Mulling Mulberries

It’s mulberry season!  What? That doesn’t cause your taste buds to salivate?  Mine either.

While on a bike ride around town I could not help but notice how many mulberry trees are currently dropping their fruit all over the pavement, sidewalks, People trail, and any other ground cover that’s within reach.  The tell tale signs of purple stains are a sure give away that this year’s crop is once again abundant.  And the birds are happy about that.

I grew up with a mulberry tree growing in the fence row which just happened to border our back yard basketball court.  This pesky tree and I had a love-hate relationship.  Actually the tree probably could’ve cared less how I felt about it.  But it did illicit some strong emotions from me.I appreciated that it often served as a deterrent to the basketball going over the fence and into the adjoining field, thus eliminating my need to climb over and retrieve the ball. But that benefit was offset by the fact that, this time of year, the tree incessantly dropped its fruit all over our basketball court.  I had a purple stained ball to prove it, along with purple stained hands, and I suppose pants or shirt that I had wiped them on.

Yes, I did often use the broom to sweep the plentiful berries from the surface of the court, but, in season, one can rarely keep up with the proficiency with which a mulberry tree sheds her fruit.  It was a never ending battle that the tree always won.

Furthermore, mulberries attract birds.  And birds that eat mulberries poop – a lot!  So, imagine, if you will, a basketball court a fair portion of which is decorated not just with mashed mulberries, but bird doo to boot!  Is it any wonder that my shot from the left side of the lane was never as well developed as the other side?  Who wants to shoot from the bird-berry latrine?

Then there is the fact that this tree just kept growing!  It’s branches reaching out and over the fence onto the court, becoming a constant shot-blocking threat.  An annual rite of Spring was to take the pruning sheers to the tree and cut back it’s growth.  But pruning only seemed to enhance growth.

So, you can see that I had plenty of ammunition when it came to my strong dislike for this wild pretender of a tree.  But there were some advantages.  If you got hungry during a workout or game there was a ready supply of fruit to snack on.  The mulberries themselves were kind of bland and one had to make sure to extract the stem, but they could fill your stomach.

In addition, the inconveniences of the tree made for an interesting home court advantage.  Not everyone is used to playing around the barriers a mulberry tree presents on a basketball court.  Direct your opponent defensively into that side of the court and chances are you could force a turnover or errant shot.

Jesus once cursed a fig tree (Mark 11:12-14) when he was hungry and found it had no fruit.  By the time he and his disciples passed by it the next day it had withered and died, becoming an object lesson in having faith in God (Mark 11:20-24).  Had it been a mulberry tree he could of eaten all day!  Just give it a shake and the ground would be covered with purple berries. Apparently mulberry trees are curse resistant – at least in my personal experience.

All of this is going through my head as I completed my 20 mile bike ride around town.  All because I looked down and noticed the purple stains of mulberries ground into pavement and coming into contact with my wheel.  It’s funny what can trigger a memory – good and bad.  For a few moments I was transported back to my childhood, a beloved basketball court where I spent countless hours, and my nemesis the mulberry tree.

And that was something to mull over.




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