gleaning isn't free

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We’ve seen the sign several times, not just this summer, but in summers past as well. I knew by the location it was probably a tourist trap, but I fell for the emotions of being kind and trying to make a memorable summer for our youngest. As we were pulling up, I thought to myself, “Real estate this close to Legoland can’t be cheap.”

You know when you pull into the dirt parking lot and only see out of state plates you’re probably in for a soakin’. The big white sign with bright red letters doesn’t look nearly as professional close up.

There we were, which meant I was committed, under that big ole, “PICK FRESH STRAWBERRIES.” I thought to myself this time, “How bad can it be”? They’ve been playing this routine for a long time, obviously… They have the sale end down to a science.

My daughter and her friend were excited to pick and eat fresh strawberries. There were only a few people in front of us as I surveyed the little stand. The “Free Take One” samples right in front of our eyes, the tip jar, and the mud from the multiple 5-gallon drinking jugs used to wash strawberries off with.

There it was, up there at the top written in as sloppy of printing as my own, the prices… $8.50 for a small bucket, and $17.50 for a big one. “Geez Louise”! – “That seems pretty pricey for self-picked strawberries”! I mumbled to myself.

My eyes roamed the stand, I was thinking to myself, “Now the containers, where are they”? I wanted to see the large, probably two-handed containers that would be needed to haul off half of the field.

Whoa! I almost missed them. There they were sitting right up on the counter next to the tip jar, by the register. “No wonder I missed them”! I thought to myself. The little one was no bigger than medium size fountain drink cup The big one looked like a small bucket for popcorn at the movie theatre.

Oh yeah, I had the look and now the feel of a real bonafide tourist. I immediately remembered the cartoons when the main character’s head turns into to a donkey head. The point the writer and artist were trying to convey is that the person was feeling like a donkey. A dumb donkey in fact… With the other 3 letter name for a donkey used instead.

I knew I was stuck. Just like a tourist at the “Last Chance Gas Station” and my vehicle on empty. The person behind the cash register had that “Cat That Ate The Canary” grin on her face.

As the victims- I mean customers- in front of us were finishing up their transactions, I reached around them for my “Free Sample.” I bit into the beautiful, big, round, perfectly colored strawberry… Heaven!

I was like the reluctant fish in the lake, taking the bait and being reeled in against my better judgment. “Yes Sir”! She said, with that smile on her face. With my sunglasses to cover my shameful scorned eyes, I declared in a loud monotone voice with as much dignity as I could muster, “Two large please”…

I took what little change I had left after my donation to the sales clerks kid’s college fund, who were lying behind and on the sides of the stand and slipped it back into to my wallet and pocket. “Tip jar”?!!! I thought to myself, “Is she smokin’ crack”?

I reached over to take one more “Free Sample” to my wife who was waiting in the car. “What do you think the chances are of the ones they pick tasting like that”? I asked my wife. “Not good.” She said dryly and added her own question, “How much did that cost”? “You don’t wanna know,” I said grimly.

When the girls were done gleaning from the fields like poor people in the Old Testament, I asked them, “Was that fun”?! – “Are they good?! “Yeah”!!! – “It was great”!! – “They’re delicious”!!! They screamed in unison.

Hmmm. Sometimes making memories just costs a little more than shopping at your local store, gleaning isn’t free I guess…

My wife threw the soggy leftover strawberries out a few days later…

It’s just a memory now…