Garden Road - May 5, 2015 Another birthday will have passed for me by the time this newspaper hits the stands. These milestones have become incrementally less monumental as years go by. In the bright haze of youth, a birthday was a gathering, a cake, and an added digit you could count on only two hands. The candles lit only my face. My grandparents would visit our white farmhouse as the land greened, returning from death. I felt honored, but not humbled.
Adult life has taught me that I only deserve love if I earn it, and to love others even if they don’t deserve it (I learned the second half of that lesson in childhood, and the caveat has been added through experience).
The world grows wider as we grow older. There is less we can control—the illusion of control slips away. The sleepovers and fishing trips brought friends into the small world of the country, where cattle outnumber people, but now every moment must be crowded out by the next moment. Some unseen momentum pushes us onward. Nothing pushes back. It is a one-way trip, where we have located every fish in the pond, but the light skimming off a dragonfly suspended above the water no longer blinds us to what came before, and what is ahead. May 4, 2015, 09:10
Garden Road - April 28, 2015 When my family lived on the farm that bordered the Missouri State Line, with our house situated across the hill from Jack and Linda Couchman’s, my brother Grant asked our mother to drop us off at the railroad tracks that curve through Sewal. From Cedar Road, we walked back to the farm, hunting for mushrooms along the sides of the track, which wound back a few miles to form the west border of our timber. Then it was another mile through multi-flower rose bushes east to the house. We carried paper sacks for handfuls of mushrooms, and wore chaps to get past the thorns.
I used my ‘mushroom stick’ to brush away May apples and undergrowth to expose the smaller morels. It was a cattle prod that my dad once cut from a willow sapling. He always kept one in his pickup truck. Apr 27, 2015, 09:02
Garden Road - April 21, 2015 With only a few exceptions, my son Wes has worn a hole in the left knee of all of his jeans. We call it his spinning knee. It is visible in the spring school photograph—there is no other circumstance where we could find him sitting with one hand folded over the other, smiling politely.
Jennifer and I had some difficulty receiving his school photos. After Wes got home, he left his bag on the front deck that we don’t use as often. We’re still not sure if he was trying to hide them from us, and why.
For some reason, they take two school pictures now, one in fall and one in spring. It was an odd, yearly tradition for me, memorable because you are made to sit on a chair or stool in front of a canvass. A pretty woman smiles at you and combs your hair. There is a bright flash and then your image retains its youth—in that moment, you will always be in fourth grade, no matter how close to 40 you get. Apr 20, 2015, 13:35
Garden Road - April 14, 2015 Along with the emergence of spring comes sunburns, ticks and mowing lawn. Along with magnolias, pink trumpets and redbuds, tiger mosquitoes breed in shallow water. The flowering trees are blooming down the street from my family’s house, linking neighbor to neighbor. The puddles in ruts are home to larvae.
Growing up, I recall a group of infant mosquitoes squirming for oxygen in a Mason jar, across the fence from the wire mesh of our raccoon cage. My age as a human was comparable to their stage as parasites.
I poured spent oil on the water to suffocate them, as I had been instructed for mosquito extermination. To a tick or a leech, love is no different from parasitism. These creatures are only as useful as what they take from others. They are only viable to their community through their own self-interest—in other words, they are part of no community. Yet this is a philosophy that has been preached in America for decades, incompatible with any of the higher religions. The advertising for this doctrine has been superb, and has sold an inferior product for genuine feeling. Apr 13, 2015, 09:28
Garden Road - April 7, 2015 When I began college in some dry autumn long ago, I considered majoring in history, in part because of my experiences at Wayne with Doc Douglas as a teacher. His room was the northwest corner of the second floor at the high school, opposite study hall. My freshman year, it seemed like a strange, foreign room, because I was not allowed in yet.
I took his classes from my sophomore year on. I also partook in a far less successful career as a golfer under Doc. It wasn’t his fault, but I think I got worse at that sport each season.
Tales of Doc’s athletic ability bordered on legendary among his students—about how he could muscle a golf ball over the trees that split the number two fairway, onto what is meant to be a par four green at Walden Park Golf Course in Corydon. I did not know the reality, though, until I proofread his obituary for the 'Times-Republican,' that he had almost been a St. Louis Cardinal, or at least a member of one of their farm teams. Baseball must have been in his blood, because his grandson Brandon Douglas plays in the Detroit Tigers organization. Apr 6, 2015, 13:16