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Overdue Ode

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When I was twenty-two, I bought a house.  My dad chuckled at the elderly gentleman next door as he watched us move me in.  Daddy said he was trying to decide what kind of trouble I was going to bring to his peaceful neighborhood.

Mr. Campbell was in his sixties when I moved into my little house.  He eyed me warily for some time.  I think what broke the stand-off was when my little kitten disappeared, and I knocked on his door asking if he’d seen Jack.  He hadn’t, but he came out of his house to help me look for him.  Told me about how his daughter loved kittens too.  Then, as reassurance I suppose, he told me he didn’t think he was dead because we would smell him.

From there, we developed an easy, if tentative, relationship with each other.  I’m not sure Mr. Campbell knows how much I admired him.  I regret that I didn’t make sure he did.  When I moved next door, he couldn’t read.  I’ll never forget the pride and sparkle in his eyes when he told me that he’d reached the fourth grade level.

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I looked for a picture of my house, but this is all I have on the computer.  It was in the last year of living next door to Mr. Campbell, and though his health was failing, you can see he still had a small garden close to his persimmon tree.

He had a deadly aim with his shot-gun.  Killed a groundhog, or something in that family, from his back door that was eating his greens.  But what was most important to him was coming next door to let me know that had the shot been too close to my dog, Daisy, who was in her lot, he wouldn’t have taken it.  Then, like a little boy, he asked me to come see his kill and pointed out the green teeth of the collard thief.

Collards. Peppers. Cabbage. Squash. Tomatoes. Eggplant. Green beans. Broccoli. You name it, he grew it.  It took a while for him to offer his bounty to me. My favorite was when he asked if I liked collards.  I said, yes sir! Especially how my grandma cooked them.  He walked over to the collard patch, yanked up the whole plant, and handed it to me.  I’m sure he was amused at my face as I stood there holding the plant, roots dropping dirt at my feet.  He chuckled, told me how to clean them, then said, “You call your grandma to find out how to cook ’em.”

And that’s what I did.  They were good.  Not hers, but good.

Mr. Campbell never came into my house, and I never went into his.  But we looked out for each other.  I’d lived there for about fifteen years when I put a sign for my church in my front yard.  He walked over to make sure it wasn’t a “For Sale” sign.  That’s when he told me.

“I couldn’t ask for a better neighbor, Miss Season.”

I couldn’t either, Mr. Campbell.

Mr. Campbell died not long after Steven and I got married.  It made moving not quite as difficult.

We didn’t have a fence, but I was lucky to have good neighbor.

My First Garden–All By Myself

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This summer I decided to plant a garden.  I’ve lived in my house for almost fifteen years and never attempted to grow my own veggies.  Probably because I have not so great memories of the labor I did in the family garden growing up–moving rocks, picking beans, squash, maters, corn, okra, cucumbers, snapping beans and snapping beans and did I mention snapping beans?

But, nonetheless, I decided to give it a shot this year. My original list of plants included tomatoes, green beans, cucumbers, squash, egg plant, and corn. (I know this because it’s still on the white board beside the front door.) I never got the egg plant or the corn, but I hiked up the hill to my school’s green house and got the rest plus some jalepeno pepper plants (with visions of salsa in my head) and hurried home to start gardening–knowing next to nothing about it.

My next door neighbor Mr. C, who is in his seventies, gardens all year long.  Twelve months there’s something growing in his yard that will turn into something yummy in a pot or pan.  He congratulated me on my raised beds (compliments of my brother), and I eagerly awaited veggies.

There have been some successes.  I have great luck with what I call “tiny tomatoes” (because it’s more fun to say than cherry tomatoes).  They’re really yummy in scrambled eggs with some Mexican style four cheese.  My first harvest was four tiny tomatoes and two green beans.

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And those are my successes.  Tiny tomatoes and two green beans.  I’ve not gotten any more green beans.  My peppers? They drowned.  And my cucumbers–well, they turned out to be squash.

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I think I’ll just keep being grateful for the gracious gifts of Mr. C’s expertise–which includes potatoes and cabbage and zucchini and collards and . . .seasonedcampbellveggies