It’s gardening time again …but watch out for snakes
By Bill Shepard
The calendar has already announced that spring is here and that means it is time to think about gardening. Here in the Upstate of South Carolina, planting time is a little slower in coming than when I was a boy and living in Darlington. There, we planted on Good Friday every year. It seems that folks on the village where I grew up had some kind of religious superstition that seed planted on Good Friday would germinate and come up quicker than at other times. I held on to that tradition that I had inherited from my dad for a long time. When I came to the Upstate an old farmer approached me with some sound advice. He said he had seen me planting my garden on Good Friday even though the weather was still cold. Said the old farmer, “You can’t plant as early in the Upstate as you did in Darlington.” Then he added, “You watch me and when you see me planting cotton then you plant your garden and it will grow better.” Though I moved from that location long ago, and there are no cotton farmers where I live now, I follow the old farmer’s advice. I wait for the nights to get warm and then my plants will grow off better. I love gardening! My dad was a farmer before moving to Darlington to work in the cotton mill. Mill work was hard and the hours spent at the mill were long, but I cannot remember a year that dad did not plant a garden. There is a saying that “you can take a man out of the country but you can’t take the country out of the man.” That was true with my dad. Farming was in his DNA and I inherited it from him. Even as a little boy I would help dad plant his garden and when we finished, dad would give me the leftover seed. I would dig a place in the yard and plant my own little garden. There haven’t been many years of my adult life that I did not plant a garden! The size of my gardens have varied depending on the space I had. Here in Piedmont I have a large garden space and I will plant my 17th garden this season. My neighbor often said that I was the only person she had ever seen who worked his garden with a hoe in one hand and a walking stick on the other! I laugh and tell folk that I am trying this year to attach a plow to my “walker” so that I can push it along a straight row. When I was active in the pastoral ministry, I often meditated on the sermons I would preach on Sundays while working in my garden. Once I did an entire series of sermons and titled the series “Sermons from the Garden.” One morning, I arose early and went to my garden to begin work. My neighbor called to me, “Mr. Shepard, there is a snake in your garden!” Sure enough, I found the snake and chased it out of my garden. That next Sunday, I went to my pulpit and announced my sermon title … You guessed it, “There’s a Snake in Your Garden, Chase it Out!” If there are any preachers reading this I bet you know the direction I followed with that title!