The 'Headers In Life & Legend
by Russell W. Knight
A Garden Is Drained
|He was an Old Timer, a gentle soul who, when young and innocent, spent a week in nearby Boston. He was there convinced that anyone who lived beyond the bounds of Marblehead was an irreclaimable backslider. Consequently, he eventually became a dedicated Sabbatarian and confirmed water drinker; a way of life considered by the town's earthy and irreverent fishermen as capricious, incomprehensible and unnatural. And when as a middle-aged man he began to mutter and mumble to himself while puttering about his house and grounds, most people thought of him as somewhat pixilated.
Whether he was or was not slightly pixilated, the fact is that he was a plain-spoken, guileless, semi-reclusive, respectable citizen. He was also a crackerjack gardener who each year supplied a host of loyal customers -- with scads of peas, beans, corn and tomatoes. Furthermore, he was as honest as the day is long -- a tradesman who never "deaconed" a crate of vegetables, nor under any circumstances or at any time took advantage of the most inexperienced buyer.
His garden, which lay at the foot of a slope a stone's throw to the rear of his home, was open to the warm rays of the sun yet sheltered from the bite of freezing unseasonal winds. Its soil was rich, black and fertile, each row neat and weedless, the work of a master grower.
Unfortunately, an early spring rain often would all but transform his garden into a muddy, squishy quagmire. Then, the seeds he had planted would rot, and the seedlings he had laboriously set out would drown.
To remedy these disheartening setbacks, he decided to approach his next-door neighbor and ask permission to run a drainpipe through his land to a nearby gully. His idea was sound, sensible and eminently practical ... except for one unresolved detail: The land in question nurtured an exquisitely beautiful flowerbed, the pride and joy of his neighbor's wife, an ardent horticulturist!
As fate would have it, the day he went to seek permission to run a pipe through this garden, only his neighbor's wife was at home. Thus, his request fell on deaf ears. In the bluntest of blunt terms, she said the answer was "No! No!! No!!!" Under no conditions would she allow anyone to tear up her garden, trample her cherished Decentra Spectabilis, bruise her Lavendra Vera and destroy her much adored Gysophile.
A few months later, this Old Timer asked the voters attending the Annual Town Meeting to authorize the installation of a community-owned drain. It so happened that this meeting was called at the tail end of a long, hard and gloomy winter when the voters were weary, out of sorts and in no mood to spend tax money on self-serving projects.
Sensing defeat, the petitioner rose solemnly and pleaded his own case. Facing several hundred restive citizens, he explained how his garden was turned into a swamp land every time it rained. And lest they misconstrue his motives, he outlined word for word the steps he had already taken ...
"I went one morning to my neighbor's house and knocked on the door. When his Missis opened it, I asked, 'Is your husband home?'
"She said 'No, he ain't. He's gone for the day. But if I can do anything for you, come on in.'
"'You can,' I said. 'For I've come to ask you to let me bury my water pipe in your flower garden ... '
(Here a ripple of muffled snickers and demure titters swept the hall.)
"'No,' she said. 'I'm not going to let you bury your pipe in my garden. sFor one thing, I don't think it'll do you any good. And I'm pretty sure it'll hurt my garden. And besides, even if I was to let you do it ... it could get us both in a lot of trouble.'"
(At this point, the meeting literally exploded, fired by shrieks of hearty laughter, handclapping, smothered squeals and ear-splitting whistles.)
Minutes later, after order was restored, the meeting voted the funds to drain the petitioner's land ... to a round of unrestrained applause, shouts and cheers and similar expressions of goodwill.
* * *
They called her "scrimmey," tightfisted, covetous and selfish.
On the night her husband was about to join his forefathers, one of her neighbors heard her say, "When you feel yourself going, Ben, snuff the candle."