Fresh vegetables! ... on a nippy October morning. Man alive!
Out to get the morning paper, it wasn’t until I came back up the drive and into the carport that I noticed three plastic bags stuffed with all sorts of stuff hanging on the doorknob.
What first caught my eye was a half-dozen or so lovely red tomatoes. “Gotta go to Winn-Dixie and pick up a pack of that $10 thick-sliced Wright’s bacon,” was my first thought.
There was more.
A nice “mess” of green beans, all sorts of peppers, and (gasp) fresh collards.
On the phone, I went looking for the stranger who loves beggars.
My first thought was Joe Hays, a buddy who lives over the hill and keeps me in tomatoes during the summer.
“Not me,” said Joe. “All I’ve had lately were just a few small tomatoes, hard as a rock. Put out some late ones, the rain got ’em.
My next guess was Richard Shipman, a really nice guy who spends his days in an Alabama Power Company bucket truck trouble-shooting problems. We’re buddies and sometimes he drops by with tomatoes.
“Not me,” said Richard.
Then I called a sister who has a son-in-law who loves the dirt about as much as Joe Hays. His name is Dale Cox.
“Couldn’t have been Dale,” she said. “He didn’t even have a garden this year.”
(I’m still in a bit of a shock over that one.)
Finally, there was Oscar, as in Robertson, next door.
Another: “Nope, wasn’t me.”
Now, to whomever it was who put that two dollars in the beggar’s cup on the way to my house with all that nourishment for my body as well as soul:
“Thank you, thank you, thank you ...”
Except for the collards. Didn’t like collards as a boy, didn’t like collards as a father, don’t like collards as a grandfather. The blonde loves them, so does Julia Burton (one of the great ladies I’ve ever known). And I had barely put the collards on the kitchen counter when Julia started washing and the blonde got out a big pot for water and a touch of salt.
An old story by the late Bert Lance came to mind.
Lance, at the time a banker in Calhoun, Ga., had a farming friend I’ll call Fred. Lance would loan Fred money to make his crop. Fred would come in to pay up in October.
On this particular visit, Fred invited Lance to “supper Saturday night. The wife will cook us up something special.”
“When I walked in, Fred’s wife was frying chitlins and boiling collards. It’s the only place I’d ever been where the flies were trying to get out of the house.”
With that memory and another memory of collards cooking at my grandmother’s house, I told the two that “There’s a gas burner on the grill outside. Cook those things out there.”
But after about 30 minutes it came to me I could smell the collards cooking just walking across the patio. It also occurred to me that a backyard abundant with God’s creatures was as silent as a funeral home parlor before visitation.
With that, I rest my case.
From this beggar I thank you very much for the tomatoes, the green beans, the peppers. The blonde and Julia thank you for the collards.
There is one other thing. After cooking the collards on a windy and chilly patio, the blonde suggested that next time I “might need a rubber mattress for my barn for a couple of nights.”
Collards in, me out ...
George Smith can be reached at 256-239-5286 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org