Beginning of the Road
By Dane Sorensen
August 12, 1996
I have met the King of the Blueberries. His kingdom is the biggest blueberry patch in Ely – if not the Universe. His majesty’s name is Harold Charpentier. Like many modern monarchs, King Harold does not traipse about with a crown and scepter. He is quite happy with a big red van and a bucket that he uses to pick blueberries.
Harold has been a berry picker for probably 60 of his 71 years. As a young lad he would pick blueberries for 3 cents a pint. He does not bother with the common raspberry. Only the noble blueberry is worth the quest.
It is not much of a surprise that a professional blueberry picker would end up marrying an Ely native. Back in the early days, Ely women would pick blueberries all morning, have a baby at noontime and be back in the berry field by afternoon. After all, it is a sin to leave any blueberries unpicked.
King Harold saw my pathetic plea for more blueberries in my column last week He felt pity for me and gave me a call. Harold told me he had more blueberries than I had probably ever seen. I invited him to come over to my house Wednesday morning and prayed the boast was for real.
Wednesday morning I woke up early and waited for my future benefactor. Harold had told me over the phone that he has been supplying Bob Cary with blueberries for years. Now I know why Bob won’t ever retire. Recently, he has given some to the girls up on the hill at WELY. He even gave some to the folks at his bank. I hope the bank gave Harold free samples in return. King Harold the First is generous to his subjects.
At 10:30 sharp the royal red van appeared. Surprisingly Harold came without any guards to protect his cargo. On the front seat lay a big flat filled with blueberries. It was, indeed, a lovely stockpile.
We brought it into the kitchen. Harold then showed us his patented Blueberry cleaning tray from Sweden. It is an oval, red plastic tray with one third inch slits on the bottom. Harold put in about 3 cups of blueberries and then shook the tray back and forth. Like panning for gold, the leaves and twigs fell through the slits. All that remained were those beautiful blue nuggets. After pouring the purified blueberries into a pan, Harold showed how the runts stick in-between the slits. These he poked through the slits and then proceeded to process more blue gold. I wish we had something like this in our stores in Ely. It really worked.
The fact that Harold had this wonder appliance only proves he rightly deserves his crown. His majesty left me with enough blueberries for two pies. In my family, I am the “pie meister.” I make my crust from scratch, I use only pure ingredients. No diet, low cal stuff for me. It would be an adulteration to make a pie the modern way with pie crust sticks or corn starch. “Damn the calories – full speed ahead” is what I always say. I make pies the way they were made 75 years ago.
The pies were heavenly. It was as I imagined blueberry perfection would be. Everyone licked their plates. If this were the end of the story of Harold’s gifts, it would suffice to ensure his immortality in blueberry lore, but Harold did not stop with his gift of blueberries. He invited me to see his kingdom. With my hidden compass I followed my sovereign to Nirvanna. He allowed me to take Snow White and the kidlets along. It is only a quarter of an hour drive up the Fernberg Trail, down the Sisu lumber road and across the North iron Stream. Walking about his secret patch was like walking on holy ground. It was as if we had found Eden. My family fell to their knees and started to pick the fruit of the gods. In 30 minutes we had more than we had ever picked in our lives. We left so many unpicked. Some many blueberries and so little time.
Thank you, King of Blueberries.
Thanks for the bountiful fruit of blue.
Long Live King Harold Charpentier!
Long Live the Kingdom of Blueberries!
P.S. Don’t take the directions too seriously. I have sworn to keep the whereabouts of the King’s realm a secret. As a member of the Blue Knights, I have sworn allegiance to King Harold to protect his Blueberry Camelot! Good luck on your quest.
Post Script: King Harold died March 20, 2012 in Alaska at the ripe old age of 87.