It was chokecherry-picking heaven. The bush stood by itself, only a few steps away from the road, surrounded by nice hospitable grass with no thistles or tall, scratchy weeds. It was loaded with clusters of fat, ripe berries within easy reach. It was a perfect spot for filling our bags.
Except for the minor detail that it was on our neighbor's property.
It wasn't as if we didn't have enough chokecherries of our own. The bushes near our house were loaded as well. We had already picked most of the berries we could easily reach. Even though our chokecherries were protected by prickly plum bushes and overgrown thistles (never mind whose fault that was), we could have gotten more with a little bit of effort. Or we could—theoretically at least—have stopped with the four gallons we already had in the freezer.
But I walked and drove past the neighbor's bush every day. I had watched its abundance of berries turn red and then grow darker and darker until they ripened into deep black perfection. I knew he wasn't going to pick them. In all the time I've lived here, he never had. I knew that, because in all the time I've lived here, I've been casting covetous looks at his chokecherries.
Those berries were so perfect. So ripe. So plentiful. So tempting. Every time I walked by, I could practically hear them calling, "Come pick us before the turkeys get us! Pleeeease! We're too good to waste!"
Finally, one morning this week, I allowed myself to be led eagerly into temptation. An accomplice in crime and I, carrying bright red grocery bags (nothing like being conspicuous about your thievery), walked up the road and trespassed. We stripped handful after ripe, juicy handful, filling our bags with satisfying speed.
We didn't even flinch when cars went by, though it did cross my mind that we might have been wiser to do our chokecherry-filching after dark. I had never noticed before how many of the neighbors drive down the road first thing in the morning. Fortunately, the owner of the berries that we were so busily helping ourselves to wasn't among them. Not (or so we told ourselves) that he would have really minded, anyway.
Eventually, my henchman managed to drag me away, leaving plenty of ripe berries on the bushes for the birds. We made it safely home with our heavy bags of stolen fruit.
I now have six gallons of chokecherries in the freezer. That ought to be enough for plenty of jelly—even after I soothe my conscience and acknowledge our neighbor's unsuspecting generosity by taking him several jars. It would be the right thing to do. While I'm there, I might even ask permission to pick his chokecherries next year.