Sunday, April 25, 2010

Gardening, Garlic, and Great Guests

Thanks to a gift from my niece Ginette, I finally got around to some outdoor work in my own yard. I’ve been so sedentary with all this driving around and writing that I hadn’t even thrown out the dead potted plants from last fall. Ginette’s gift of phlox and grape hyacinth from her garden got me moving in that direction; I needed the dirt from the potted plants for my new deck décor.

While I was outside potting, I did a little more digging in the dirt to clear some of the “wildflowers” – otherwise known as “weeds” from our flower beds. The dandelions are everywhere this year, including growing with great abandon between the granite chips that make up our front walkway. With a “yard” of over four acres, I rally needed to pick my battles, so I decided that anything green growing in the lawn could stay, while any wild thing growing in granite or my garden has to go.

I was really moving along, happily harvesting the weeds when I came upon a conundrum. I greatly admire thistles, and have photographed many a beautiful butterfly on their blooms. Directly in front of my azaleas, right next to our front steps, is a big thistle in all its prickly perfection. There was no way I could bring myself to uproot such a gift. So much for that well-groomed cottage look; you just can’t control Mother Nature.

The evening hours brought hailstorms and bluegrass. The crowd was small at Charlie and Deborah’s Coker Creek Saloon, probably because of the severe weather warnings. The weather didn’t deter Richard’s preparation of dining delights, however. Everyone enjoyed his sirloin tip tacos, even though I was a bit worried about how they’d be received; I had never before seen a recipe that called for a cup of fresh garlic.

His mandarin orange cake was so good and beautiful that Trailrider Nancy declared that she felt like we were back at the Whitestone Inn where we celebrated Charlie’s birthday. A friend of Charlie’s visiting from Alaska ate three pieces. I guess it was better than good!

One of the great things about the bluegrass pickin’ is that Charlie and Deborah host so many people from so many places. I could have spent about a week with these folks from Alaska; they were so interesting. In the brief time we were with them, we learned that he was a home builder to the rich and famous in this life, and that he had a very story-worthy, if not story-book past life.

He lost his parents in an automobile accident when he was two-years-old. After a series of foster homes he “struck out on his own” at the age of eleven without ever having attended school. By the time he was fourteen, he had acquired his first golden glove award. At seventeen, he retired from prize fighting after a concussion so serious that it caused him to stutter. By this time he had also had his nose broken ten times.

Like this wasn’t enough hard luck, within a couple of months, he was drafted and sent to Vietnam. While there, he was stabbed once and shot twice, once in the back. He was released from duty with the prediction that he’d never again walk. He says that a violent sneeze led to the return of feeling and mobility in his legs. Must have been some sneeze!

The up side of his infirmity is that a corpsman taught him to read. He’s been married to the same woman, a professional photographer, for forty seven years. She showed me stunning photographs of their area of Alaska.

Mr. Bluegrass, Charlie Harper, was also in attendance with the demo copy of his latest upcoming CD. It couldn’t have been a better crowd.

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