It started with an unproductive fishing excursion to Upper Tonto Creek.

There were some crazy anglers in my favorite trout pool flinging giant cane poles and what sounded like copious beer consumption. So I went downstream to the next pool. There, my line immediately got snagged up on a tree and I broke my new rod in two, trying to get it free. There were only a couple of hours of daylight left, so I broke off a piece of ham from my sandwich, put it in my crayfish trap, and went for a walk.

Tonto Creek is lush with all the rain this summer and more picturesque than ever. I was going back to my truck when I noticed the berries. Blackberries! I found a couple of handfuls and immediately scarfed them down. They made me think of my Aunt Irene and thinking of her made me think of pie. She was a great pie maker. I decided I was going to make a blackberry pie.

A couple of years ago I tagged my first and only (so far) bear on top of the rim. He had 4 inches of fat all around. To use everything possible of the animal, I rendered the fat and produced a snowy white lard. This is an uncomplicated but tedious process. And all the while, I hadn’t a clue what I was going to do with it. Then I heard bear lard makes the best pie crust. Now, I am not a pie maker. Experience in making pie dough produced well … we will call it marginal results. But I have a good friend who is a baker. I gave Lisa the bear lard, and she made pie dough. She gave me pie crust sized chunks wrapped in wax paper which I froze.

Now, with my mouth full of blackberries, I remembered the bear pie dough in the bottom of my freezer, which seemed just perfect for a blackberry pie.

After a quick look around, it seemed that I found the last of the berries, so I was on the hunt.

I was told that Webber Creek has lots of blackberries, so a couple of days later I went blackberry picking. I dropped a crawfish trap at the first crossing to soak during my berry hunt and trucked up to Webber Creek. I am officially reporting that Webber Creek has a lot of blackberry brambles. After a couple of hours of sweating, hiking over rough terrain, and many, many scratches, I had only about a cup for all my efforts. (If you plan to go blackberry harvesting, upland pants and boots are a necessity.)

To add to the excitement, a thunderstorm was percolating.

I looked at my pitiful harvest and fought back the urge to just give up and eat them. I decided to stop at one of my favorite trout pools on the East Verde and maybe catch a trout, or at least add to the crayfish pot. I was just setting up when I looked across the creek and saw a blackberry patch.

My bucket was in the truck, so I took off my hat and scrambled across the creek. The storm had followed me down the hill and was grumbling like a grouchy old man.

“Just let me get some berries,” I told it.

The storm growled back.

The vines were growing along a steep rocky bank, so getting to the berries was tough. Worse than Webber Creek. It went like this:

1. Brain: “Over there, the mother lode! Just a few more steps.” While struggling to get through the thick anaconda vines that threatened to drag me down into the earth.

2. Knee: “Uh no way. Don’t do it!”

3. Walk over and knee responds with a sharp pain, sending tremors throughout my nervous system.

And repeat steps 1 through 3.

When I was done, I had a hat full of ripe, delicious, juicy berries, and a purple stained hat. By now the storm was getting downright angry, so I quickly scurried across the creek to my truck. When added to the bucket, it looked quite promising. Ten minutes later, I recovered my trap with 67 crawdads with the storm chasing me downstream like I was a thief.

Not trying to brag, but the pie turned out pretty darn good. There were only two patches in the crust that I had to fix. I found an easy recipe on the internet for the filling and I dotted some butter on top like Aunt Irene. It was not pretty, but it was delicious. The best part; I made it with lots of love.

Ingredients for a

bear lard crustblackberry pie:Bear tag: $25

Rendering Bear Lard: Forever

Blackberry hunt fuel: $50

Upland pants: $80

Picking berries: Great fun!

Sharing a pie with your 88-year-old dad: Priceless.

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