by Carl Wayne Hardeman
If I had my druthers, we would live in the country rather than in town, but jobs are where they are. Going to the country is not just changes in latitude; itís changes in attitude, as Jimmy Buffet phrases it. The air is purer. You can see stars at night. You can sit on the porch and know most everyone who goes by, and everyone waves. You know your neighbors, and help them when they need help, and vice versa, without having to be called by the church committee leader.
We are, however, fortunate to have a place in the country to go to near the Hurricane community in northwest Pontotoc County, Mississippi. There, we have Mimiís parents, Ralph and Opal Graham, to be with and learn from, and take home ripe maters, canned mater juice, fresh okra, delicious fried pies, and for many years fresh shelled butterbeans, butterpeas, and purplehull peas. We also have their hard won wisdom and advice to bring home, mostly learned from observing their ways.
While we were visiting Ralph and Opal several weeks ago, Rack Warren came by to give them homegrown watermelons. They, too, have given fresh garden produce to friends and neighbors all their lives.
And Opal had made delicious fried pies from figs they got from Mr. Clovis Russellís trees. He didnít garden this year, the first time in his 87 years.
I thought of that song as we watched a whirlwind race across the yard picking up dry leaves from the silver poplar tree. A sure sign of late summer and dry weather, the leaves are drying up on silver poplars and river birches, yellow poplarsí leaves are turning yellow, and the blackgum trees have a few leaves turning a radiant red hue.
After Ralph and Opal assured me I could make a late crop, I bought some Kentucky Wonder pole bean seeds and set them in flats of potting soil. Itís a race with the weather as they mature in 66 days.
The late summer garden of okra, crowder peas, squash, and cucumbers has begun to bloom. The two oldest granddarlings have offered to help gather from this garden and take to the Food Pantry for the needy. That does my heart good to see them interested in a garden and interested in helping others, just like their great-grandparents in Pontotoc County.
Carl Wayne tells us about himself:
"I write gardening articles for the Collierville, Tennessee, Independent, the Southaven, Mississippi, Press, and Desoto Magazine, all from a Southern perspective. I point out the correct pronunciation of ants (aints) and peonies (peOnies) and advise always to plant hydrangeas on the north side of the house. I've been in software development forty years, the last twenty with a large overnight express delivery company. I have taught computer science as adjunct faculty at local universities over twenty-five years. We have a small farm in Pontotoc County, Mississippi, where we raise a large garden with my in-laws. My in-laws were there when the REA strung the first electric wires in that area. They were killing hogs. That night for supper they had liver and lights."
Read more of Carl Wayne's stories at USADS:
Me and Mimi in the Garden
Mississippi ~ the Soul of Dixie
Slide down my cellar door!
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