Dr. Kissinger and the blueberry patch
Henry A. Kissinger The Old Henderson Farm Kent, Conn. 06757
Dear Dr. Kissinger,
Congratulations! We read by the paper that you're the proud owner of a very choice piece of property, as they say in the real estate business. For a modest absolutely guaranteed to be 150 years old. Furthermore, you've acquired not only the obligatory swimming pool and tennis court but your very own pond, plus 49.5 wooded acres.
But Henry, as you've found out by now, you've also bought yourself a problem - and we don't mean the plumbing. Ralph E. Henderson, who sold you the farm, planted 3,000 blueberry bushes way back before he retired as a vice-president of Reader's Digest, and the folks around Kent and Danbury have become sort of accustomed over the years to picking the berries every August and September, with Mr. Henderson's permission. You know what a New England tradition is like, Henry.
Now if we have it right, you want no part of keeping up the blueberry plantation. You're ready to bail out of five acres of berry bushes a lot faster than you were ready to pull out of Vietnam, and that's got the natives all riled.
Henry, we appreciate that you've dealt with riled Russians and riled Chinese and riled everybody in the Middle East, but you haven't lived, diplomatically speaking, until you've dealt with riled New England blueberry pickers. They could ride you right out of town on your shuttle.
We know you're boning up on Latin America at the moment, and it's too much to ask you to bone up on blueberries. So, while you're preparing your report for the President on El Salvador, Nicaragua, and such, we thought the least we could do would be to write you a report on Connecticut blueberries.
Henry, trust us. The blueberry is a viable option. A blueberry bush (Vaccinium corymborum) is as beautiful as it is delicious. You get these gorgeous clusters of little white flowers in the spring, and in the autumn the rich green leaves turn deep red. Are we reaching you, Henry?
Then there's the marvelous little jewel of a berry. Green as an emerald at first, before it turns pink, and finally light blue, and darker and darker. The way you pick blueberries is to cup a cluster in your hand and gently roll the darkest berries with your thumb until they fall, almost eagerly, into the palm of your hand.
Henry, we all know how you prize loyalty. Well, sir, a blueberry bush will start bearing when it's a year old and produce six to eight pints a year until it's 40 years old or so - more crop if you mulch your bush with sawdust or an acid peat moss and feed it with cottonseed meal.
You've got to prune in the early spring, but after that, your plantation will practically take care of itself. A little shade doesn't discourage these hardy little bushes, and they're tough in the cold.
Of course, the blueberry has its enemies, Henry. But you know all about enemies, and strategies, and power. The enemies are birds. The best strategy is to place plastic netting over a bush when the berries turn pink, before the birds make their preemptory first strike and eat them.
Anti-bird power, Henry - that's power!
There are international considerations here, Mr. Secretary. Blueberries are an exotic prize in Japan, and as a squire with a blueberry plantation, you will certainly gain prestige in the Far East, making Seymour Hersh turn as green as an unripe berry.
Our advice is this. Don't wait for the hostile bumper stickers (''Save the Henderson blueberries!''). Take the initiative you are famous for. Draft a fair and equitable treaty with the blueberry pickers. Then pop a dark-blue berry in your mouth and close your eyes as the sweet juice rinses your palate. We promise you, Henry, the whole world will seem at peace. Yours truly, The Friends of KAB (Kissinger-and-blueberries)