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I am sure we all have a collection of adjustments from the last few weeks of the Great COVID Panic of 2020. It will be recalled as a time like few others when the story-telling is done for another generation, each individual saga with its own twist.
In my case, one small part of that saga tends to remind me of a favorite movie whose main “underlying message” might not be too “woke” but is generally simple and feels good; the 2003 flick Secondhand Lions.
For those with too refined a taste in cinema to have wasted a couple of hours on so simple a film, the story is centered on a summer spent by a 14-year old boy who is dumped on his two great-uncles who are living on the ancient farmstead they have returned to late in life. For my own reasons, I have a tender spot for a pair of eccentric bachelor brothers with little use for the outside world and their own twist of a world view. But that is a story reserved for only a select few.
In the course of that summer, one of the brothers decides that country gentlemen with time on their hands should have a garden. As some of you might know, despite all necessary work, new bright denim overalls, and cleanly hoed, straight rows the movie garden did not turn out as planned. The fact that all the seeds turned out to be corn instead of the variety expected didn’t help. But the head-high corn did make for a splendid hide-out for the “secondhand” lion that the brothers decided to import to the farm.
My 91-year-old “housemate” no longer gets horseback. The knee replacements of a decade or so ago worked out fine. But they still don’t have the bounce of the originals and the old hips won’t allow for getting the back leg over the cantle even with a step or two up. To compensate some, he has doubled down on his supervisory role. And this spring he has decided again to give gardening a try.
To be honest, the only real successful gardening that I recall from either of us goes all the way back to my high school days. We had a large tractor tire laying in the corner of a horse lot next to the fence. I was instructed to haul some of the potential “soil” from a stud stall to be mixed with some sand. The mixture was filled into the middle of the tire and strawberries were planted. They turned out great.
But that is about the extent of the gardening success, mostly due to lack of attention when the truth is told. But back in that more simple time, there were always plenty of garden items supplied from friends and relatives who were more inclined to the task. The main crops were tomatoes and okra. And for about three weeks I could expect those two in every evening meal towards the end of July. In those high school and college days, that time meant I was usually running hills in the night cool to get ready for two-a-days and fighting down the still fresh taste of tomatoes and fried okra with every step. Some memories just never go away.
There was a period of time when there was consistently a quality variety of garden produce grown on our place. But it was the handiwork of a pretty good hand who worked for Dad for about ten years. He always had a good garden spot behind the corrals and there was plenty to gather at any time. He always had several rows of peppers and was considerate enough to mark the rows that he called “gringo peppers” to avoid any surprises for those with weaker palates.
I will admit that both the “housemate” and myself take more pride in growing grass than vegetables, and we’re pretty good at it. So the plot in question might not be a candidate for “Garden of the Season”. It actually looks a little ragged out. After tilling the ground, some rain and neglect left it a little grown up with both grass and weeds before the planting started. But that was solved with a doze of Roundup. But there are now two rows of tomatoes among the dead and brown grass and weeds. Okra, squash and two varieties of melons are also showing green just above the black soil and between the clumps of brown grass.
I have bought Dad the newest gardening book from the acknowledged expert of this region and he has been trying to follow instructions, as best he can. The other day he was dishing out fertilizer carefully with a spoon. The only other time I have ever seen him fertilize a garden plot was been the tractor pulling a two-ton fertilizer spreader by the edge of a plot while we were putting nitrogen out on grass hay. These are a changing times.
By the movie’s end, the brothers had reached their 90s but boredom had encouraged them to try flying an old airplane upside down through the hall of a barn. They missed the hall. But they did manage to hit the rest of the barn and forfeited their chances of making 100.
I don’t expect any such boredom to overtake either of us but I do happen to know the fellow who delivered the airplane to the pair in the movie. I am pretty sure he doesn’t have any left in stock.
But there are other distractions and even some action from time to time. I have seen a very young grandson rope and drag his first calf to the branding fire this spring. So I suppose some things have a way of going on regardless of the virus.
And thanks to spring rains and a little time, bluestem hay is almost past time for cutting. So we are making ready the cutters and tractors for me to begin that task but under close supervision!
With a storm pending from the southeast, I checked the vegetable plot this afternoon. Don’t worry about the acreage involved. Even if it were all corn as in the movie, it would hardly provide jungle cover for a cottontail rabbit. We know our limits!
In my considered opinion, the melons have a better than even chance. The squash and okra will probably offer some returns as well. But less I am a poor judge of tomato plants, most of the tomatoes we get to the table will have to be “secondhand”.Published in