Anderson: Blueberry-picking can be cutthroat business

  • Article by: DENNIS ANDERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 17, 2014 - 11:27 PM

A prime spot becomes top secret information.

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Blueberries in northern Minnesota are just ripening for picking.

Photo: Dennis Anderson • danderson@startribune.com,

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– Come July, fending off paranoia is important to maintaining one’s sanity while blueberry picking in this neck of the woods.

With a plastic bucket in the front seat of your vehicle and another in the back, you head out, watching your rearview mirror intently. Leading a interloping picker to a favorite patch is akin to treason, and is to be avoided at all costs.

At stake is a winter’s worth of delectable jams, pies and cobbler.

So trust no one.

Such was the mind-set that governed John and Jodi Weyrauch and me on Tuesday. The afternoon had been warm, the sun high, and the sense that blueberries were ripening wafted through the boundary waters like smoke.

June’s messy weather had retarded everything, including maturation of the North’s tastiest wild crop, and doubtless ruffed grouse, squirrels, bears and various songbirds, robins and cedar waxwings among them, have tapped their paws, or feet, waiting, as we have, for berries to mature.

Now that time had come, or we thought it had, and we donned hats and long-sleeved shirts shellacked with enough DEET to qualify us as a Superfund site.

“We’re friends and all,’’ John said before we left. “But I have to ask: Are you carrying a GPS or other locating device?’’

“Frisk me,’’ I said.

“We can’t be too careful,’’ John said.

“I wouldn’t tell my mother about this patch,’’ Jodi said.

Clambering into John’s truck, we headed either east or west along the Gunflint — a description as specific as I’m allowed to give.

A normally mild-mannered patent attorney, John soon assumed the persona of a big-league ball manager in the bottom of the ninth, bases loaded, score tied.

Chewing what appeared to be his lower lip, but might have been snuff, he glanced left, then right, following these with a stealthy hand signal to Jodi, which she acknowledged with a soothsayer’s nod.

Then, suddenly, John jerked the vehicle to the side of the road and allowed a couple from Illinois to pass.

“That was close’’ John said.

“Vanity plates,’’ Jodi said. “Dead giveaway.’’

Maybe an hour passed. Then we made one turn, and another, before rumbling into a rocky burn-over area from the big 2007 fire.

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