"Starts! Early Girl corn! You know we always plant from seed. We used to buy seed- you and me, for 25 cents a pack. You paid $1.49 for 8 starts. And you should have bought Golden Jubilee corn."
"I know Dad, but we're 2 weeks behind already; and it's 2011, not 1965. Things cost alot more these days. And my garden is so tiny compared to ours. I only needed a few starts. But look Dad, I got the Blue Lake beans...and they're pole beans, not bush; just like we always planted."
I sense his pleasure with this choice and run home to plant the beans.
I learned to plant a garden from my Dad. We had an older cottage on an acre of ground that Mom used to call 'Ray's Little Acre.' Shortly after we moved there he was diagnosed with emphysema. Probably from all of the sawdust he breathed in as a millwright-that and those Winston cigarettes. He was pretty short of breath most of the time, but this never stopped him from planting an expansive garden out back behind the house. I helped. That was our job; Dad's and mine.
First, old man Geiger from down the road would drive over with his Farmall tractor. It didn't take many passes until the soil was rich, espresso-brown furrows. Then we'd rake it for hours, tossing all the rocks into the field beyond. No matter how deep you dug, there were always more rocks. Why is that, I wonder?
After this, we'd cover it with cow manure. Not too fresh mind you, or the plants would burn. Cow manure wasn't hard to come by in our parts. If you're a city dweller, you might think that it would stink. But it didn't...really! It had a pleasant sort of musky odor, not unlike the smell of a horse-and nothing smells better than a horse!
Then came the fun. Planting. I'd put a ball of twine around a stick. Then with Dad at one end and me at the other, we'd lay nice straight rows to plant by. Using the twine as a guide, he'd make furrows in the soil with the corner of his hoe-blade. If we were planting things like radishes or carrots, we made shallower furrows using the handle of the hoe. And did I mention that hoe! What a beauty! I've never seen one since. The handle was painted with green, red, orange, and yellow stripes. Each stripe was a certain length, so that you could easily measure the distance between your hills of beans or corn or spuds. Oh how I'd love to have that old hoe today!
My rows of beans today weren't nearly as straight as Dads. I didn't use twine; and I guessed on the distance between. I stop to talk to him about it.
"These rows are a little wobbly, I know Dad. You always made the nicest rows. Even made me redo mine when they were crooked. Guess it's good you're not here to make me do this over. Just the same, I wish you were. And I wish I had that old hoe of yours...my spacing would be better. I'll never forget watching you trudging down the garden rows with that hoe in your hand; smashing a clod of dirt with the blade... pulling up a bunch of quack-grass... and leaning on it to catch your breath. No, I dunno where I'm gonna get poles for the beans. I remember you used to make them by splitting 2x4's. I don't have any 2x4's Dad, and I wouldn't want Kelly to split them if I did. He might get hurt. Laugh if you want, but admit it, you were pretty handy with an axe, that's for sure. But Kel, well, he's pretty handy with a car. He's no sissy-pants!"
Again I sense Dad's approval-- that I didn't marry a 'sissy-pants'. That's what he called men who didn't work with their hands. That was also his special name for my older sister Linda. It was OK for her to be a sissy-pants, because she was a girl.
"I would never marry a sissy-pants, Dad. I think you'd like Kelly. He's funny. My boys? No they aren't sissy-pants either. I taught them to do lots of stuff. You'd like them too. Sam looks alot like you. Tall, dark, very quiet. Like you Dad."
With my little bit of planting done, I slowly straighten up, using my hoe to steady me. I'm a little bit sore, but thank God, I'm not short of breath like Dad used to be. Nonetheless, I lean on the hoe for a moment to survey my little garden plot.
"I might get enough beans to can this year, Dad. Yes, I know I need a pressure canner. I'll have to buy a new one. The kids wrecked the old one some years back. They took it down to the creek and tried to mix clay in it. Gummed up the pressure valve. Yep, there were fish in the creek. Squalicum creek. Sam used to catch trout all summer long in that little creek. Didn't I tell you so Dad...he's a lot like you! Yes I'll talk to Mom before I can those beans. Well, I guess I'd better clean up now...Bye Dad. Love You. Hokey Pokie Billie Okie-Tomcat!"
Dad knows what that means.
|Dad and his aunt Ada|
|Dad and Sarge|