Blueberries, Bears and Fats Domino

Black bear

By Judy Berman

Walking along tidy rows of indigo-colored fruit, we quickly plucked the plumpest, juiciest ones.

How is it that this simple excursion reminded me of my Mom, a run-in with a bear and Fats Domino?

Blame it on the blueberries.

In mid-May, our daughters, a son-in-law and grandchildren continued the family tradition of blueberry-picking at a U-Pick farm in St. Cloud, Florida. It was quite a change from experiences my family had when I was a teen in Oswego County, New York.

Mom told me once about a scary time she had when she was picking berries in the fields and woods near our home and ran into a bear.

Well, not running into, actually. She spotted the furry hulk a few bushes away. Mom made a quick check to be sure she wouldn’t be in between the mama bear and any cub she might have in tow.

Then Mom flung her pan and blueberries into the air, fled the hills and bolted for home.

Blueberry picking 2 - 5-10-14

My folks had 66 acres, and some of it bordered state land. So it wasn’t uncommon to be lured off the path by a tempting berry bush.

Before you know it, you’d look around to get your bearings and realize you had no clue where you were.

That’s what happened when Mom was out with our neighbor, Sophie.

They got lost, and Mom knew Sophie was panicking. In an effort to calm Sophie, Mom lied and told Sophie that she knew exactly where they were.

Fortunately, they stumbled into a scout camp a short time later. Someone brought both of them back home.

Blueberries - two handfuls

The best part, of course, is when Mom returned home with the blueberries. We knew we’d soon be munching down on one of Mom’s mouth-watering blueberry pies or blueberry jam.

And, Fats Domino? How did that rhythm-and-blues artist become a part of this story?

Fats Domino

Well, Fats recorded “Blueberry Hill.” When it played on the radio, my brother, Hank, and I would warble along with him as he sang “I found my thrill, on Blueberry Hill, on Blueberry Hill, when I found you.”

Mom had an accent. She would pronounce hill like “heel,” and berry like “burry.” Just like Fats Domino.

Hank and I would always make sure to sing that tune real loud — accentuating “hill” and “berry” — when she was around. Mom knew what we were up to. But she’d just smile and tune us out.

Actually, we were sending her subliminal messages. Hoping that the song itself would inspire her to return to blueberry hill and then back to us with more luscious berries.

A long overdue thank you to Mark Bialczak, a dear friend, who nominated me for the Liebster Award. Mark’s blog is a link to my Central New York roots. His posts range from music to movies to neighborliness and is always a great read. For details on this award, go to Mark’s blog.

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-15. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider,, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Music video: Blueberry Hill by Fats Domino – 

Photo: Black Bear – taken by Jon Sullivan

Photo: A blueberry bush at the U-Pick farm St. Cloud, Florida. (family photo)

Photo: Blueberries – two handfuls – taken by Gordana Adamovic-Mladenovic from Windsor, Canada on Aug. 31, 2009

Photo: Fats Domino – taken at a concert in Germany in 1977 by Klaus Hiltscher

  1. I found my link, on Judy Berman’s blog … on Judy Berman’s blog … where I found my link …

    Sorry, Fats.

    Thank you, Judy, for this tale of Oswego County’s berries, scary bears, great pies, you and your brother, and, of course, your mom and her wonderful accent that matched Mr. Domino on two important words.

    Happy Memorial Day Weekend to you and Dave.

    1. Mark … Thank you again and forgive my procrastination in acknowledging your dear gesture. It was a “thrill” when “I found” that you nominated me for the Liebster Award. It’s posted on my Awards page. 😉

      Happy Memorial Day Weekend to you and yours, Mark.

  2. In the past year or two, bear sightings in our area have become somewhat common. They get tranquilized and relocated but before you know it, another one is hanging around the backyards. Most are very young males looking for their territory. Unfortunately, development is pushing them out.

    1. Kate … When I was a teen living in the country, bears were relocated there. I don’t know where they were before. It’s good they were returned to a place more like home. It was just scary to see one when you’re out – alone – in the woods. Sad to say, development pushes many animals out of their natural habitat. We’ve had bobcat in our development.

  3. Blueberries and then Bear..hmmm tough choice..would the bear leave if offered some blueberries ;)….just kidding..had my share of frighting brush with the Indian Mountain bear during a camp ……… all he did was stroll around in the night outside my tent. Couldn’t sleep the entire night blaming on how horrifying the beast was 😛

    1. I suspect the bear would take your offer of blueberries and then help himself or herself to some more. So much for sharing. 😉

      Can’t blame you for being unable to sleep at camp. There’s no way I would be able to sleep with a bear roaming nearby. Thank you for your comments.

  4. You have such a knack for blending disparate ideas in your title, which invariably draws me in. The “blueberry” song is familiar to me but I haven’t thought about it in awhile. Last year about this time, my grand-kids went on a “Mystery Trip” blueberry picking and we are planning to go again next weekend. Here’s the post: (Scroll down to Mystery trip #4, Blueberry picking–no bears involved! Also, no Fats Domino although the kids made up their own blueberry song.)

    1. That’s quite a compliment, Marian. One of my favorite authors, Tom Robbins, did an admirable job of blending disparate ideas together in “Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas.” I am just in awe in how he does that. 😉

      I will check out your post. Thank you.

  5. You blame it on the blueberries, Judy; I applaud the blue berries for this great post! And I love how you tied it all together, AND then added Fats Domino as icing on the cake. This was a delight!

    1. Unfortunately, Marilyn, the blueberries were not able to stick around for an encore. They had other pressing business to attend to. 😉 I’m so glad that you were delighted with this story. Thank you.

  6. Haha, Judy, this line of yours stood out: “Before you know it, you’d look around to get your bearings and realize you had no clue where you were.” Hmm. BEARings? Perhaps an ominous sign…?? 😀
    A good, warm and interesting post, has a cosy country feel to it. Thank you for sharing your precious memories!

    1. You have a sharp eye. Typically, my puns are intentional. I hadn’t realized I’d done this until I read your response. Glad you enjoyed it. 😉

      Thank you for your comments.

  7. I LOVE picking blueberries — so meditative, so…. blue. My favorite place to pick is up in the Canadian Wilderness. We take a dog along, which seems to help ward off the bears.

    Will you be baking a pie?

    1. Our granddaughter baked them in blueberry muffins … and I had fresh blueberries on my cereal for a week. Divine. It was an excellent family bonding time and blueberries for everyone. Yea!

  8. I know the Fats Domino song very well, I can remember hearing that on the radio! 🙂 In my childhood in the 70’s pretty much nobody in England knew what a blueberry was – we didn’t have them available to us in supermarkets until very recent years. So I never really thought about why that song was called Blueberry Hill.

    Your mothers experience of picking blueberries is a frighting thought and also dare I say it a little amusing, but I’m sure your mother wasn’t amused at the time. The thought of meeting a bear on a fruit picking trip is unimaginable to me. My greatest fear when picking blackberries with my family was wasps – they loved those berries more than we did, and they were constantly trying to clear us out of their way. I loved picking blackberries, and like you did looking forward to my Mum’s pies and Jams. But those wasps – I haven’t ever really recovered from the fear. But it sounds really stupid compared to a bear!!! 😀

    And how terrifying to get lost near to your own land!! 😯 I did have the experience of living with my family in a large manor house for a few months when I was a five year old. There were lots of gardens and also nearby fields, but I don’t think even with all that I would have got lost there. It helps if every section is completely different, otherwise it would be like being in a maze!

    Those blueberries are very delicious. My brother created a tasty recipe for blueberry muffins, and I tried them out myself eventually, they were really lovely, and that purple/blue is so pretty! 🙂

    1. I have blueberries on my cereal nearly every day – in season or not. I can’t imagine them not being available.

      Mom’s experience, after the fact, was very amusing. I think I would have passed out if I’d been in the same situation. 😉 I had to admire her cool. But I sure wish she hadn’t tossed those blueberries to the wind as she tried to get the heck out of Dodge. 😉

      I’m glad you finally had the opportunity to taste blueberries. They are amazing and so good for you.

  9. I can picture Grammie doing this, and then I can picture her recalling it later and laughing at it. I am certainly glad that we didn’t see any bears, or snakes! That was a good experience, and I hope we get to do it again…maybe we can do strawberry picking next

    1. Yes, Jenn, wildlife has its place … far, far from wherever I happen to be picking berries. Strawberry picking sounds like fun. But, I’m not sure how many of them will make it home. 😉

  10. Sweet blueberries to go with sweet wonderful family memories. Thanks for letting us go back in time with you. Great adventure that warms the heart and bring us to a time where life is simpler. I wish one day I can have a blueberry picking fun time minus the bear of course. All the best to you and your family.

    1. From the adventures you, your wife and son have, I’d say your’e making those sweet wonderful family memories right now. I so enjoy reading about them. I’m glad you liked my story – bear included. 😉

  11. Thank you for sharing these happy memories Judy. I find the oddest things, but especially songs, trigger memories of childhood, way more than they did when I was younger!

    1. Songs and movies do take me back to the carefree days – or so they seem now — of my youth. Like you, Madhu, they help me relive happy memories of growing up with my Grammy, my folks, and our girls. Good times. 😉

  12. I’ve run into a few bears a few times. Once there was one up a tree and it actually came down the tree and onto the path. That was scary. We were trying to back up and get out of the way, but usually they will not come down out of trees if they spot you. Luckily, it decided to cross the path and climb another tree.

  13. Your post reminds me of a recent run in we had with a bear while hiking at the Delaware water gap. We couldn’t figure out why on God’s earth a woman was hiking with bells around her waist. About an hour later we discovered why. Thankfully, we returned to the car without claw marks, but I don’t think I’ll be hiking (or blueberry picking) in the woods any time soon.

    1. I’ve heard of belling a cat, but never a berry picker. 😉 Great idea. Wish we would have thought of that.

      I’d run like a rabbit any time I heard a strange noise in the woods. So there’s little chance one would have caught up with me. 😉

  14. Please bear with me as I leave this comment… : )

    It was blackberry pickin’ when I was a young ‘un growing up in Cooperstown, NY. Hard to believe, but there was a wild, overgrown patch of jungle right in the center of our block, complete with mucho blackberry bushes– the perfect place for idiot kids to have summer adventures.

    My mom would bake the berries in a pie, and we’d spend the next two days tryna get the little seeds outta our teeth. Mom would sing “Paper Doll” by the Mills Brothers sometimes– she wasn’t quite as hip and up to date as your mom, I guess… : )

    Wonderfully evocative post, Judy. Have a piece of pie– you’ve earned it!! : )

    1. Here’s the bare truth, Mark …

      We picked just about any kind of berry except the elderberries. They were too tart for my taste. But, yes, we did enjoy the blueberries, strawberries, huckleberries and blackberries. I also recall the blueberry seeds stuck in my teeth.

      Sounds like your Mom and mine made fantastic pies. My brother and I were just talking about Mom’s pies. That memory will never fade. “Paper Doll” also was a cool song. Far better than “Rag Doll” by The Four Seasons. Those high notes always got me. 😉

      Thanks for your lovely comments. Think I will have a piece of pie. Care to join me? 😉

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