I have many thoughts about gardening and plants. Some don't make any sense, others stop me in my tracks. If one thing is for sure, it seems that most things in my life are tied to plants. From faded memories to callused hands, it always seems to lead back to the dirt. I was born into a family of gardeners, not by choice but by need. You didn’t raise a garden or plant tobacco because you didn’t like what was at the grocery store, but instead because you didn’t have the money to pay for something you could grow with a little sweat and black earth. I came into this world at the end of those times. My parents no longer depended on Mother Nature but more the hours they were given. Regardless, I spent many summers following my grandfather around. The stories he would tell and the reasons he gardened the way he did follow me to this day and, more than likely, forever.
I learned a lot from that old man and at the time I didn’t even know it. I learned which tomato to pick and which needed another day. Which bug to leave and which bug to get the Sevin Dust after. I didn’t think anything of it then because these where things I was doing just to be like my grandfather. I never knew where those things would lead me in life, but they were so important to that old man so they became important to me, too. After all, 10 year old boys want little more than to stretch wide paces and match their grandfather stride for stride.
I try to think about the best way to explain why I love gardening. For that matter, why most of us love to plant and watch things grow. Is it the beauty, or perhaps the memories? For me it’s the hot summer days in the shade, an orange pop and bologna sandwiches. It’s knowing that dark purple blackberries are ready to pick and red ones you leave, and if Nan isn’t looking she might not notice a missing handful. Maybe its knowing that purple fingers leads to fall jams or that you always keep salt in the truck for when you find that perfect tomato that has to be eaten right then.
What does any of this have to do with a tackle box and fishing? That same man I wanted so much to match stride for stride had an old tackle box that was filled to the brim. Thousands of sinkers, hundreds of hooks and every fishing lure known to man! If ever lost on the water this is the guy you wanted to be lost with! I always wondered why he carried so much to go fishing. Be it big fish or little fish, he always carried this large tackle box. I asked once why and the answer was simple: just because you are going to catch one type of fish doesn’t mean a better tasting fish maybe biting that day. Simple as that!
Some years later I realized all these memories were turning into useful knowledge I was putting into my gardening tackle box. I carry it with me everywhere. I might not have to remember which tomato is best sliced on white bread, but that little memory is always there! This tackle has helped me get where I am today. I’ve added to it over the years, created a few of my own experiences and added them to the box along with the others. I cherish every memory, albeit some more than others.
I suppose we all have our reasons for our genuine love of gardening and plants. Although each of these memories and experiences are are different, in a sense they are all the same. My tackle box started filling up many years ago when I was that 10 year old boy, stretching to match Pa’s pace. Little did I know he was shaping the rest of my life. I love what I do and I can honestly say I’ve never worked a day in my life. I am a lucky and thankful man.
And by the way, Better Boy and Big Beef tomatoes with a touch of salt and pepper goes best on white bread!