. BTW, I like it when you bring up some of your older post and update us on them.
Hope y’all had a nice Easter celebration.
They do look a little like dewberries, but on closer inspection, they are longer and more slender. Speaking of . . . I will hopefully be picking dewberries this week in my same old patch. They are late this year. By the end of March last year I had already picked a couple batches and written a post. What can I write about dewberries this year? Hmmm, let me think! Since you still use a clothes line, it’s a good thing your neighbors don’t have mulberry trees! I can still hear my mamma fussing about those birds messing on her clean sheets . . .
blu also uses the mulberry trees at sisters farm for excellent blackbird popping with pellet guns. very soon I hope.
Meanie! Hey, did you can or preserve any of those kumquats?
A lovely post – loved hearing about Mr. Godfrey & Mr. Green Heron
Thanks so much, Elyce! Welcome to the bayou and we hope you stop by often!
Mr. Godfrey sounds like someone I’d enjoy knowing. As I’ve aged, I’ve developed a greater appreciate pf the older generation and their stories of their lives.
Yes, m’am, I know about mulberries. They grow all over downtown Charleston. You don’t see them in the ‘burbs much, though. Folks consider them a nuisance. Purply splats all over their drives and cars, not to mention the increased amount of bird poop!
I got an email from a guy at work informing me that it won’t be long before the mulberries are ripe. Both of us will nip out during our lunch breaks and indulge, returning to work with stained fingers and lips.
Funny story: Some years back, I was standing on a picnic table outside the building behind my office, picking and eating mulberries. A couple of coworkers strolled by and asked, “What in the world are you doing?” I replied, “Eating mulberries.” “Without washing them first? Birds pee on them.”
Pee? Birds don’t pee. Well, not in the way we do, anyway. I give ’em a quick once over to make sure they don’t have poop on them. Or an errant ant.
Poor city girls. Never knowing the joy of foraging and eating things where they grow! LOL
I don’t see anything unusual in talking to birds. I talk to anything and everything, even inanimate objects. I talk to myself so much, I sometimes think, that if I don’t watch it, I’ll do it in front of the wrong person and wind up in a padded room with one of those funny white coats with the really long sleeves and all the buckles!
That swamp warbler is just beautiful. Such a blaze of yellow! It’s too bad the little northern perulas won’t sit still long enough for a photo shoot. They’re a lovely little bird, as well.
Your comments are like a blog post all their own, Gue`, and very much enjoyed and appreciated. So, be sure and let us know when you’ve sneaked out for a snack off the mulberry tree!!! And I’m glad you don’t think I’m crazy for talking to the birds! Life is just much more fun that way, don’t you think? I mean, if dogs, cats, horses, etc can understand us, why not birds? Yep. poor city girls!
Mr. Godfrey and my dad were good friends. I initially didn’t recognize him without his silver hard had that he wears out in the garden!!
Hi P.J. Mr. Godfrey is sharp as a tack, and I figured you knew him! Is it true that your dad had crawfish ponds? Are they still harvesting crawfish from them? If so, who does that and how can I buy some? I recently heard that he used to have ponds but I never knew that before. Great hearing from you!
Hey Wendy….sorry I just got around to reading your reply. Yes, my Dad did have crawfish ponds for many years and lots of people thought he had the best crawfish around!! (Of course I did—but I am a little biased!) Sadly, the ponds are no longer operating. As my Dad aged, it just became too much work for him. For awhile he tried hiring local boys to help, but it was difficult to find dependable help. For awhile he continued to fish just for personal catch, but after one of the hurricanes that flooded the ponds with salt water he decided it wasn’t worth the work to get the ponds replanted and restocked. The ponds still sit there….dry as a bone for the most part. We now allow the cattle to graze there. Sometime in the future my nephew may choose to try to get them up and running again, but that remains to be seen. As far as where to get them locally–I don’t know if anyone from the bayou fishes them anymore. As you know so well, the salt water has ruined many beautiful things down there.
my husband and I know Enola and Godfrey very well. I called her today looking for a mulberry tree to plant. Thanks for you posts. enjoy them very much.
I am stopping by there today to drop off some DVDs and to get my mulberry tree she gave me!!! I don’t think she has more than one, though, sadly! Thanks for following the blog, and I’m so glad you enjoy the posts. I saw your FB page, too, and you look very familiar. I’m sure we’ve met somewhere along the way . . . . but come back here any time, Brunella!