Roy and Gus caught the last train out of camp on a Saturday a to attend his mother’s birthday party in March. Late in arriving they found the house brimming with friends and family including the Phillips family.
His mother threw her arms around him. “Oh, Roy I’m so happy you made it. And you too Gus she said giving him a hug. “Now all my children are here. You may have missed dinner but you are just in time for cake.”
One of the neighbor ladies handed him a slice if cake. Roy noticed Mae in the kitchen helping the neighbor women with the dinner dishes.
He hoped to find a moment to talk to her alone later and joined the men conversing in the corner of the parlor where her overheard her father speaking to another of their neighbors.
“I know she looks older,” he said as took another bite of cake, “but Mae is only fifteen.”
Fifteen thought Roy dismayed. She’s way to young for me to court. Still, he had a challenging time taking his eyes off of her the rest of the evening.
Gus and Roy returned to the logging camp Sunday night; Gus teased. “Roy, I do believe you’ve been bit by the love bug. I saw how you never took your eyes off of Mae.”
Roy shook his head, “No way, didn’t you also hear, she’s only fifteen. She’s just a girl.”
Still at odd moments, he daydreamed of the girl with dark hair and eyes the color of melting chocolate. He decided it would be best if he stayed away from Puyallup until he had forgotten her. When he had idle time on his hands, which wasn’t often, he’d coax Gus or another logger to go fishing or hiking.
On a Sunday in late June, Roy sat on the bunkhouse stairs dozing in the warm sun.
An envelope waving n front of his face startled him. “Wake up, sleepyhead. I’ve brought a letter from your mother, “said Gus.
He blinked and shook the sleep out of his eyes. Sitting up straight, he grabbed the envelope from Gus. “Thanks, I wonder what news she has.”
He unfolded the note written on crisp linen paper.
Your father says the first of the raspberries are turning red. It’s time to come home and tend to the picking. We hope to see you down home, soon. Will wait until then to catch you up on the news around here.
Roy went inside the bunkhouse. He sat the letter down on his bunk and turned to Gus. “Time for me to tend to the raspberry picking. Any chance I can entice you down to Puyallup to help with picking?”
Gus laughed. “No way, Guess I must find me a different falling partner for a while.”
“Just so you take me back,” said Roy. He really wasn’t worried. The two of them had worked out a good sawing rhythm which made them efficient fallers. He knew he’d take him back.
He picked up his knapsack and put his things inside. “Think about coming down for the Fourth of July, though.”
“Will do,” said Gus. Roy caught the first train out the next morning. he stepped off the train at the depot just in time to catch his father loading a delivery.
Roy waved his arms in the air. “Hey, Dad, wait up.”
He dashed along to the side of the tracks.
His dad looked down from his seat on the wagon, “Spec, you’d like a ride home.”
“If it isn’t too much trouble.”
“Climb on up.”
Whoa,” yelled his father as he drew the wagon up in front of their house, “I have a few more deliveries to make. Tell your Mother I should be back around four.”
“Will do,” said Roy as he jumped out of the wagon and went up to the house.
His sister Lida met him at the door. At thirteen she was getting to be a looker with her dark dancing curls and eyes that looked like a rich dark chocolate. She threw her arms around him, almost sucking the air out of him. “I’m so glad to have you home. I wish you’d quit logging so you could live here full time. I miss you too much.”
“I gather school must be out already,” said Roy, setting his duffle bag down. “Where is mother?”
“I think she’s next door visiting with Mrs. Phillips. We’ve rounded up an entire crew of pickers for you.”
“Really,” said Roy, relieved he wouldn’t have to worry finding pickers. “Are they anyone I know?”
Lida smiled. “Well, you know me and mother and we have Lillian Henry and the Phillips family next door, Justin Phillips, both of his aunts, a girl named Blanche and a few others from school.”
“Sounds like an interesting crew,” said Roy. “Glad to hear there are a few adults in the group to keep you giggling girls in line.”
Lida threw a silk fringed sofa pillow at him, “make yourself at home, I am going to meet my friend, Blanch.”
Roy went up the stairs and deposited his duffel bag inside his room. Guess I might as well mosey outside and check on the raspberries.
He walked the neat rows of raspberry canes, pleased at how lush, and laden with fruit they were. Here and there he plucked an already ripe berry into his mouth. There was nothing he liked better than berries. He reckoned another day or two of sun and the crop would be ready to pick. After leaving the berry fields, he wandered over to look at the cherry trees his dad had planted when they’d move to Puyallup. They too hung heavy with fruit. He reached up and enjoyed a few low hanging ripe ones. Looks like it’s going to be a good harvest this year, he thought.
Picking went well that summer, the girls Lida had rounded up were diligent workers even if they prattled on and on about things as they picked. They kept him busy checking in their flats. He noticed Mae liked to pick mostly with Justin or her parents and aunts. She seemed past the giggling stage his sister and her friends were in.
Twice his mother had pointed out what an attractive girl Lillian was. “Roy, she’s 19 you should think about courting her, it’s high time you settle down and started a family of your own.”
Roy sighed; He wanted to settle down one day, but not until he had a nice nest egg for the future saved. He never wanted to move his family from place to place without a dime to their name like his father had. Besides, as nice as Lillian seemed to be, he didn’t find himself attracted to her. He thought Justin was, though. It was Justin’s cousin, Mae, who captivated his heart.
Yesterday Justin had suggested they take the girls out on a double date. “I’ll ask Lillian and you can ask, Mae.”
Roy crossed his arms, “Don’t you think she’s a might young for me.”
“Not at all,” said Justin. “She may only be 16, but she’s mature beyond her years.”
“I thought she was only fifteen,” said Roy.
Justin shook his head, “Nope, she turned 16 back in May.”
“Still seems too young to me,” Roy said.
On the last day of the berry season, Roy woke to sunshine. He stretched, climbed out of bed, donned his gray trousers, freshly starched white shirt, and a brown vest and went downstairs to the kitchen.
His mother filled his teacup with coffee, “Sure, you don’t need my help, today. I understand most of the Phillips folks are gone.”
He grabbed a piece of toast set on the table and slathered it with butter, “I’ll be fine with a skeleton crew, we have little left to pick.”
He rose, lifted his felt hat from the hook next to the door and headed out the front door. “See you at supper.”
He assigned his remaining pickers in teams of two. As they headed into the field, Mae came scurrying up to him. “Sorry, I’m late. I had to help Mama with some chores first.”
“Quite alright,” he said. “As long as you don’t mind partnering with me.”
She batted her eyelashes at him “Of course I don’t mind.”
She reached for a wooden flat and carrier to take into the field. Roy grabbed it from her, “Allow me.”
He set the flat and carrier at the head of a row. “I’ll just go get another one for myself”
Returning, he couldn’t ignore how beautiful the scene before him looked. Mount Rainer stood majestically above his raspberry field with Mae looked equally beautiful in her a long-sleeved white blouse. A dark skirt with a cinched white apron revealed her slim waist.
He headed down the other side of the row and soon stood on the opposite side of her unnoticed.
She plucked a large raspberry from the bush. “So good,” she murmured to herself.
“Sure are,” he said.
Startled, she said, “Oh goodness, you caught me eating part of your precious crop. Sometimes I just can’t resist.”
“Think nothing of it.” He plucked a berry, reached across the row, and dropped it in her mouth. “Have another.”
He groaned how he’d love to reach over and draw her close enough to kiss her raspberry-stained lips.
Before long she surprised him by plucking a big ripe raspberry in his mouth. “How is logging going? I can’t get over how enormous the trees are here It must take forever to cut those big ones down.”
“The bigger ones take all day,” he admitted. “But there are plenty of days we can get two or three smaller ones down.”
“I noticed you reading a book the other day during our lunch break,” she said. “I love to read; Mama says I have my nose in a book too often. There always seems to be chores to do, so I don’t really don’t get to read much.”
Roy reached for another group of ripe berries, “Me either and I’m razzed a lot in camp for reading as much as I do. I don’t mind though, it’s better than drinking or gambling my earnings away. I’m saving my money to buy some land of my own.”
“Sounds sensible, having a place to call your own is important, I think. What do you like to read?”
“Almost anything,” He reached or for another plump raspberry and dropped it into her mouth. “But I’m studying too.”
“Oh, I’d like a chance to go on to Normal school, but Papa thinks schooling beyond the eighth grade is a waste for women when we’ll just end up married, anyway. He thinks I should just stay home and learn to keep house and cook. But I’m already an excellent cook. I want to earn my own money, which is why I am picking berries.”
“What are you currently studying?” she asked.
“Electricity, It’s the future. I plan to electrify my home and soon as it’s available in this area. Course I will need a house first, but maybe by the time electricity comes to Puyallup I’ll have one.”
“Oh, wouldn’t that be nice and indoor plumbing? You must learn how to do that, too.”
All that day they picked. Occasionally they surprised the other and held up a red, ripe berry to the other’s mouth. They talked and laughed until quitting time arrived. He’d never enjoyed picking with someone so much. She could be the girl, he thought, if only she were older.