Friday, April 17, 2015

Blueberries, Butterflies and The Pig

                                                                    Butterfly Catches Dennie Picking Blueberries

                                                                  Blueberries, Butterflies and The Pig

Picking blueberries one after the other under cloudy, but still sunny skies in a big netted over blueberry patch on a beautiful hill in little ole New Preston, Connecticut! 

Clumsy hands induce little blue, green and red ones to fall to the earth and roll below. Some others are already mashed into the soil. Big chubby ones go down the hatch. Sometimes red, orange and green ones drop accidentally into blueberry containers.  

Chatter comes from a couple of bushes nearby.  Two elderly ladies are bantering back and forth about their ailments; their hubbies’ doctor visits; hospital care for everyone; and all available medical treatments. The babble becomes annoying fast!  

Picking, picking, picking more blueberries! I’m not fast enough! Already Ina, the Mom and my wife, has filled her plastic gallon drinking water bottle with the top cut open. Mine is not even half full! As usual, she calls for my container to check it and me out. I pretend not to hear her, and shamefully rush my fingers into picking more berries!

Soon, Ina moves over and takes control of my container, leaving me to pick from one hand into the other before walking repeatedly nearby to dump the full hand into the bucket.

The picking goes on and on! Will it ever stop? Oh yes, the buckets both are almost full now, and picking under the sun makes me sweat! For a second or two, my right arm, ready to pick, extended straight out in front of me.

Suddenly a little orange butterfly with miniature black specks flies speedily around me and lands right on the back of my extended right hand! As it retracts its wings, I see the buff orange- brown color on the bottom of those wings, and its two little antlers above its tiny head, and its legs attached to its diminutive body. I glance at the little guy. My outstretched arm and hand freeze. In seconds, the tiny one takes off and flies up and around and then down again on the back of my waiting and frozen right hand. This time it stays.

I wait and wait! I marvel at this little orange-black spotted beauty. Nothing happens! So, keeping my hand and arm outstretched in front of me, I walk slowly, carefully along a couple of blueberry bushes.  I show off my new, flying friend-pet first to Ina, who tells me I am just trying to avoid more berry picking.  I ignore her and move on to another blueberry picking woman nearby who exclaims surprise, but little else. These relatively unenthusiastic reactions are not at all satisfying! I walk out 75 yards of the blueberry patch while continually looking at my extended right hand, the butterfly’s merger airport pad. 

The butterfly briefly, during my blueberry bush-to-bush travel, has folded both wings tightly together pointing skyward. Those two wings closed upward become a two-sided pale brown-orange triangle.

As I approach the blueberry patch’s wooden payment shack, I see a diminutive little brown-haired boy rolling down a small slope in the grass toward me. A younger pint-sized girl is standing nearby. The boy is laughing and having fun as more grass and dirt cling to his short brown hair, his white t-shirt and his medium blue shorts. 

I say firmly to both kids, but quietly: “Hey, want to see my butterfly?!” They look puzzled! I repeat the question. My right arm and hand, holding the sitting butterfly is pointing toward the boy. I exclaim: “Don’t move fast!” He looks at it curiously, and of course, moves closer to me. Then, as I move my whole hand slowly upward to keep him from scaring the winged one, the butterfly flits off my hand’s posterior. 

I look upward. I can see it flying back and forth. It is about twenty feet above me. Seconds pass! I then exclaim: “Hey! Look what you did! It’s gone!” Seemingly within seconds, I hear Ina’s voice exclaiming a bit sarcastically as she walks out of the blueberry patch: “It landed on your ear!” I immediately replied: “Ha! Ha! You’re soooo funny!” 

But the little boy quickly cries out, “No it’s there on your ear!” My eyes tried to veer a look up there, but naturally, I could not view it. However, I felt a very slight sensation between my right ear and my hair. “Wow!” I thought. “They’re right!” 

So, I walked slowly and carefully up to the blueberry payment shack. A middle-aged woman was waiting there to weigh blueberry containers and assess cost.  Below her lying on the ground were two panting, medium sized dogs, one a blond Husky and the other a black and white long-legged mixed breed. Proudly, I tipped the right side of my head very carefully toward the cashier and asked: “How do you like my butterfly?!” 

The woman looked, smiled and seemed amazed. However, as the Husky got up from the ground to greet me with tail wagging and red tongue sticking out of his mouth, off flew the butterfly away into the sky forever! I looked at it disappear. A bit saddened, I petted the Husky and his nearby buddy while Ina, ever the banker, paid for the blueberries.  

I thought about this wonderful blueberry patch butterfly mate for several days before an amazing thought suddenly occurred to me. Once before, about ten years back, I had encountered similarly amazing butterfly interactions with another man. 

“Whoa!” I exclaimed whispering to myself, after relating the two experiences in my mind. “Butterflies can and do communicate and interact with people, if humans have enough sensitivity to figure this out!”

Now I will tell you that this close to a decade-old story is still relatively fresh in my mind. But, you know that as the years pass, some details can become hazy or exaggerated. Nevertheless, the true guts of this startling story are still etched in my mind today.

That earlier dream-like happening occurred, when, by chance, I met a locally well-known Vermont character, an old, white-haired man, inside the diminutive town of Barnard, Vermont. We both were lingering under the awning of the General Store and looking out onto beautiful Silver Lake nearby. 

There were a few part-time porch and pavement below frequenters near us. They included some old guys, young dudes and pet dogs of all sorts, jumping on and off the porch and occasionally into and out of the lake. Across the street, swimmers were just getting out of the lake’s cold blue waters onto the green grass alongside.  Others were still paddling their arms and hands and splashing inside the nearby shallow portion of a swim hole. 

This old white-haired character had been repeatedly seen for years walking up and down the main drag of a road leading south to beautiful Woodstock and north towards diminutive Bethel. He habitually and repeatedly smiled and waved at passing cars, including mine, without hesitation. I later learned his old ramshackle house was just off the main road a mile or two north of the general store which is defined as the town center. 

Local residents told me the old man’s home had burned to the ground years back, only to be rebuilt by a kindly crew of volunteer townspeople. 

So, without warning or hesitation on this very sunny day, the white-haired, winkled-face character sidled right up to my side on that porch, just feet away, and, without introducing himself, began telling his story in a raspy, but riveting voice. 

The other night, the dude said, he and a couple of other guys loaded a well used pickup truck with a big, white, muddied pig. He began describing the wild and crazy time they had inducing and pushing the pig up a plank to the bed of the pickup. As he did so with his arms gesticulating in all directions, two medium-sized white butterflies began flying several feet above his head on the edge of the porch and underneath the slanted roof of the General Store! 

I don’t know whether he saw the butterflies or not, but he never once hesitated in his story telling. In fact, as his story progressed, his arms moved around zigzagging like butterfly wings. 

The pig was eventually loaded, he said, before he and another guy got in the truck and drove off, I think, to a pig barn. I wasn’t absolutely sure of the truck’s destination, because his chattered story became speedier and speedier as it progressed. As the words flew out of his mouth, and he became more excited, the butterflies’ flights became faster and more erratic!

Down the road into a wooded area drove the two men with the pig, scrambling and squealing inside the truck’s bed. But, because the porker, partially restrained by rope, became wildly squeamish, they stopped and jumped out in a rush to see what the fuss was all about. 

It was fortunate, because the hog by now had wriggled out of its moorings and was ready to rock and roll! As the uncombed, white-haired, eccentric, but loveable dude told his story, his long, unbarbered hair flowed from side to side. 

Meanwhile, above him the butterflies continued their incredible dance. Up, up, up in the sky they went, only to rush back down to the porch, duck under the roof and then lurch over the old guy’s head to match their movements with the gravelly tale teller’s voice inflections. Sometimes movements became so dramatic, it was hard to distinguish the flowing white hair from the flying white wings. I was mesmerized! 

The two men lost control of the pig as they opened the tailgate to restrain it. It slithered by them, with its body mud flying all over the place, and leaped out of the truck, falling to the ground on its side, and squealing painfully before righting itself and rushing into the woods. 

During the yarn, I didn’t know whether to watch the butterflies or the old man because both were equally fascinating. I caught glimpses of the butterflies zipping around his head, and once even out a few feet toward the lake before returning, like they were in a magnetic field, to the airways over that wild, messy white hair. 

Now, years after hearing the tale, I don’t really remember what happened to the pig. I don’t think he escaped, but he may have. I do clearly remember this! After the white-haired townsman’s lowdown ended, the butterflies simply flew away up into the sky over the lake and disappeared. Amazing! Have you ever seen white butterflies moving around the countryside? They never, ever seem to stop their wild and jagged flight patterns in one location like they did that day!