Sunday, June 10, 2007

Tending Gardens

Until the age of thirteen or so, I grew up in the northern part of Maryland. The place we rented was a 55 acre farm that, to say was in the sticks, would be an understatement. We were an easy half hour from a mall and if we were seriously hurt, it was a good 45 minutes to an hour from a hospital.

My grandfather lived with us from the time I was six. He was a strong, stubborn, hard-headed goat of a man, but he knew how to run a farm, and he damn sure knew how to tend a garden.

Between him and my mother, I recall gardens of sweet corn, tomatoes, radishes, onions, jalapenos, green peppers, and I know lots of other things I can't remember.

We had chickens, ducks, a couple of pigs, some ponies, cattle, and for a while, a real asshole of a goat that lived on the farm.

Two summers before we moved away to Pennsylvania, I remember one early Saturday morning. Fog drifted down through the valley. The rooster was crowing from the barnyard, letting everybody know it was time to shake their ass out of bed.

And three ducks were in our driveway, their throats ripped open. Other than their shredded necks, their bodies were untouched.

Wasn't the work of a raccoon. Not a fox either.

Nope. This was a Minx. That same fancy-ass furred fiend that evokes the nostalgia of the era of Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra and any number of other icons from that time of life, the old-school gangsters and the starlets who brought style to the high-rolling life.

A Minx. What a mean little fucker he was.

The whole situation was enough to set my grandfather free.

I came to see what was going on out of sheer curiosity. I'm pretty sure I was still in my pajamas at the time. Our driveway was long - longer than you'd imagine - and it ran over a stream that had a huge culvert pipe in the middle to let the water run through.

Which, incidentally, was exactly where the Minx ran to hide.

My grandfather had been around a while. He'd seen some shit go down in his life. He knew how to run a farm, and he knew how to tend a garden.

So he set about doing just that.

He went to the barn and grabbed a can of gasoline, then called my father to grab his shotgun.

He had my father stand on the south side of the culvert pipe, while he went to the north. Then my grandfather poured in a liberal amount of gas in the creek and threw a lit match into the stream.

Immediately the gas fumes caught fire, and the hairline of flames travelled right down into the pipe.

It was a smart play by my grandfather, I'll give him credit. That Minx hauled ass out of there like he had hell hounds on his trail. He came out of that culvert pipe on fire, hissing and howling and making these angry growling noises. Right into the aim of my father's shot gun.

He was nothing but a little thing... roughly the length of a grown man's hand, but damn was he vicious.

Even so, I remember feeling a little sorry for him. Don't get me wrong, I understood why he needed to be rubbed out. He was killing the animals and my grandfather showed no mercy for that kind of shit. If there were any animals to be killed on his farm, he'd be the one to do it and nothing else.

But the thing is... the Minx was following his nature - that's all. He was doing what nature had programmed him to do. And worse, at the end of it all, he was cornered.

And that, to me, is the worst thing of all.

I do the best I can to avoid a couple words in my vocabulary. One is "can't" and the other is "hate."

But to me, even "hate" doesn't quite come close to how I feel... the word "despise" might make the cut... But I absolutely loathe being cornered the most of anything else.

I, at 36 years old, am pretty much an emotional train wreck.

I put myself at the bottom level of importance on many things, putting others wants and needs way before mine. I will sacrifice myself in order to make sure others are provided for, are happy, are taken care of.

I know where this comes from; my mother and her Southern upbringing. I bottle shit up and keep doing it until the emotions spill out.

And yes, before you say it, shaddup. I know it's unhealthy. I''ve no doubt my mental pack-ratting has created the seeds of a thousand ulcers inside me. I've got my methods of dealing - not that they work all the time - but it's a start. On the other side of things, this type of behavior is in my nature as well, just like the Minx.

One of my best friends has told me that he never wants to see me get in a fight because he's afraid to see what this many years of bottled up emotion will do to someone.

I loathe being cornered.

Corner me, and things get... interesting.

Corner me, and I get vicious. I growl and I howl, and hiss my anger or weep my emotions.

Corner me, and I will run to the darkest culvert I can find until I am forced to come out...
and I...
fight back.

To the death if i have to.

Because when you're cornered, there's nowhere else to go.

My grandfather knew how to tend his garden. Back then, I did too.

Just took me a whole lot of years later to remember it.

To grow a decent garden, you need to get rid of the predators. Have to get rid of the weeds.

Sometimes we see beautiful roses of many colors. Sometimes we see vines, weaving their ways through our days, our nights, the very core of our spirit.

Sometimes, the weeds sneak in without you noticing.

But sooner or later, we all need to tend our gardens.

It's been said that you can tell the mettle of a person by looking at their garden. If their backyard is in order, it's a good bet their life by the same. That or they're making enough pocket change to hire a good landscaper.

My yard? Oh hell, right now it's got thistle in it. It's got chickweed and wild violets running rampant. Poison Ivy has run amok. Right now my garden's a mess.

But there are beautiful flowers there too, if you know where to look. But the weeds... all I can do is keep trying.

Just keep trying.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now I know why I felt I had to go to Guppy's tonight.

But I don't know if it was a good idea. Sorry that I couldn't read this earlier.

Keep in mind that some wild flowers can easily be mistaken for weeds.

2:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


9:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Even though this is super personal and emotional, why not write a novel with this point of view? The words flow without effort and is magnetic to anyone who would read it. It's time to stop writing about others and really dig deep my man. I'm not saying to avoid horror or to write a true life story, just be inspired to write where your imagination takes you from your own point of view. I love the title "tending gardens" also.


5:05 PM  

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