My Grandparent’s house sat at 319 Stolp Street in Medicine Lodge, west of the Skinner’s. The Skinner house always seemed like a castle to me when I was a little girl; it sat up higher than the two houses to the west of it and was a brick cottage style.
Next door west of the Skinners lived the Riggins who were good friends of my Grandparents. Then the next house west was my Grandparent’s house. The front yards were open to each other with Grandfather’s driveway running between them. His garage was detached and sat behind the house, right next to the property line.
There was a wire fence that started at the back of Riggin’s house and ran the rest of the way along the property line. The fence ran beside Grandfather’s garden as it enclosed a chicken coop and an outdoor area for some chickens to run around in.
They always had some of the brown or reddish brown hens and a few Bantam or Banty hens and a rooster. I loved to watch the hens scratching around in the dirt.
Their lot was only about 30 feet wide, but stretched more than a block deep. Grandfather’s garden was more than half a block deep and the width of the lot. He spent his days in the garden hoeing the rows of vegetables or sitting on an up turned bucket. Sometimes I would go out and sit with him.
When I arrived in Grandfather’s perfectly laid out garden I knew exactly where I could walk and not walk. His rows were laid out with enough room in between for him to walk and to keep the weeds hoed. It was laid out in squares with large walkways through the garden. On the left as you walked into the garden was a raised area for his strawberries.
On the right side were his tomatoes. There was usually about three rows of large tomato plants with gorgeous large red tomatoes growing on them. The first plant on the first row was always my tomato plant. I could not have acid when I was little so Grandpa always planted a pear tomato plant for me. I loved the little yellow tomatoes and the fact that they were just for me made them special.
Then behind these rows were the potatoes, cucumbers, beets, green beans, peppers, radishes, and squash all in their neat little squares and then at the back of the garden the 6-8 rows of corn. They made a beautiful screen at the back of the garden and stretched the full width of the garden.
Along the fence by the chicken coop and their outdoor space Grandpa had planted blackberry vines many years before. The vines had taken over the fence and you couldn’t even see it anymore in the summer. After the blackberry vines the Concord grape vines were also trained on the fence.
The grapes were past the chicken’s pen so he didn’t have to worry about them eating the grapes. I loved the taste of the grapes and the jelly that Grandmother made from them but I rarely picked them to eat, because they had the seeds and they were so slimy that I just couldn’t seem to get them chewed up. They seemed to grow in my mouth.
On the days that I would end up in the garden with Grandpa he would have a small bucket there for me to sit on beside him. He would have completed his hoeing and was ready to sit and water the garden by hand.
“Grandfather, can I hold the hose and water?” “No, he would say, you won’t get it where it needs to be.” He had been soaked or his shoes filled with water more than once, and didn’t want to repeat that experience. When the nozzle was on, and at age 3-4, I just couldn’t seem to keep control of it, and it went everywhere but where he wanted it.
“Grandfather, why are the strawberries put up there and the rest of the garden lower? Why are those little tomatoes yellow instead of red? Are there any tomatoes I can eat yet? Why can’t I see the potatoes, are they really there? Can I have a strawberry? Are they for jelly? Why are they called Straw berry, they don’t look like straw?”
“When will the corn be ready to eat? Why do they call it squash? Why do you have the shovel sitting between your feet? What is that little raised area of dirt running between your feet? Can I make some mud pies while you water the garden? Why did you turn off the water on the hose? What are you going to do with the shovel now?”
He could sit in the garden perfectly still except for the movement of the hose and nozzle as he watered. He would keep his eye on the little mound or run in the dirt and wait for the movement to come between his feet. As the movement came closer he would send me out of the garden to swing in the swing he had made for me.
Then he would raise the shovel off the ground and it would drop like a guillotine. When he pulled the shovel out of the dirt and moved the bucket and dug up the run there would be a mole or gopher lying dead in the hole. I’ve never seen anyone else that could sit and kill them with a shovel; he must have had lightning fast reflexes for his age.
When I was allowed back in the garden the questions would resume. “Why are some of the chickens in the pin brown, and some of them white? Why are some of the chickens so small? What is that red thing on those chicken’s heads? How come the others don’t have it? Why is it called a comb Grandfather? Why are the blackberries shaped like they are? Why aren’t the grapes called purplegrapes?”
When he had answered all the questions he could stand for one day I was sent to the house to bother Grandmother, or was given a little bucket to pick blackberries, so Grandmother could make jelly. There was always something to do in Grandfather’s Garden and I loved to spend time with him there. To contact Sandy: email@example.com