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TWIP Vol. 6 Issue 05

In this issue:

  • Rundy(21) Writes about picking blackberries
  • Collin(12) Writes about playing on the Gameboy
  • Collin(12) Writes about playing with his brothers

Find the current issue of TWIP on the web at http://www.purdyville.com/twip/current.html


The following peice titled Blackberries, a Bear, and Bees was initially published on my blog (found at http://homefront.silverwarethief.com/) .–Rundy, TWIP Senior Editor.

Blackberries, a Bear, and Bees
By Rundy

The afternoon of the 17th Titi, Lachlan, Cadie, Collin, Evan, Justin, and myself went picking blackberries. K.D, a friend of ours a street down, has blackberries all over her back hill. She lets us go picking every year. To our amazement, she doesn’t even like blackberries herself.

Some parts of New York State are absolutely picturesque, and the view from K.D’s back hill is just that. After you’ve gone through her goat pasture and climbed over the fence, the mostly overgrown pasture goes up and up. If you look back as you climb you can see a broad valley spreading out below, and the hills ringing it on every side. Somehow, the trees on the hills manage to hide most of the roads and houses, so the land looks almost as uninhabited as the area might have been a hundred years ago.

Once the hill has finished rising it levels out to a large field that covers the top of the hill. From here you can stand and get a view of the sprawling vista. Though there is a road not too far below, and houses not much further beyond, the field on top of that hill feels like it is isolated out in the middle of nowhere. Standing in the middle of that field, it feels as if you are standing on top of the world. I find it a liberating and exhilarating feeling. Peaceful. Quiet. I like to think that when I get rich and famous I’ll be able to convince K.D to sell off the second half of her property so I can build up on top of the hill. (At the same time the other half of my brain is thinking about how outrageously expensive it would be to build way up on top of the hill and why on earth would I want to spend my money doing that?)

The year before last we picked a large amount of blackberries off the hill. If my memory serves me right, we took in a total of 72 cups in one trip. Compared to that, last year was an utter failure. The dry weather last year decimated the crop . . . there were only a few scraggly berries . . . nothing worth picking. This year we were hoping that with all the rain the blackberry crop would be very good. The sight of the first bushes quickly proved us right. The blackberries were large, fat, and plentiful. The initial signs were pointing to an even better harvest than the year of 72 cups.

But there was something else different about this year. As we were starting up the hill K.D called out that we should keep our eyes open for a bear. She said the people over on the other side of the hill had seen one moving through a few days ago.

It’s not every day there is a bear about. They are quite rare around here. Most likely the bear was feasting on the berries. And, most likely, we wouldn’t see hide nor hair of the creature. If the bear wasn’t long gone, the sound of us stamping and tromping up the hill would probably scare it off. Still, being an older brother, I thought it my duty to see how much fear and terror I might be able to milk out of the youngest kids present. Alas, Evan and Justin were too old to show much fear at the prospect of seeing a bear. Perhaps they were able to reason well enough to figure the bear would not stick around, or else they simply figured that big old Rundy would keep them safe. In either case, after a few suggestive jibes I realized I would not get anywhere and so gave the subject up.

Still–I’ll confess–deep down inside me I was hoping to see the bear. I thought it would be pretty neat.

We picked our way up through the field and went on into the woods. Picking blackberries in this house is a semi-competitive event. Somehow, I am the best blackberry picker. I say somehow because I don’t know why I hold this position. I’ve no secret trick or special skill and I’m always somewhat surprised when the picking is done and I’ve the most berries.

It is the unsaid goal of everyone to unseat Rundy from the position of most picked berries. I’ve gone three years without being bested, but they have time yet. Most of them are still young.

Going into the idea of getting the most berries picked is finding the best patch of berries. Nobody hogs a patch to themselves, and nobody leaves a patch unpicked while searching out for a better one, but eyes are always open for the next strategic move. In the field we all generally pick in the same area, but once we get up into the woods the blackberries are spread out all over the place, and the most efficient method of picking is for us to split up on either side of the trail and spread out, picking over as much an area as we can handle.

The general rule is to stay within shouting distance. The blackberries seem to go on forever, the thick patches spread out so that you are leap-frogging from one bunch to another, always going further. A person could wander on all day (so it seems), so we call out with a shout to one another to make sure no one has wandered too far off. If everyone were competent adults who could drive themselves home we could each wander off our own way and come home once our bucket was filled. As it is, we try to keep close enough together to share intelligence and not leave anyone too far behind.

As well as keeping tabs on where everyone else is located, the shouting is also used as an attempt to gauge how well the pickings are elsewhere on the hill. There is slight variation in the quality of picking at different locations, and there are a very few "super" spots, but I think most perceived differences in picking quality are only imagined. I only call out to other people on occasion to see how good their picking is, but I overhear all the shouting from other people. The dialogue is usually something like this:

"Hey!"

"What?"

"How good is it over there on your side of the trail?"

"Pretty good!"

"How good?"

"Well, it’s in patches, but the berries are really big!"

"Oh."

"What about you?"

"Mine’s good. I can’t pick fast enough."

Often the description offered by both berry pickers sounds better than the spot at which I am picking, but by now I’m nearly 100% certain that most of the difference is merely pyschological perception. With all the people that have acclaimed their great pickings–either the spots they have aren’t so much better than mine, or else they’re much worse pickers, because they never come back with the heaping buckets I would expect from the luscious patches of berries they were shouting about. So I keep to my patch until it is finished out, and if someone is hollering that they really want more help on their wonderful spot, I’ll move on over there next.

The worse thing for me about picking blackberries is finding the time to do it. The actual picking I find a grand old country kind of thing to do. It is fun and peaceful up on the hill picking. It feels like a time out in the wild–well, out in the woods, at least. There is something pleasant and uncomplicated about moving amongst the trees, walking in and out of the shadows. Only sometimes do I wish other people would stop shouting so much and let me pick in peace and quiet.

I said the worse thing about
picking blackerries is finding the time, because I must let something else slide if I am going to give up a weekend afternoon to pick. Lost time being the worst thing about blackberry picking might surprise some of you. What about the thorns, you say. Yes, well, there are a lot of thorns. If you have a delicate constitution it’s best not to go. It doesn’t bother me most of the time. I wear jeans, a long sleeved shirt, and a hat. I still get a couple of bloody scrapes on my legs, and a few on my arms, but mostly it is almost unnoticed scratches on my hands.

As far as thorns go, there are two things I really don’t like. The first is when a thorn sticks me good and deep, straight in, and then breaks off. This hurts, and the thorns can be hard to get out. Second, it annoys me very much when the blackberries are growing so thick that they tower over my head and catch my hat. When the thorns get this vigorous and thick they can bind up my hat and shirt so thoroughly that I feel quite impeded in my berry picking. I must stop what I’m doing and unwind and wrench myself free. This is all very hard on my clothing. My shirt was looking threadbare and my pants quite worn by the time we were finished that day.

This year the picking was going well for everyone. We were making slow progress up the hill because there was so many blackberries to pick, and some people were growing impatient. We usually make a full circuit up the hill and down again, but we were were going so slow some people were afraid we’d run out of time before we completed the trip. I wasn’t worried about this. I thought we had great pickings, and I was filling my bucket up so fast I thought I had a good chance of topping it off before we made it to the halfway point in our journey.

At the quarter mark everyone was called back to the trail so we could uniformly begin the next leg of the trip. From that point on everyone else was eager to quickly go up to the halfway point where they knew there was another good patch. But I found more berries near where we had all gathered. Everyone else hurried up, but I stayed where I was. There weren’t "heaps and heaps of berries," but I had steady picking, and the berries I picked were big and juicy. The thorns were also exceptionally thick, and this was frustrating me, but the berry size was filling up my bucket quickly, so I found it worth my while to keep fighting away. Everyone else was going up, but I thought it madness to move on when I could still see plenty more good picking. If they were in a hurry, let them hurry, I thought. I would catch up with them once my bucket was full. The bucket was filling up in good time.

I picked away until I heard some very distant shouting. Great, I thought, a bit irritated. Now they’re wondering why I didn’t want to rush along with them. So I kept picking. Let them come back if they wanted me, I decided. Or else they could wait until I had the last bit of my bucket topped off. I wasn’t going to extract myself and tromp the rest of the way up the hill to converse with them.

They came back a little closer and shouted again. I answered them. Titi called out again:

"Rundy, we need to talk!"

"Why!" I shouted back.

"We need to talk!"

"Then come down here!" I called out. I couldn’t figure out why on earth <i>we needed to talk.</i> It sounded like she wanted to call a committee and elect a leader to save us from some dire end. Either something terrible had happened, in which case I wished she would convey the news a little quicker, or else it was nothing important, and for that I didn’t want to be disturbed.

"Some people were stung by a bunch of bees and we need to go down!"

That made me pause. "A bunch of bees" and "stung" was a little too vague. She did not sound utterly panicked, so I quickly assumed that nothing horrible or irreparable had happened. But her damage assessment was none too clear. Except for my judgement of her tone, she could very well have been saying that someone was stung a hundred times, had swollen up terribly, and they had to rush the said person to the hospital immediately.

"Well, come down then," I said, working on my assumption that since she wasn’t screaming or crying the situation must have been fairly under control.

They came on down. Nobody sounded grieviously hurt, so I continued to hurriedly pick. I had just a few more berries to top of my bucket. Then I extracted myself from the thorns and joined them on the trail.

I got a quick recount of what had happened. They had stumbled upon a nest of ground wasps in amongst the blackberries and Lachlan and Evan both suffered several stings each. Lachlan (16) was clearly doing fine. Evan (10) was looking miserable, but he wasn’t swelling up, so I felt better. I still wanted them home as soon as possible so they could be doctored up, but we did not seem to have a crisis on our hands.

We went down to the van and drove home, a rather glum ending to the trip for most people, as I was the only one to have picked a full bucket. There was no bear. Instead we had found bees, and not made it more than halfway through the trip.

Once we were home, Titi, being something of a statitician, measured the berries that each person had picked. Then she found me and said I had picked 20 cups of black berries out of the total 54, and I had picked 6 cups more than the nearest person. Obviously one person was keeping precise tally. For one more day, and perhaps one more year, I was not humbled by some younger sibling.

Next summer is coming.

Comments, questions? Write to Rundy at purdyville@earthlink.net

[The following article didn’t make it to my desk until around the time the last TWIP issue went out. I assume it must have been mis-placed or else lost among the wild bytes out there, because it is a really old article–Ed.]

Gameboy
By Collin

These last weeks I’ve been playing a lot on our Gameboy Advance that my uncle Rob gave us for Christmas, particularly because Mom said after a month she was going to limit our time on it. That’s fine by me, as long as I finish my game first. This isn’t an easy thing, considering it (the game) is supposed to last for months and months. This particular game I’m playing is called Zelda: Link to the Past, which I think is a pun, because the character you play is named Link. Ha, ha. I admit it, I’m no genius. Whenever I got really, really, stuck (about 7 or 6 times) I wouldn’t try everything I could think of a million times like you’re supposed to. Instead, I would get on the internet, go to www.google.com and type in Zelda/walk through. Yeah, I know, I can hear the yells of "Cheater! Cheater!" all the way from here.

I’ll start with my problems with this game: you can’t save except at the beginning of levels! I know why, really. It would have taken up a lot of memory to store all the saved games and also made it too easy, but still–think of it–you work your way through the level, and then you fight the boss, and lose! Then you have to do the whole level over. Well, not quite the whole level. You still get to keep your keys. The same for when you die on a hard puzzle: back to square one. It got pretty annoying. The real reason I got so flustered is because I felt under a deadline.

Now, for the good part. It’s a very big game, so it can last for a while. There are a lot of characters to talk to, and talking to them can be very important. For instance, you talk to the blacksmith, and he’ll say: "If my lost partner returns, I can temper your sword, but until then I can’t do anything." So, of course, you have to rescue his partner, and then you get a better swor
d. The thing I liked most about this game is it seems like a real world, not just a brainless "kill this guy, kill this guy, get this thing" game. For example, when you rescue the princess from the bad guy, he puts up signs saying "Wanted: For capturing Princess Zelda" with a picture of your face. Then, when you’re in the village, some people run away from you, others call the guards, and some, namely an old lady, say "Oh, Collin, someone’s been spreading rumors, saying you captured the princess, but I still trust you. The last (but not least) thing I liked about this game is all the items you can collect: 24 in total, not counting special items: shovel, flute, fire rod, bottle, net,and boomarang, to name a few. I also hope someone else I know gets this game so I can buy the cable and play multiplayer with them! There’s even more things to do in the multiplayer version, but I can’t play it without being connected to another player.—C.J.P.

Comments, questions? Write to Collin at purdyville@earthlink.net

A game I played with the little kids
By Collin

Our game started out with the little kids playing a game where two "sides" (teams) were Animal or Human. The Human side had to build houses for its people, barns or zoos for the animals they captured, and they had to feed, milk, etc. animals they captured. (With most of our games like this we pretend boy cows can give milk too because nobody wants to be a girl.) The Human side goal was to capture and tame all the animals, while the Animal side goal was to untame all the animals and kill the humans. The Animal side tried to escape or kill Human capturers, destroy the Human side buildings, and generally make themselves nuisances. Both sides could have a leader ( a Animal or Human with more strength ) if all its members voted for the same person. The leader would also receive a leader stick (a long weed).

I invented this game but I was clearing the table while they started it. I decided to join the game, so I put up signs saying that an artist was going to be for hire. After I finished my job I put up a new sign saying that an artist was for hire, but for the first time only the Animal side leader with his leader stick could find him . Then, I ran upstairs and grabbed my cape that Titi had made for me on my birth-day, its sort of like a rich travelers cloak: red satin on the inside, black on the outside with a mysterious hood. The little kids tried to find me, but I evaded them.

Then, finally, Evan, being the Animal side leader and carrying the leader stick crawled up the path mooing! He’d chosen to be a cow, of all things! But he was still the Animal side leader so I jumped in front of him. "What do you want?" I said in my shady character voice. He just stuttered and mooed, so I said " I will bring you a gift" and ran back to my hideout (where I had art supplies and a wooden sword), to make the "gift." I couldn’t think of anything so I decided I would lead him to my hideout instead. Not a very good gift, since my hideout was easy to find, but I made it more fun by slipping him a paper that said: follow the signs. Then I put down a path of signs with arrows on them to point the way.

After he was there, he and the other little kids wanted to know why it was a gift, so I told them the only time you could talk to the Artist was if he was in his hideout. I told them all the things you could do with the Artist: hire him to kill enemies, pay him to write and draw, or to steal things and demoralize people. For example, he could sneak into people’s (or animals’, of course) homes and tack up signs with skulls and warnings drawn on them, make things placed in queer places, and (this last one’s my favorite) drop signs with arrows on them leading through prickers only to end up with a sign that says Ha, Ha.

Unfortunately, they asked me to do none of this. They just sat around looking gloomy till I finally showered them with ideas of what to do. Then I decided to make some rules: 1. No barging around in the Artist’s house. 2. No wearing capes or treasure in the Artist’s house or he will snatch and keep them, but it’s all right to carry them. Justin took rule 1. too seriously. He would inchy squinchy all the way to and through my house. (My house because I was always the Artist) .

Evan had me draw him two signs a little bit later. One said: The Butcher, and the other said: Warning: all animals should stay undercover. (In our games Butchers loved to kill any animal, especially baby chicks!) Then he put them and some other signs that were colored red all along part of the path. Evan, being the Butcher, patrolled all along his path until he was killed by Owen and Justin. Owen was being the Animal side leader and Justin was being a bounty hunter hired by Owen. (In our games bounty hunters were people who could be hired to kill or steal.)

After Evan had left to be a Butcher, I had put up Closed signs at my home and pretended the Artist was on vacation. The new character I chose to be was the bird that had carried the Artist to his vacation and had been rewarded with a sword. I came flying up just in time to see the Butcher die. As he died, he dropped an egg that hatched into the new Evan: a bird. I gave him to Owen to raise. Once he was big enough I taught him to fly, and he flew off to make a nest out of hay. (It was really big.) I got tired of being a bird, so I pretended to be the pack-up man and packed up the Artist’s place.

After that I decided to be a mysterious Ninja who you only saw if he was being hired to kill you. I was going to accomplish this by having Caleb be my messenger. But as soon as I picked my hideout–a great place on a woodpile where I could see everybody but they couldn’t see me–it was time for the little kids to go to bed! Ah, well. That was a really fun game.-C.J.P.

Comments, questions? Write to Collin at purdyville@earthlink.net