Orchard Stories

Folk drawing

By Pat Townsend
Reprinted here by the kind permission of Pat Townsend, daughter of Reg Wilks

The banging of cans. The blast of a gun.
Cherry-picking has begun.
The whirring of rattles, the bird-starver's shout.
The pale dawn sun just peeping out.
Come leave the mills with their smoking stacks!
Come and pick the 'buds' and 'blacks'.
Leave the mills and the factories tall
The steaming vats and the dusty salle.
Let's hoist the ladder high in the tree
This is the life for you and me!
"Watch it lad, there's a cocketer bough!
Here, let your father show you how.
That's it. Now, hook your leg through there.
The laden branch will soon be bare.
The sun is warm. The sky is blue.
This is the life for me and you!
Better than school, better than mill
Working here upon the hill.
The season's short. Tomorrow will come.
But meantime why not have some fun?
We'll give the kids a nice surprise
When we take some 'buds' for cherry-pies.
We'll buy some boots for your brother,
A Sunday gown for your mother.
The sun is warm, the sky is blue.
This is the life for me and you!
The wind springs up and the skies grow grey.
There's a big storm brewing Marlow way.
But the ladders are strong
and the men are tough.
They never think they've picked enough.
The wind it blows with an icy blast
But the men cling strong to their cherry mast.
They grin at each other and shout in glee.
They are free as the wind in the cherry-tree.
The cherries are picked. The ladders stacked.
The groaning sieves into carts are packed.
The season's over. The day is done.
The pickers trudge home in the setting sun.
In the pubs some down a pint of beer
And drink to the season the coming year.
So if you should wake one dawn in June
And hear the strains of this gay old tune
A tin's faint rattle, a starver's shout
The ghost of the cherry-picker's still about.

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