By Bill Shepard
According to the calendar, springtime is officially here. Experience has taught me that “old man’s winter” is a reluctant loser! He will fight to hold on to his position, but in the end he always surrenders. I am glad that he does, and I suspect I am with the majority. Bring it on!
I am an avid gardener, whatever that is. I think it means that I like to spend time working in my garden. My wife says that she has never known anyone that likes to dig in the dirt more than I, and now that the days are warmer, I can’t wait to get started.
I’ve been planting and harvesting gardens as long as I can remember! I think I inherited that trait from my Dad. During the lean years of the “Great Depression” the vegetable garden behind our house made a big difference during the long summer months.
Each year, as spring approached, Dad would clear the garden plot of last year’s debris. That being done, he would send for the village handyman to come and plow the good earth. I liked that time most of all. Old Tom, the ploughman, would allow me to drive the mule, as we followed around and around plowing the soil. The cool dirt would feel good to my bare feet.
Good Friday was the day that Dad planted his garden! It was a tradition handed down to him, and one that I have followed also. I would follow behind my Dad as he would drop the seed into the freshly plowed earth. Sometimes he would allow me to drop the seed and he would say, “Put three seeds to the hole!” I never understood the “why” he did that, but I thought it had something to do about the crucifixion of Jesus and His being in the grave for three days before his resurrection! I knew that Dad had been a farmer in Chesterfield County and folk said that the land there was so poor that you put three seeds in every hole when planting, one to push, one to pull, and one to come up! I really think that Dad was following a tradition that had been handed down to him, ad he handed it to me! The seed left over from planting, Dad would give to me and I would dig a little space nearby and plant my own garden. My garden never produced a lot of vegetables, but it made a lot of good memories! Here I sit with all those memories playing chase through my mind.
My neighbor likes to plant a garden each year, and we talk about our garden all during the winter, and when gardening time comes we share the vegetables we grow. Often when I am at work, my neighbor will come to where I am and watch as I wipe the sweat from my face. I will stop; lean on my hoe-handle and say, “This is my last year I will plant a garden!”
My friend will smile and say, “How much you want to bet?!” He has heard that line before.
My neighbor likes to tell folks that I am the only person he has ever known to work a garden with a hoe in one had, and a walking stick in the other. He will really be surprised this year! My Doctor prescribed a walker to help me in getting around. Ever since I got it, I have been trying to find a way to attach a plow to the front of it. Picture that in your mind! My neighbor will be surprised when he sees me pushing my “walker” and plowing a row through my garden. Where there is a will, there is a way!
Mr. Shepard is a native of Darlington, S.C., and a current resident of Piedmont, S.C. Signed copies of Mr. Shepard’s books “Mill Town Boy” and “Bruised” are available for purchase at the News and Press office. He has been sharing his tales of growing up in Darlington for decades, and we are delighted to share them each week.