In the no-air-conditioning days of the 1940’s, my brother and I spent most of our time in the backyard, which was cooler than in the house, and not as hot as the front yard.
We practically lived under and in the mulberry tree, a huge tree with lots of shade.
Our mulberry tree was on the north side of our detached garage (in those days, most garages were detached from the house). The cow pen and manure pile, where I landed once when jumping off the roof of the garage, were on the south side.
The mulberry tree provided essentially all the shade there was to be found in the backyard, the huge open space where the chickens ran free blisteringly hot from the Dime Box summer sun.
During our time in (we climbed the limbs like monkeys) and below (we created a little community in the shade) the tree produced ripe fruit from June through August.
This time of year had both its good and bad points. It was when the berries on the tree ripened, providing us with all-day sweet snacks!
To a kid, mulberries taste good, — kind of a cross between a blackberry and a dewberry, yet different. The reason you can’t buy mulberries in the store is that they don’t keep well, even in the refrigerator. Here was a treat, that didn’t cost any money! While we had to share the tree limbs with the blue jays, they didn’t like the mulberries in the tree as well as they liked Mama’s blackberries in the garden.
Our beloved mulberry tree was also pretty much a mosquito-free zone in the summer. Enemies of the mosquitos loved the ripe mulberries, claiming them by killing off the mosquitos!
Delicious treats in the limbs, cool shade beneath, mosquito-free “community,” we had it made!
In the community underneath the tree, my brother and I had constructed a series of roads and bridges in the sand for our toy cars and trucks. We even had a worn out old toy train chugging through the little town. Our outdoor cats used our little town as a litter box; kittens got free train rides.
In the most secluded area under the tree, I had a workshop. I remember having an old coffee can full of bolts, hooks, screws, nails, and other pieces of metal, an apple box full of various scraps of wood. I was able to keep a coping saw in my apple box, but wasn’t considered old enough to have my own pocket knife.
With these tools and assorted junk. I created many interesting objects, — “inventions” I called them, along with what I considered pieces of art. The one I remember most vividly was a figurine of Jesus I made out of an old piece of apple box. I took it in the house for safe-keeping, along with a metal windmill I crafted. Naturally my parents thought they were above average! Such creative endeavors happened under the mulberry tree! I guess you could say my creative proclivities first developed under the mulberry tree!
Ray Spitzenberger is a retired WCJC teacher, a retired LCMS pastor, and author of three books, It Must Be the Noodles, Open Prairies, and Tanka Schoen.