A bit of butterbean philosophy | Columns

I used to be an avid gardener. It was a rite of spring. And my wife would often ask me why I planted a garden when I could buy the produce much cheaper? Well, then, why play the guitar when I can just turn on the radio?

I would mostly respond, “because.” I got that a lot from my dad, but he would say, “Because I said so.”

My dad always planted a garden and his dad before him. I could probably trace that tendency all the way back to the potato famine in Ireland. So I got that dirt under my fingernails, if not in my blood, at a very early age.

Much like my dad, I like to see things grow. It’s strange that I would choose to grow butterbeans in my adult life when I detested picking them so much in my youth.

My dad planted butterbeans like hard times would get harder and those beans would be the difference between starvation and survival — like they held the earth together and kept the stars in alignment. I always thought he planted the longest butterbean rows in Grady County. His position was that short rows were not efficient and were troublesome to cultivate. Those rows would curve around the terrace adjacent to the corn field, and I couldn’t see their end. It was demoralizing even though I knew an acre was an acre no matter how long the rows. But when I carried on that tradition, I did it with shorter rows. A psychological thing, I suppose.

In those days, I found some therapy in gardening. It’s a good place to think because most often one finds himself there all alone. It’s hard to get a crowd in a butterbean patch. I would offer someone butterbeans, and the first thing they would ask was are they already picked.

My dad and I used to talk a great deal while picking butterbeans. He would reflect upon his boyhood and offer advice on my future. It was a good place to draw perspectives — to…

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