I am sometimes prone to exaggeration, but I come by it honestly. I don’t know if that’s an Irish trait, but it was certainly a trait in my Irish family. Visiting my Dad’s eldest brother in his old farm house one summer, I listened as he began telling me about a berry bush on his property that had huge berries on it.
This uncle was himself a bit larger than life. Well over six feet tall, he wore bib overalls and an old t-shirt. Oddly, as I’ve conjured up his picture in my mind, I cannot remember his feet and if he was a boot or shoe guy. His hands, however, I remember well. They were as big as my twelve-year-old head. His deep voice had a slow, southern Indiana drawl.
I sat mesmerized.
He had carried a five-gallon bucket out to the raspberry bush, he explained, and began picking.
“Those berries were as big as the end of my finger,” he said, holding up a massive hand and indicating the end of his pinkie finger with his thumbnail. I was thinking I’d be happy with an apple that size.
“That bush was so full of fruit,” he drawled on, “that I stood in one spot, pullin’ and pullin’ and pullin’…”
We were in the living room, and he interrupted his story occasionally with trips to the front porch. I’d hear the wooden screen slam, and he’d wander back in, continuing to talk. It was long after I was an adult and he was gone before I realized he was spitting tobacco juice. It never occurred to me back then to be curious enough to ask. Or even really wonder.
“Perty soon I got tired of standin’, so I sat down, still pullin’ berries off that same spot,” he continued, pantomiming as he spoke. “But ‘fore long, even that was tiring and I laid down in the grass on my side, my head propped on my left hand, and me still picking in that same spot. I began to wonder if I shoulda brought two o’them five gallon pails.”
I was enthralled. I could totally picture the scene. I had also been taught to be a polite listener, nodding and making eye contact. That wasn’t hard this day. That deep, smooth voice had me enrapt, my mouth slightly agape, my eyes wide.
It was those wide eyes that caught movement to my left. I looked over to see my dad shaking his head in one of those, “Oh, my poor dumb kid,” ways.
I looked back over at my uncle who knew the spell was broken, so he just grinned and made another trip to the screen door.
It had just seemed so plausible…so real. I laughed good-naturedly and made a mental note to become more skeptical, especially of him.
It worked until the next story. He had this pond, see, so full of fish that they would jump out of the water and catch the food he tossed to them. Wow!