I was sitting at the kitchen table, taking a break, when an old farm pickup pulled up and parked in front of the house. An elderly man stepped out and hobbled up the driveway, looking toward the back of the house.
I stood up and watched him, wondering if I had locked the garage when I came in a short time before. Then I watched as he walked across the front yard and climbed the steps to the porch.
When I answered the door, I was greeted with bright blue eyes on an old weather-worn face. His smile was more of a crooked grin and taking off his hat, he said hello. (I liked him right away)
I asked if I could help him and he said hated to bother me, but was that my patch of rhubarb in the back yard? (I don’t like rhubarb, but I resisted the urge to say so)
Yes, that is our garden, I told him. He asked if I might be willing to sell him some. I stepped outside and asked his name. Still with his hat in his hand, he said, it’s Jim, ma’am. (I liked him even more!) I told him my name and said I would meet him around back. I locked the door, grabbed my keys and went out the kitchen door, to meet him.
As we rounded the corner of the house, Jim, moving slowly, told me he had been amazed at the variety of fruit, vegetables, herbs and plants that we had in such a small space. I told him about my Jim (my husband) and how he, like his dad, loved to be in the yard working, especially in the garden.
Jim told me that when he was younger, he had a garden…well, he chuckled, my wife did. He was a farmer, mostly crops, but a few dairy cows. I said, oh yeah, 4 and 4 and Jim laughed. (That’s milking time…4 am and 4 pm). Jim said it kept him busy, but his wife had a small vegetable garden and could grow rhubarb “like nobody’s business!” He told me she made the best rhubarb pudding in the world.
As we stood under the dogwood tree and looked at the rhubarb, we talked about our families, like we knew each other. It’s amazing…I felt like I knew him. Jim talked about selling his farm about ten years before, except for the house and a couple of acres, because his kids didn’t want to be farmers.
After chatting a few minutes, he asked again about buying some rhubarb. I told him no, that we couldn’t cut ours until next year. His face fell, but he said he understood, that he wouldn’t want to “mess it up.”
I said again, no, I won’t sell you any, but I will give you some. Jim started to protest about me cutting it and I stopped him. I won’t cut any, I told him…I have some in the freezer and you are welcome to some. At first he protested, but I told him by the time he could get back to his truck, I could have the rhubarb thrown in his truck and be back in my house. He laughed and said, “Well, alright then.”
His blue eyes twinkled at me and I got the crooked grin again. Jim said, “My wife will be so thrilled. She can’t cook any more…I do most of that and what I do ain’t too good. But I follow what she tells me and by golly, we’ll have rhubarb pudding tonight!”
I headed in and grabbed a couple of bags and met him by his truck. Jim asked again about paying, but I waved my hand as I handed him the rhubarb. I noticed his plate wasn’t Vanderburgh County and Jim said he lived up near Santa Claus. I asked what brought him here and he said he was delivering a piece of furniture for a friend. Jim had dropped it off and driven down the alley and couldn’t believe the patch of rhubarb we had growing.
Jim said, “You know, I almost didn’t stop. When I was younger, if a neighbor had something you needed or the other way around, it just happened. You just shared…that’s the way it was. But now, people are too busy for that. Always running here and there. But when I saw that garden, I thought, now there is a place where people know how to slow down.”
I’d never thought about it that way before…you can’t rush a garden. It’s like a relationship. You have to nurture it and care for it for it to grow and mature. Only then do you reap the fruit of your labor.
I shook Jim’s hand and he said, “God bless you” and left.
He did, Jim…God most certainly did.