While cruising down a seemingly endless stretch of I-10 this weekend, I heard that old song from Paula Cole called “Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?”. It’s a haunting tune that I had pretty much forgotten. It’s been rattling around in my brain ever since. Since I refuse to pay for satellite radio on principle, I’m at the mercy of whatever the FM dial lands on, and I like the sort of Russian Roulette feel that radio potluck lends my road trips. In the span of 15 minutes, I may listen to Rick James, Rick Astley, Rick Springfield, Ricky Martin, and Richard Marx. I reckon I could add Ricky Skaggs to that list if I lit on a country station long enough to hear a song or two. I pretty much only stick around those stations for Darius Rucker, that fellow that breaks up in a small town, and any given Carrie Underwood exacting-vengeance-on-a-sorry-man tune.
It’s easy to see how Cole’s song could fade into the sunset when competing with the likes of a superfreak that’s never gonna give up on Jessie’s girl living la vida loca while right here waiting for you. Throw in a little Samantha Foxx, the Oak Ridge Boys, and some speed metal band with a name like Hellhounds and you’ve got the makings of a fine road trip. Somehow, though, that forlorn “Yippee-kay-ay” latched onto my mental playlist.
It was after giving up on some glow-in-the-dark micro eggs offered at the hotel breakfast bar that I discovered a sad little bowl of sliced strawberries languishing next to the largely untouched vat of oatmeal. They were muddled sometime last week and looked more like coagulates than glorious harbingers of spring juiciness. I crooned, “Where have all the berries gone-on-on?” The kid running the breakfast bar rolled his eyes. We had already had a little incident at the coffee station where I pointed out there was only decaf available, and I might die on the spot if I didn’t get some caffeine immediately.
As I ate my berry-ish oatmeal, I got to thinking about how strawberry season just plain didn’t happen this spring. Usually, folks are selling them out the back of their trucks. My favorite farmstand didn’t even put up their giant strawberry-shaped sign. Even the local Winn-Dixie didn’t have berries grown in our county. Call me stuck-up if you want, but a Baldwin County strawberry is right up there with a Chilton County peach or a Sand Mountain tomato. Once you’ve tasted perfection, it’s hard to settle for anything else. Where have all the berries gone, indeed? Was there a berry blight? Did the commercial farmers decide sod was a better bet than strawberries this time around? Did our weird winter weather destroy the crops? I really hope this doesn’t mean the end of Baldwin County strawberries.
Four hours of mind-numbing interstate on the return trip muddled my inquisitiveness about as much as those gummy strawberries I plopped on my oatmeal. I made a mental list of all the deliciousness I’ve missed out on—from strawberry shortcake to homemade preserves—while “Sultans of Swing” played on every rock station successively as I time-hopped my way back to Alabama. I must have heard it five times…good day to be in dire straits. I arrived home too road weary to launch a Facebook investigation on the lack of homegrown strawberry availability in Lower Alabama.
You’ve heard those aphorisms about how the Lord giveths and takeths away, right? Or the one about when the Lord closes a door you should shimmy out the window? Guess what I discovered when having a farm walkabout this morning, still moping about strawberries? One of our peach trees, which have been an overall disappointment for years, is loaded down with sweet, juicy, glorious peaches! They are small, but good. Peach preserves, here I come!
I am still a little curious about where all the strawberries have gone-on-on, but it’s awful hard to frown when spooning up a slab of peach cobbler.
Here’s a link to that old song about cowboys…it’s worth a listen!