After 16 years of living back in my beloved mountains, I’m finally able to find a touch of humor about my thirty-three years, six months, one week, and three days of life in flat country.
Academe saturated the Chapel Hill block where Jim and I lived. Our neighbor next door was a big cheese on faculty at Duke and possessed the coveted Robert F. Kennedy Bust for a book he wrote on race relations. Across from him lived an equally big cheese on faculty at Carolina, being also the sixth most quoted organic chemist on the planet and in demand around the globe. A couple of houses up the street was an anthropology department chair at Carolina who had archaeological grants over a period of several decades and a résumé containing numerous pages of publications. Add to that a couple, both with PhDs, who went their separate ways each morning, one to NC State and the other to UNC-G. Also making their presence felt were a multi-published Latin American historian, a former mayor, a lawyer, and several doctors completing their residencies at Carolina’s Memorial Hospital.
Wouldn’t you think that, with all that education, they would have understood a weed is not always a weed? On the other hand, I with only a diploma from Blanton’s Business College knew it well.
Consider, for example, the vacant lot across the street.
I had taken it upon myself to beautify it because both the owner and the public works department ignored their responsibilities. I worked full time with my editing business and had the usual responsibilities of family, home, church, and lawn, so progress on my beautification project was slow. Naturally, when I undertook the scheme, the town people decided to mow their right-of-way occasionally, and there went my plants. After a couple of years, I got the front of the lot cleared and planted, so the mowers could see they no longer needed to exert energy. My plants were safe.
I planted evergreen seedlings that had invaded our lawn as well as cuttings I rooted of monkey grass and gold dust shrubs (okay, Liriope and Acuba, if you must be fussy about it), and various other bulbs and plants from my flower borders. However, probably the prettiest flowers over there were the wild violets I dug out of our lawn. Therein lies the reason for the neighborhood mirth. My otherwise intelligent neighbors completely failed to understand why the violets were weeds in my lawn yet across the street were beautiful flowers.
Then there’s honeysuckle. How can anything that fragrant be such a nuisance? Some people believe this fast-growing plant is the best there is to stop erosion. However, when it crept from the creek bank toward my lawn, I attacked that dratted weed with vigor, sneezing the whole time. One otherwise intelligent neighbor suggested it was a psychosomatic allergy and advised counseling, but I knew the truth of the matter. It was retribution. One of my most dreaded enemies had found the perfect way to punish me.
Now let’s talk about that most prolific Asian export known to mankind—the dandelion.
“Asian?” you ask. Of course, it is. Anyone who has ever dug up one of those stubborn things knows the roots have their origins in China. Now, don’t get me wrong. I love yellow, period, but especially flowers. My primroses were the envy of the neighborhood, and I defy anyone to find daffodils that were prettier or had larger blossoms than mine. Furthermore, it was normal for strangers to invade our yard in late April and early May to gaze in awed wonder at my yellow hybrid azaleas. However, I drew the line at dandelions.
During those years when I took my trowel out each morning to continue my unending battle with those yellow-topped monsters, I found another plant that was just as obnoxious: wild onions. It was especially difficult to deal with them when they invaded my grape hyacinths. To this day, every time I see those odoriferous pests, I think back to my childhood and remember Mrs. Sawyer, my favorite substitute teacher.
Children being the way they are, however, my fondness for her did not stop me from joining my classmates in doing everything we could to annoy her. That often included eating wild onions at recess. Can you imagine how much onion odor 30 of Heaven’s little angels can breathe into the closed atmosphere of a classroom? After asking us to refrain, which plea we ignored, she found a solution that we thought was hilarious. She joined us in eating them.
Wild onions were fun in my misspent childhood, but annoying weeds in my adulthood.
Then came retirement and our move to the Highland Farms Retirement Community in Black Mountain, NC. Oh, the joys of retirement! Among other blessings of living here was that weeds would annoy me no longer. You see, the maintenance crew would deal with them.
I was wrong.
Those yellow-topped monsters found me. Now I go out each morning and pinch their heads off.
At least wild onions haven’t found me.
I’ll buy a trowel as soon as the Corona virus releases me from captivity.