We have wild grapevines growing all over our property. A fruit-bearing one grows high in the oak tree by the hammock. One’s trying to climb the sycamore, but I keep discouraging it by cutting it back. Just the other day we found behind the azaleas another one loaded with fruit. Our domestic vines out front that Larry’s dad planted long ago are full this year, too, but the grapes are not quite ripe. I hope to make jelly with some of them in late summer. When I was a child, it seemed that everyone had huge grapevines. Our next door neighbor, Aunt Jincey, my father’s aunt, had a huge vine and welcomed us to pick whenever we wanted to. During the dog days of summer, I especially anticipated visits to Grandma Nichols’ house and grapevine, too. Her grapes were especially succulent and we always came away with big bags full.
Grapevines can be vicious though and are strong. Invariably ours snatches off my sunglasses or my hat when I drive the mower underneath it to cut the grass. The vine needs a good trim job, which we intend to take care of this winter. I had my first serious encounter with grapevines when I was the ripe old age of five. Weekends, we visited grandparents, and only dire illness prevented those weekly trips. First, we went to the Snipesville area of Jeff Davis County for lunch at Grandma’s Hayes big wooden table. Like Grandma’s biscuits, the table was also homemade. Grandpa built it by cutting the trees, sawing them into lumber, and nailing the boards together. I’m sure he never made a biscuit though. Men and women’s roles were most specific back then. Men did not cook in the kitchen.
I loved my grandpa and looked forward to seeing him for the most part, but he thought the way to entertain every grandchild was tickling. I hated being tickled. I detested it from birth and still do, for that matter. I guess that’s why I will quickly intervene if a child is being tickled in my presence because I remember so well how I hated it. One Sunday afternoon in late August, Grandpa invited me to go for a ramble in the woods with him to pick bullises. I’m not sure about the spelling, but I did research the term. Muscadines were called Bullace at one time because they resemble a European plum of that name, and Grandpa’s term bullis was probably a corruption of Bullace.
Nonetheless, Grandpa and I went for a long ramble in the woods with a plastic lard bucket in hand for collecting our grapes. I wore my usual dress and Sunday shoes. No daughter of my mother was about to wear pants, be it summer of winter. We rambled for about an hour, picking and eating and talking until my bucket was full.
“We’d better get on back, Mary Ann,” Grandpa said finally. “It’s getting late.”
Back on his front porch that ran the length of the house, we first found the water bucket and dipper. Then we showed off our grapes.
As we finished our visiting rounds for that Sunday, my legs started to itch and like a normal five-year-old, I scratched. By morning I had a raging fever. I’d contracted impetigo from all the scratches on my bare legs and suffered dearly for those grapes. This disease is commonly known as “infantigo” because it most often occurs in infants and young children, and is highly contagious in those age groups. However, the disease is far less prevalent today than it was during my childhood. Our little outing required a trip to the doctor, a rare event back then, to clear up my legs. The memory is precious to me though and worth the pain I suffered.
Many people consider wild grapevines a nuisance and work hard to eliminate them. They do however serve useful purposes. They provide food for a range of wild animals as well as nesting supplies because birds use the vines to make their nests. The tangled vines also provide protection for smaller animals. Grapes vines grow in abundance all over the south if you are interested in roaming and picking. I do recommend that you wear long pants.