The End of the Row

By Bill Shepard

The gardening season is upon us. Here in the Upstate, it is a little late this year. Winter stayed over into spring, causing folk to be a little slow about getting outside. One white rose bush that has never failed to furnish me with a white rose bud to wear on Mother’s Day, failed me this year.

The past few days of slow rain falling, followed by bright sunshine, have been helpful in getting seed to germinate, making the future look promising for a good crop of vegetables in my garden. If the rabbits, deer, groundhogs and ground moles will spare me, I should have a good crop of vegetables, even if they are a little late.

At the age of 96-years-old, I ask myself why I am planting another garden. I suppose the answer is that which I have heard so many times; you have heard it also. Just in case you haven’t, here it is again:

“You can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy.”

My dad was a country boy and spent a large part of his life working another man’s land (called sharecropping), before he moved to Darlington and began working at the mill. I never knew a year that my dad did not plant a large vegetable garden. Besides the food being good and healthy for his family, he enjoyed planting and seeing his garden grow.

I suppose Dad gave me his “garden gene” and I have nurtured it and kept it alive. I have loved gardening, since I was a little boy. The seed Dad would have left over from his planting, he would give to me and I would dig a place near the house and plant them. It was a pleasure to water them and watch them grow. Except for the time I spent in the military, I have planted my garden each year and I have already begun one for this year.

At this age I ask as well as others, why? I think I have answered that question already. Now you know the story behind this poem-

At the End of The Row
When you come to the end of the row
And the sun is going down,
You know its time for quitting
But you want to make one more round.

Just one more round, you say to yourself,
And then my work will be done.
One more round and then I’ll quit
Twill be the setting of the sun.

So you wipe the sweat from your face,
Pick up your hoe and make a start,
You know full well before you return
It will already be dark.

When you come to the end of life’s row
And the sun is in the west,
Can you look back over the place you’ve been
And feel you’ve done your best?

Or would you like to start again,
Perhaps plant another row,
Make some changes here and there
And a better garden grow.

It matters little what we’d rather,
The Master calls at will
The sun will soon be going down,
And all will then be still – So still!

(7/08/07) At the end of a row in his garden, the words came and he wrote them down.

Mr. Shepard is a native of Darlington, S.C., and a current resident of Piedmont, S.C. He is the author of “Mill Town Boy” and “Bruised”. He has been sharing his tales of growing up in Darlington for decades, and we are delighted to share them each week. His mailing address for cards and letters is: Bill Shepard 324 Sunny Lane, Piedmont, S.C. 29673.

Author: Rachel Howell

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