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The PO's Last Gasp? Or Is There Hope After All?
Seven Years A Grave?
I've been writing on HubPages for almost 7 years now, and it has been quite an experience for me. Some good, some bad, but mostly confusing for an old dirt farmer/ freelance writer. It isn't the same place I first joined, not by a long shot
You should have seen some of the crap HP allowed on here at the time. Indian Auntie hubs—mostly unattractive women in diaphanous garb one wouldn't want to see anyway—and pure spam, some of which received millions of views pretending to be actual complaint departments of well known companies. Yes, we honest authors complained.
Anyhow, I've gone from making dollars a day to now earning pennies. I feel like a ball because I've been bounced from the main HP domain to sub-domains and back to the main domain again. Figure for yourself if they know what they're doing.....I sure as hell don't know and doubt they do either.
HP staff have never been too good at dealing with their writers. I suppose they'll never change until it's too late... like the other now extinct writing sites. Cut me some slack will ya, I'm prohibited from posting in the forums you know. I ask too many hard questions and upset their tea service, I suppose.
At any rate, I felt like a good spring story would possibly raise the hopes of the faithful—and the others of us of a more cynical bent—for the coming year. Yeah right! So, the tale.....
My True Garden Story
I've come to a conclusion concerning gardening. It is an inherited genetic trait. Not that you can't be a good gardener without the gene, it's just harder to not garden if you do have it. I practically grew up in a garden, a vegetable garden for the most part, but my mom made sure there were also some flowers to grace the table with.
Everyone I knew had a vegetable plot of some size or another, even the town folk. Here in southern Georgia not growing your own produce was as unthinkable as not attending church on Sundays. Besides, you had to have something to give the preacher when he came calling, which he did frequently during the two garden seasons we enjoy down here.
Like almost everyone else around here, my parents were farming people, as were their parents, and so on back down the line. Mom and Dad were both born and raised during the Great Depression and knew how times could be tough. They didn't have much money during most of their younger years, but they always had plenty to eat. Perhaps you've heard the song "A Country Boy Will Survive," well everyone ate good out in the country, even in those terrible times
Shortly after my parents married the U.S. became involved in World War II. Despite the fact of my father being in the middle of growing his first tobacco and corn crops, he and two of his brothers were drafted into the army. The younger of my uncles never saw action during his service, the older went to the South Pacific with all of it's many Japanese held islands.
My father , a simple country boy who had never been far from home, was suddenly sent to Fort Benning and from there to Texas for his basic training. "They weren't nothin' to basic training" he would say, "us farm boys was used to following a mule's rear end from dawn to dark and a twenty mile hike weren't anythang." Then he would tell how he and another Georgia farm boy carried this yankee friend of theirs, a city boy, almost half way back to keep him from having to repeat the hike.
Dad, and thousands of other equally disoriented young Americans, were then placed on transport ships to England. He would tell about the nightly bombing raids in London and the people seeking shelter in the subways. He was witness to a V-1 buzz bomb dropping through the clouds and causing devastation to the ancient city. As a young man used to hot sunshine and blue skies, he would say this of England, "I was in England for six weeks and never did see the sun shine.
D-Day was on and my father's company were among a group heading to Normandy for a section designated by the name Omaha beach. I never wanted my father to see "Saving Private Ryan" and he wouldn't anyway. He just wasn't the movie watching type. He went on from Normandy with Patton's army to Paris for the liberation of France. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge, entered into Germany, and helped free some of the remaining Jewish prison camps.
What kept my father going through all of this terrible ordeal? This was one of the few questions he would respond to concerning the war. Like many of his fellow warriors, he chose not to talk about some aspects of being a soldier during this war. But when he did respond to the question you knew how serious he was about the ordeal.
His answer was always the same. "Wherever I was at night, foxhole, tent shelter, or curled up beside a stone wall, whether it was raining, snowing, or sleeting I would think about the garden I would have when I got home. I would imagine how warm it would be and how green everything would look, the taste of familiar foods grown by my own hands, and this would help me relax and drift off to sleep."
He told about having to eat green apples and horse meat when their supplies were cut off and about the struggles of the native population trying to cope themselves. He had to think about something fresh and growing instead of the death and destruction reality offered. I guess you could call it country boy therapy. Whatever, it seemed to work for him.
Dad said sometimes when they were tired and hungry with the snow falling heavily outside the shelter, one of the men would say "hey Georgia boy, tell us some more about your garden." Dad would go into great detail about how good the tomatoes would taste and how mom would fry a chicken better than they had ever tasted. "They didn't seem to understand about turnip greens and boiled peanuts" he said.
"I made my self hungry by describing the food and they were too, but it seemed to make us content for a while and this was the best we could hope for" Dad said. Having grown up in the deep south, he had heard about the "damn yankees" most of his life but he found out they were just people too. He would remain friends with many of his war buddies until he died.
Every year they would have a reunion at one or the other's home town and I had the privilige to meet them and become friends with their children. He was, in many ways, closer to these men than his own brothers. Many would stop on the way to or from Florida and had the chance to eat some of the food Dad had described. Mom couldn't fry the chicken fast enough. I will always cherish those memories.
Well, he finally made it back home and indeed grew fabulous gardens. Some of my very first memories are of being there and helping plant the many vegetables we grew. It was work to me then and I really didn't care for it. My father however, always whistled and hummed as he worked in the garden. But sometimes he would get a faraway look in his eyes for a moment and I knew he was remembering something which happened during the war.
But he wasn't just good at growing garden food, he excelled at any crop he tried to produce. Although he, nor my mother, ever used tobacco in any form, he was famous for his beautiful golden harvest. Whatever you may think of tobacco, it was king then. He and my mom bought a farm and paid for it in two years growing tobacco. This was hard labor people. Tobacco takes most of a year to produce and the process is intricate
Growing up and working on the farm with Dad I learned a lot from him. The older I got the more I appreciated gardening and growing things. In my case it was more exotic plants such as orchids and bonsai trees. I grew vegetables also as you can't buy a decent tomato anymore. But before long it was the whole shebang or nothing. Like my Dad, I needed a little country boy therapy myself and so do most of us.
My dad died while out working in the field one spring evening. He was almost 85 years old and as happy a person as I have ever known. When my mother and I found him lying on the ground beside the tractor, I thought he was asleep. He had been in much pain lately but would never stay inside the house. We knew we would find him dead on the farm someday but this was what he wanted. As he lay there he looked so peaceful and contented.
My father was not a rich man, nor was he famous, but he was loved by everyone. It seemed like he knew everyone in this area. He had given most of the local kids jobs in the summer and they never forgot this when they grew up. They would ask if their own children could learn how to work on Dad's farm like they did. For such a simple man my father had the largest attendance at the wake and funeral than any well-to-do person ever had around here.
Although my father had fine clothes, he wished to be buried in his overalls. I slipped a pair of pliers in the side pocket and a small writing tablet and a two inch long pencil into the bib. A new John Deer cap was placed at his side, (one he had been saving) and he was ready to go. He was a truly religious man and had no doubts as to what lay ahead after death. I think for him heaven would be a garden.
After the funeral and the out of town visitors had left,(many were sons and daughters of former war buddies from all over the U.S.) I hung up my suit and headed out to the garden, only to discover my Mom and brother already there planting potatoes. It was spring and the garden needed planting and certainly dad would approve.
Planting the potatoes and making sure the eyes were pointed up made me think of dad when he would say "don't bend over in the garden granny, you know them tater's got eyes." This line was, of course, purloined by another Georgian, Louis Grizzard, for the title of one of his very funny books. For the most part though, we worked in silence because we were busy thinking about Dad.
Once I thought I heard him humming a tune, like he always did when working in the garden. But then I realized it was just me. I was also thinking about the pleasant look on his face when we found him. I wondered if he was dreaming about gardens. I think I now understand his contentment. It's in the genes I tell you.