Friday, February 11, 2005

The Dynamite Salesman's Girlfriend

This is a true story that I promise you ends up in the garden, but it takes a while to get there: you're going to have to walk with this one for a while. The last house we lived in was a small, converted summer cottage on a nearby lake. The neighbors were close and therefore rather close-knit, so my wife and I went to some length to try and fit in, but our nearest neighbors remained a little stand-offish, and I later learned that the neighbor gal thought that we were sort of noisy troublemakers.Now this was admittedly true, but I still thought it was a little unfair, as it was our FRIENDS who caused most of the noise, and besides it was well known in the neighborhood that this gal had formerly lived in that same house with a different guy, a boyfriend who was renting the place, and was a dynamite salesman , who later went on the lam from the law (for what reason, nobody knew), leaving this gal imminently houseless, as the owner had then put the house on the market. Another guy came along, and bought it, and the next thing anybody knew, she was living there with the new guy, and later married him. Either she really liked that house, or it was a case of love on first sight, or there was a piece of the story that was missing, but this was all that my other neighbor could tell me about it. At any rate, she was very pretty and well-spoken, but I always had the feeling she had a hidden tattoo, if you know what I mean. Still, I tried to be on my best behavior around her, but it was very slow going. Then one snowy March, a squirrel got into our house and became trapped in the dead space above the ceiling panels, where he would run back and forth as we lay in bed at night. Now this didn't bother me much, but my wife wasn't keen on it, so I came up with several clever schemes to trap him, including running over to wherever I heard him, climbing up on the stepladder and popping up that ceiling panel, and sticking my head up in the dead space, with a flashlight in one hand and a long handled fish net in the other. Nothing worked, and then one morning when we got up he was sitting in the middle of the carpet, looking rather the worse for wear; sort of like a big dust bunny with eyes. Being the quick-witted guy that I am, I ran and got my long, leather fireplace gloves, and because of his weakened condition I was able to grab him. It was then that I realized it was 6 A.M., there was a foot of snow on the ground outside, and I was standing in the middle of the living room holding a now-struggling squirrel with my fireplace gloves and I was otherwise stark naked. There was nothing for it but to have my wife hold open the back door, and I ran out into the snow, holding the squirrel at arm's length. (You can just get any jokes you were trying to make up about squirrels gathering nuts, out of your mind right now!) Anyway, being a kind soul, I didn't want to just drop him in the snow, as in his state I thought he'd just flounder about, attracting a hawk or owl, so I ran him over to the Sycamore tree, where the squirrels hung out, eating our birdseed and figuring out how to get into the house. Just as I got there I looked up to see the neighbor gal coming up her walk on her way to work. I couldn't even wave, having my hands full. They moved to Seattle soon after, forgetting to leave us their new address so we could keep in touch. Well, neighbors (especially ours) come and go, but the squirrel was o.k., and I still have the gloves. We soon moved to our present house, and to garden, I had to first clean out the poison ivy in the woods, which I've done by putting on my old fireplace gloves and with a long garden fork I go out and pull it up by the roots, and that's when my sister-in-law, who's a master gardener from California , took my picture (which appears below) when she came to visit us and to see our garden. There, I told you this was a gardening story! Gardening can be a solitary hobby at times but one of the things I love about it is the connection it gives me to other people; it connects me to those who have given or traded me plants over the years, and to those who visit to see our garden, like my S.I.L., and even to my former neighbor, wherever she may be.

Thank you for some of the best garden writing around! I could barely tear myself away for "Victory Garden." Not that I mind the backache sitting at my computer gives me, but have you thought about publishing? (No, I'm not a publisher.)
Shuckins'(as we say in Iowa), thanks for the compliment. Seriously,I don't actually think I could ever publish anything, because I'm too intellectually lazy and too easily distracted to seriously polish stuff.
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