Monday, July 12, 2010

"Mr. Tom"

All that weeding, hoeing and cultivating early on had paid off he thought, as he pulled the lemon grass and purslane that was niggling it's way right up close to the stems of the pepper plants. Yesserie he thought; gonna look mighty purdy when folks walk by comin' down the hill to watch the parade.

Doc had been planting a garden here on the hill along side Columbia street nigh on to 35 years now. Pretty much planted it these here days for the looks of it more than for any produce he might glean from it. Not to say he didn't relish the crops when they were ripe. In the early days when he and the missus were raising a family and didn't have much money left after paying the mortgage and the taxes, a garden was necessary to help put healthful food on the table. But now his main goal was to impress passers-by with the "art" of it all. His wife still teased him about using his yard stick to make sure everything was placed just so: tomato plants 36" apart in rows 36" apart, green beans 2" apart (thin to 4" apart) in rows 18" apart, and so on. She'd say, "next thing, you'll be using a protractor to lay out the garden." Little did she know that that was exactly what he used when drawing out each year's garden plan.

"Beautiful garden you've got there," said the passerby. " Looks like you'll be eating ripe tomatoes soon?"

"Yes sir, I think so. As long as the blight that wiped out the entire crop last year stays away."

"What are those plants there? asked the visitor.

" Those are eggplant, planted them for the first time last year. The missus cooked up some delicious eggplant Parmesan, I can tell ya that!"

The man sauntered down the hill toward Main St. to find his spot to view the parade and issued one last compliment to Doc; "well sir, you've got a garden to be proud of ."

"Thanks for saying so mister, and enjoy the parade." said Doc.

Doc leaned on the handle of his five pronged cultivator and as he surveyed his handy work, he remembered the day his first met Mr. Tom, nearly 30 years ago. Still don't know if that was his name, but that's what I always called him and he never corrected me thought Doc.

"Cumere hon" said the missus, "there's an old man out on the street staring at your garden."
Peering out the kitchen window doc saw the old duffer.

Doc thought: "he was probably the age then that I am now."

He'd walked out and said: Hey young fella, how ya doin'?

"Hi neighbor" said the old man, "I was just admiring your tomatoes. What kind are they?"

"Delicious" said Doc. It's a brand of heirloom tomato. I bought the seed from Burpee's"

" Boy they're huge," said the visitor.

" Some can get to be a pound or more" said Doc. "Would ya like some?"

"One would be plenty" said the man, just for a taste, if you can spare one."

"Here, let me get you a bag and you take a few."

" no, one'll be 'nuff son, thanks a bunch!"

The following weeks Mr. Tom strolled down the hill and stopped to check the garden. Doc went out and offered him samples of everything when they were ripe but no, Mr. Tom would say, One tomato is plenty Mr. L., One is plenty and thanks abunch.

Mr. Tom came by every week 'til the frost , and Doc tilled the garden under.

"I wonder what ever became of Mr. Tom," thought Doc.

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Blogger Lisa said...

lovely little vingette of gardening, neighbors, and small town living. I really enjoyed and it left me wanting more!

9:01 PM  
Blogger Brian Miller said...

you left me with a wonderful smile...just one, between neighbors...

9:53 PM  
Blogger Tumblewords: said...

Just one. I love this tale of sharing and neighborliness. A charming slice of life.

1:07 AM  
Blogger Stafford Ray said...

What happened to Tom? Nobody shops in an empty store!
Yes, the compliment was payment enough. A lovely soft story.

2:07 AM  
Blogger joanny said...


Your story left me in revery. It conjured up all sorts of images of my neighbors and friends throughout the years and the sharing of heirloom tomatoes and admiring each others gardens, the biggest tomato ever story... it weighted 5 pounds etc... and I wonder what ever happen to so and so all those years is amazing what growing a garden and writing about it can invoke such deep thoughts and emotions.


I have been gone sailing so forgot to write one -- but all I can think of is ketchup.

4:43 AM  
Blogger Kay McKenzie Cooke said...

A lovely story - a wee gem.

7:43 AM  
Blogger willow said...

I'd say Doc had one of them there Libra gardens, all balanced and purdy. (this here Libra know how'n it is)

8:15 AM  
Blogger Helen said...

'mighty purdy' ~ Your Magpie!

1:07 PM  
Blogger RA said...

Such a wonderful story, filled with love and warmth. I'm still smiling... :)

3:34 PM  
Blogger Lyn said...

Sweet as the tomatoes must have been!!

7:49 PM  
Blogger Jingle said...

home, sweet home, tomato, homemade food,
lovely tale!

10:07 PM  
Blogger Suz said...

Rel, I loved the play between the spouses..lovely and loving
and the pride the man felt for his labor that was appreciated
as food for the body and food for the soul....
and Tom...a good guy too
and by the way..I just had to have cold BBQ chicken and tomatoes and mozzarella w/fresh basil and a glass of merlot..because of you..

1:49 PM  
Blogger Churlita said...

So nice. Like seeing a Norman Rockwell painting. In about a month, I should have more tomatoes than I know what to do with.

4:11 PM  
Blogger evalinn said...

That´s a sweet story!

7:36 AM  
Blogger Lena said...

Quite a touching tale with an added huge smile - hadn't heard 'old duffer' in years!

11:11 AM  
Blogger twitches said...

Such a strong voice this narrator has! It was very easy to get drawn in to this piece.

12:32 PM  
Blogger Puss-in-Boots said...

That story leaves me yearning for...what? The days when we spoke to passersby who became regulars; the days of growing our own tomatoes and eggplant; the days of giving some of our hand grown harvest away.

A beautiful vignette, Rel.

4:38 PM  

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