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“Betsy, darlin’, I don’t know how you get yourself into these messes.” Aunt Maggie stood in the bright sunshine as a parade of ants made their way up the sidewalk. My yard held the charms of glorious red oak trees and a nice patch of grass. My family’s addition to the outdoor area included a yellow-and-blue swing set and a little red wagon with our sons’ bikes precariously leaned against it. From today on, we would look at this green space differently. Now my yard held a brand-new garden. I pulled my chestnut-brown hair back into a ponytail. I was overdue for a cut, but there just never seemed to be time to get down to the Best Little Hairhouse in Texas.
“I think it can be surmised in one word and one word only. Rocky.” Rocky Whitson was my boss and a major pain in the asparagus at the Pecan Bayou Gazette. Our little paper covered all the news in our tiny Texas town, and when there wasn’t any news, Rocky made an effort to create some. His latest idea was to have the “Best Garden in Pecan Bayou” contest. Of course, he decided that in my position as the Happy Hinter, the writer of the local helpful hints column, I too should participate and give him reports “in the field.” I just wished I didn’t have to be in an actual field. My job would be to turn in weekly reports highlighting the ups and downs of being an amateur gardener. Amateur being the operative word. Was I a gardener? Did I anxiously await the fresh crinkle of seed catalogs every January? Did I love the sound of bees buzzing in the morning?
I was notorious for killing plants. It was so bad that my children gave me fake flowers on Mother’s Day. Still, here I was in the backyard of my home with a brand-new set of planter boxes and the entire shelf of gardening books from the Pecan Bayou library, including the official Texas gardening manual.
I clumsily tried to turn the pages of the manual with my new green plastic-coated gardening gloves. I picked them because they had vegetables printed in the soft cotton material of the gloves. Maybe I could cause the brightly colored carrots and broccoli to somehow encourage the real plants I would try to grow. “According to the manual, we should put the tomatoes over there in the bright sun.”
Aunt Maggie held her hand up to her eyes as she surveyed the patch of the yard we were now calling the garden. “Well, your boxes look good. Leo and Judd did a great job putting them together. All you need now is plenty of sunshine, water, and maybe a little fertilizer now and again. You can’t have the beauty without a little poo-ty. It should be lovely, dear.”
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