A Response to “Swinging Through the Trees”
a Tour of the Back Yard at Fellowship Street
“When we still had access to the water company lot, Papa had a (in my mind) large vegetable garden there. I remember hanging around him as he prepared the soil and watered things. I don’t know if this was an annual occurrence or I am only imaging it but, once the lot was no longer ours to use, I don’t really remember a veggie garden. Am I forgetting the obvious? Or did things get in the way? Or was it a one or two year thing and then he moved on to something else? I do remember that you had sweet peas along side the garage, facing the clotheslines, and maybe, just maybe, there were some veggies growing in that spot?” J.T.O’Neill AKA Dollywawg from Swinging through the Trees
Also, “Towards the middle (near the persimmon trees) there were grapes as well. Were those the grapes Papa used to make the wine for my wedding?”
OK, JT, here we go: Of course Pa had a large veggie garden on the lot next door, which would eventually become the Pohls’ homestead, but only before the cement storage tank was razed. The garden included the staple of tomatoes, always the big beefsteaks, beets, radishes, and lots of cucumbers. I remember the cucumbers well, because I was weeding them one time, while Pa was out there watering, when one of those nasty critters we called yellow jackets, with the dangly legs, came out from beneath a huge cucumber leaf, and stung me right in my armpit. Owiee.
I felt dumb, for some reason, because the next day we were off to Arcadia Park, for one of those Herculean one-day reunions, that certainly celebrated this event or that. All it meant for us was to see Walt’s girls, who came down maybe every other year on the average, during the sixties. Anyway, the area under my arm was aggravated by my running around, and I felt self-conscious with a band-aid on. At least it wasn’t as bad as the time I was running through that area you referred to as the grotto, when I was hollering something, and again, one of those yellow nasties flew into my mouth, and stung me on the inside of my upper lip.
From the way I was screaming as I entered the house, I am sure Ma thought I was dying. More likely, she shrugged her shoulders, and said, “What now? Let’s go into the bathroom and take a look at it. You’re not going to die.” Well, that was a relief.
When the lot next door was no longer available, the veggie garden moved to the area which would eventually become the swimming pool area. Do you remember Pa using old automotive tires, stacked on top of each other, into which he would plant tomato plants. What needs to be included with your “Swinging Through the Trees” is a description of the evolution of the front yard, bordering Tranbargers’ lot, from the street, back to the lemon tree faucet.
IN THE BEGINNING, there were two rows of rose bushes, one running parallel to the street, and the second running along Tranbagers’ yard. I know, because I weeded them. The area bordered by those rose bushes, was a scruffy lawn, that was loosely maintained and even watered in the summer by our habitual water play, when the faucet could be turned on full blast after lunch, and be allowed to flow all afternoon. At least in later years, the water was flowing into the pool.
The lawn extended back towards the garage area, where it died a natural death due to the presence of the swing set. I sat on that swing one Easter Eve Saturday (a redundancy, if ever one existed) and sang one hundred times consecutively, the following ditty:
“Here comes Peter Cottontail,
Hopping down the bunny trail.
Easter’s on its way.”
And I was not especially amused, when one of our domestic rabbits got out of his cage on the same afternoon, and bolted for the lot which would become the Waltons’ place. I spotted that little critter, just as it ducked into some sort of pipe, small culvert arrangement. “Ah ha. Now I got you Rabbit.” I hunkered down next to that pipe, got my eyes right down to the action, and got two eyeballs filled with scorching-hot sand (or so it seemed) when that rabbit took off into the interior of the pipe, kicking back about ten pounds of sand into my eyes.
“What now? Let’s go into the bathroom and take a look at it. You’re not going to die.” Sigh.
Let’s venture back to the swings, or just behind them, there was a row of those gorgeous Amaryllis flowers, Pink Ladies, or Naked Ladies if you will. The scent from those flowers was so intoxicatingly sweet. Breath-taking. Immediately behind the Naked Ladies, was the clothes line. After the cement slab was put in, the was always a section of bamboo fence, between the edge of the garage and Tranbargers’ house, but not earlier. The clothesline(s) ran parallel to Tranbargers’ back to the discussed fig tree, also marking the spot where the berry bushes began.
There couldn’t have been veggies under the clotheslines, nor where the sweet peas grew, just your aforementioned car/truck/tractor digging complex, under the “small” apricot tree (which out-produced the big apricot tree in later years, all of those thousands of apricots, resting comfortably on the garage roof for the July 4th harvest and pitting extravaganza.)
The grapes Pa probably used to make the wine served at your wedding, were the ones that grew along the base of the tank, mammoth deep purple ones, that were sweet as sugar, only they had seeds. The others that you referred to, were the size of peas, rather than the size of small plums. I remember Pa taking those bottles of wine, from beneath the front of the house, where the gigantic, red, Christmassy flowers grew. They grew just outside the front porch, on the driveway side of the house. Ah. Poinsettias. Pa would inspect the wine, and lick his lips.
And did we really weed the berry gardens? Hell, yes, for a nickel an hour, but as I pointed out once, two nickels still meant three items of great interest at Sav-on Drug Store.
In later years, after the cement slab was put in, and the swimming pool functioning, after cars were being stockpiled across the street, or in Mrs. Downen’s driveway, we finally paved that front part of the yard, in front of the bamboo fence, which concealed the pool from the street. Now there was the pool, and then that little back section of fence, behind which were the clothesline.
Not to be forgotten, the area immediately behind that fence was where we stored the trash cans, that left the premises every Thursday. When we finally contracted with the trash company, to furnish us with the “big red ship, which sails on Thursdays,” we were happy campers. Speaking for myself, “Small minds, small pleasures.”