Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta
From the 50s and 60s to today . . .
All of My Friends
Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Planting . . . Panties
Mom, Chris and Jerry, 1951 PD (Pre-Diane)
Mom was a gardener.
One of those . . . mmmajor gardeners.
I’m almost certain that her garden produced enough to feed the entire country of England . . . or Russia . . . or the entire southern hemisphere . . . or . . . someone stop me!
And because Mom was a gardener, her kids were gardeners, albeit reluctant ones.
On any given day, you could find one bonneted head, several blonde towheads and at least one redhead bent over the various plants, being more or less productive.
We all had our assignments.
I was four. My job was to watch. Oh, and eat peas. Our family produce patch covered about 2 acres, give or take.
The rows were probably about 40 feet long, but to a four-year-old, they stretched to Argentina. (I didn't exactly know where that was, but it had a sort of far away-ish sound to it.)
The patch was surrounded by pine trees. Tall, lush, they had been planted by my father in his youth – that is a story – and now provided perfect shade for a small body who wanted to be out with the others.
But suffered from a short attention span. So there I sat, whiling away the hours.
Mostly, I lay on the cool grass and made life miserable for the ants and other small, harmless creatures.
But deep beneath the overhanging branches of the towering pines were patches of dirt. And I discovered that it was fun to dig in that dirt and – don’t tell my mother – plant stuff. I know you're wondering what a four-year-old would have to plant.
And that is the point of this story . . .
All pea seeds had gone into the mouth.
Hmmm. The pods were there. That was a no-brainer. But that only took a short while.
Those had been kicked off when I had first hit the garden and were now lying abandoned in one of the rows, waiting to be discovered by the roto-tiller.
Taking stock, I discovered that my feet were at least partially covered by socks formerly known as white. They slipped off easily. A little furrow in the dirt and voila! A perfect place for a future ‘sock tree’.
The gardening bug had hit. I just had to plant! I just had to plant! My mother had tried to instill in me the need for modestly, so removing anything obvious, like blouse or skirt was not even considered.
What else did I have that I really didn't need?
I had it!
Panties. And cute, blue ones, with little darker blue flowers.
They would produce something lovely, I was sure!
Off they came, and into the little trench dug specifically for them.
I patted the dirt into place. Perfect.
Job completed, I crawled out from under the tree.
Mom was down the row of beans just in front of me, sitting back on her heels and waving her bonnet in front of a flushed face. She turned and smiled at me, obviously noticing nothing. Feeling giddy with a sense of accomplishment, I joined her, offering to help pick the beans. She nodded gratefully and I squatted in my abbreviated skirts to begin. I don’t remember what was said. Only a gasp and then strong hands propelling me unceremoniously back to my ‘garden’.
Once there, I was ordered to dig up every article.
I stared up at her, aghast.
The whole garden?
We're talking days worth of 'gardening'! Mentally, I tallied it up. Hats, tools, shoes, George’s new toy, my new toy, several spoons.
With a decidedly aggrieved air, I began to half-heartedly push at the dirt, only to uncover . . . nothing.
No clothes, no toys, not even one spoon.
I dug deeper.
Where could they be?
I crawled out from under the tree and stared up at it. Was I in the right place?
I looked at the tree next to it.
Surely. How could I be mistaken?
Back into my ‘hidden garden’ which, incidentally, was becoming more hidden by the minute.
We never did recover the things I had buried, though my mother turned up the dirt beneath every tree surrounding the garden.
Where could they have gone?
We’ll never know, now, but if being a successful gardener means planting things, I am an expert.
If it also means that something is supposed to grow, I’m not. Hmmm. Burying things so they’ll never . . . NEVER be found. It sounds as though my mother was really training me for . . . piracy.
Diane was born and raised on one of the last of the great old Southern Alberta ranches. A way of life that is fast disappearing now. Through her memories and stories, she keeps it alive. And even, at times, accurate . . .