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Curse of the Black Thumb

My dad is a retired dryland farmer who raised wheat, soybeans, milo, and alfalfa.

He routinely produced thriving crops that performed very well. His dad, my paternal grandfather, also raised healthy crops during his working years in addition to his prolific garden plot of potatoes, watermelon, sweet corn, sugar snap peas and tomatoes. My paternal grandmother had several beds of beautiful irises that I was tasked with protecting whenever we drove cattle by her house.

I take after my mother. She and I can keep children, dogs, cats, and livestock alive. That’s about it. Not that we haven’t tried to nurture living plants. We just decided to limit the carnage after so many attempts.

When he was in kindergarten, my youngest son once proudly presented me with a sunflower he had sprouted during a class project. I kept it alive long enough to plant it in a pot. I even had the audacity to brag about it on social media as my aunt and cousins on my dad’s side were posting pictures of their burgeoning flower beds. My soaring feat was short lived though. One errant basketball ended my dreams of plant patronage. Broke it clean in half as a matter of fact.

Runaway basketballs are common at my house because of the basketball goal set up by the driveway. There’s a small area that could be considered a flower bed along the front porch but the only things I’ve planted there have been solar lights. Those crops also failed. A few line drive wiffle balls took their toll.

Not only is our front yard a makeshift basketball court but for a while it was a baseball field too. It used to be the hangout for a lot of the neighborhood kids but they’ve all grown up and moved on. That’s OK. It can be someone else’s turn to be the hub of activity.

I look at my barren flower bed and it doesn’t really make me sad. I would rather have the memories of laughter and good times that my kids and all those in the neighborhood gave me over the years. I didn’t have to worry about someone trampling my pretty flowers. A cow trampling them wouldn’t have been too big of a shock. That’s just how rural we are and there’s a pasture just beyond my backyard. My son’s 4-H sheep did get out one time but instead of staying in the yard they headed for the sheriff’s office a block away. I remember the time a teenage neighbor grumbled at me that he always had to slow down when he drove by my house because there were so many kids in the yard all the time.

Maybe my black thumb isn’t such a curse after all.



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