It looks like rain will be moving in later this Sunday evening.
Every time I get this yard work under control, the clouds spill water on my work and the weeds jump for joy.
The insects. Hungry mosquitoes, flies, super-sized knats and eager bees are really bugging me this season. Even though I wear suitable attire, the huge army of vampires seem to go for my old skin.
They use my age spots as landing pads and seek out my thinned out blood.
They did a number on my face and forearms. One poked around near my jugular vein. Poison ivy hasn't been kind to me either.
It doesn't pay to wear a ponytail. A small bug saw an opening, a shortcut he thought, toward the other side of my head. That was one little bug in the ear too many. I screamed and he backed out.
Next week, I have an appointment with the dermatologist to check on newly-surfaced skin lesions of greater concern.
I decided that I would do some tilling, a continuation of the work Paul accomplished earlier, before he went to work at Sears. After I went around the garden spot a couple of times, one of the belts stretched and stressed to the limits and couldn't take the heat and left the machine. I knew when little black fibrous rubber vs. belt began to unravel, its long life was over.
Sixteen years ago, my later father purchased the tiller for me, shortly after he could no longer tend to his four flourishing gardens. The year was 1993. Dad successfully planted the gardens same as he did since 1940. The first planting/growing season at the homestead that he loved so well.
The sweet corn had been planted and misses replanted. The pumpkin seeds Bix Max and Connecticut Field had germinated. Sturdy plants were already spreading their wings, happily keeping company with the up-shoots of Henry Field's best buys.
The north garden's layout was the same as I remembered from years before, when the hoe handle first fit my hand. Tomatoes, bell peppers, root vegetables, such as carrots, sweet potatoes, turnips, beets and parsnips, all lined up in perfectly spaced rows, a sight to see.
Two rows of popcorn, strawberry and Indian was planted on the north side of the spot near the old well.
My father loved greens -- endive, spinach, Swiss chard, collards and leafy lettuces' galore. He was a healthy eater that ate heartily. Several rows of seeds yielded enough for the family and half of "Stringtown" and beyond.
"Bring your own dishpan and take all you need," the kind gardener would offer up, stretching the thin blackened trademark mustache above his broad smile to the limits. The harvesters came, some more than once.
Along the north garden's welded wire fence, just beyond the weather beaten wooden gate and the locust post that I sunk and set, a nice roll of a mix of several varieties of playful gourd starts had already started to scale the rusty garden barrier.
It was clear to all that dad had a green thumb.
The potato patch grew smaller when my siblings and I left the next, but still then, he managed to plant at least shorter six rolls of spuds from the cuts of the remainder of the previous year's crop. He loved new potatoes, boiled in their jackets or creamed.
Pie pumpkins and some tall "six shooter" corn filled the remaining spaces.
That would be his last gardening season. That year, he was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. The prognosis was not good. He became too weak to carry on with his passion, well before it was time to bring in the bounty.
One day, before it was time to tear up the soil again and lay some up against the roots of the corn, his old tiller gave out. The tired, ailing fellow poked it with a hickory cane that he was grasping by the crook. My brother and I watched as he moved about the old overworked and weathered garden tiller. Parts of the body held on with baling wire.
Then my dad came up with a solution. He said, "Here is what I want to do. I am going to buy the tiller like the one I saw in a Tractor Supply store ad. It look like a honey. Johnny, when can you take Mary Lou to look at it?"
With blank check in hand, my late brother took me shopping after a call on Graham Grain that afternoon and we purchased and delivered that shinny red workhorse and receipt to a much satisfied customer.
The old man grinned and looked at me and said, "Mary Lou, I bought that for you as a gift with two stipulations. Help keep my gardens going and let me take it for a couple rounds, when I feel up to it."
Sadly, he never made the rounds.
Well, the chemo started and you know the rest. It didn't help. By the springtime rolled around again, cancer had ravaged his frail frame and on June 7, 1994, he died at age 84.
The gardens are smaller now, but still going, as is the shinny little tiller. The gift that keeps on giving.
Love lives on.
I can be reached at 446-4852 or by e-mail at email@example.com.