I was born in a small town in southwest Virginia in 1939. My family was fortunate to have grandparents who lived on a farm about 30 miles from our home. Farmers had the same problems as did the city folks but at least they could grow most everything they needed to eat. They usually had a cow for milk, and of course chickens for eggs, and that Sunday dinner (lunch to us today) that we would dream all week about. The work to grow vegetables and their main money crop (tobacco) were back-breaking jobs. Long hours including Sundays, work was done with hand tools and my folks had a mule that we all loved dearly. We had apple, cherry, and pear trees that did well, and we could sell some of the fruit to buy sugar and coffee and other things they couldn’t grow. They didn’t seem to mind the hard work. They were just thankful that they could feed their family and help others who needed a little help. We would go to Granny Branche’s every week and bring home what she could give us. The folks back in that period of time were very strong and generous and they were proud people who loved the ole USA—I think the little farmer had a big hand in making America the best, strongest, most generous country in the world.
Now before I forget, I will tell you about the wonderful memory I have about Granny Branche’s house. If you know me, you will not be surprised to hear me talk about the food—beans, fried cornbread, all vegetables, and many fruits. But one food stands out well above all the rest. Granny had a two-gallon galvanized bucket she used to gather eggs, chicken feed, water the mule, carry the vegetables from the garden, milk from the cow (Of course, she rinsed out the bucket before the milk went in!) and lots of other things she used it for. When I was at her house, I always followed her around as she did her chores. In mid-afternoon, I could just about read Granny’s mind. She would be thinking about supper, always good, if not fancy. We would look forward to the meal.
Well, now it’s time to tell you about the magic words I still hear today. “Bill, get the berry bucket.” I guess my feet never hit the ground until me and Granny finally got down to the river bank where the ground was thick with the wild berry bushes, blackberry, gooseberry, and mulberry trees, just to name a few. It didn’t take long to fill the bucket and maybe a little longer to get my fill. I can hear Granny say, “Now Bill, don’t eat too many now, or you won’t want any of my berry cobbler.” Fat chance for me not to have room for that pie! The pie was made in a huge bread pan that I thought was too small. Oh me, one problem after another. Waiting on the pie to come out of the oven--it finally did, and you gotta believe, it was worth the wait.
You know what? I always said it’s the little things in life that are the most important. Yes, I will always remember Granny’s berry bucket and the pie. You know something else? I will always remember God’s promise to provide for you and me in good times and in tough times, even the Great Depression. Many good things came out of that era. We learned, with God’s help and a lot of hard work, we made it. Where there’s a will, there’s a way, and yes, if we are lucky, one of Granny Branche’s berry pies.