The Good Earth

The Compass - - EDITORIAL - Harold Wal­ters My Im­per­fect Slant

The heavy lift­ing is fin­ished for the sea­son.

Now there is leisure time for me to laze-off on our deck and, a mug of steam­ing Ten­sion Tamer in sip­ping dis­tance, re­flect on the boun­ti­ful­ness of the good earth.

There was a time when the heavy lift­ing hadn’t even be­gun.

A month or so ago Dear­est Duck stood at a win­dow gaz­ing out over our acreage.

OK, maybe not “acreage” as such. Square-footage is more ac­cu­rate.

Nev­er­the­less, Dear­est Duck was look­ing out at our rhubarb patch.

“The rhubarb is grow­ing tall,” she said. “Come see.”

Stand­ing be­side Dear­est Duck, I sur­veyed the large patch of rhubarb that we’d planted be­fore the Bea­tles dis­banded.

“Ac­tu­ally it looks over­grown and seedy, my Duck,” said I — words I’d rue.

“I sup­pose,” said Dear­est Duck, sigh­ing a sigh that fore­boded ill.

Later, as I re­clined in my Lay-Z-Boy, a book spread like a gi­ant but­ter­fly on my chest and a dandy nap ap­proach­ing, Dear­est Duck — al­most as if ca­su­ally pass­ing by — bent to pat my knee and say, “Harry, my hard-work­ing honey, if that old rhubarb was gone we could plant pota­toes.”

The but­ter­fly on my chest flew away. The ap­proach­ing nap turned tail and fled.

The Time of the Heavy Lift­ing was upon me.

Be­fore noon my booted feet stamped a shovel blade into a rhubarb root.

Have you ever at­tempted to root out well-es­tab­lished rhubarb that was planted decades-deep in the last cen­tury? No easy task, eh b’ys? Deep in the good earth, rhubarb roots grow like stumps as hard as turnips.

Heed­less of um­brella leaves and stalks gone to seed like back­yard trif­fids, I worked my way around a plant, stomp­ing my shovel’s blade to sever the root. Dream on Harry. Stomp. And pry. Stomp. And pry. Stomp. And pry, care­ful not to crack the shovel’s han­dle.

Since there was lit­tle top- knot to hold back the flood, sweat cas­caded down my brow, threat­en­ing to wash my spec­ta­cles off my nose. Sop­ping my fore­head with a sleeve, I glanced to­ward the win­dow from which Dear­est Duck first gazed at the rhubarb patch. God love ‘er, she waved to me, en­cour­ag­ingly, kinda like the Queen ac­knowl­edg­ing her sub­jects. I dug some more. Stomp. And pry and… …sud­denly, a hu­mon­gous wedge of root popped from the good earth with the ve­loc­ity of a cham­pagne cork. I fell flat on my arse. Dear­est Duck held her hand to her lips like the Queen sti­fling an “Oh, my gra­cious.”

I slaved nigh on to sun­set when the sea­son’s first blood­suck­ing nip­pers at­tacked.

But I’d cleared the rhubarb patch. I’d stomped and pried, loaded my wheel­bar­row a thou­sand times and trucked a ton of sev­ered roots to the rub­bish heap.

In the twi­light, Dear­est Duck met my col­laps­ing car­cass on the deck.

“Harry,” she said and — get this! — handed me a cold Corona.

Next morn­ing, beam­ing through the vapour ris­ing from her Quaker Oats, Dear­est Duck said, “Harry, my love, we need to buy some seed pota­toes.” So we did. Af­ter the fog pulled back into the bay, Dear­est Duck sat re­gally in her deck swing and watched me plant pota­toes. I dug some trenches. I lodged seed pota­toes in line like…oh, I don’t know…like palace guards.

I cov­ered the pota­toes with shov­el­fuls of the good earth.

I pat­ted the ground with my shovel’s back­side.

From the deck, Dear­est Duck clapped her hands in con­trolled de­light, like the Queen at steeple­chase.

Daily we watched for potato stalks to break the sur­face of the good earth.

But here’s the thing. It is im­pos­si­ble to erad­i­cate rhubarb roots.

Even­tu­ally, potato stalks poked above the ground, lined up in dark green ar­ray like sol­diers ready for in­spec­tion. An aside — sorta. Men have faults, but there is some­thing in­her­ently per­verse in women.

Have you ever fin­ished paint­ing…let’s say…the liv­ing room and wait­ing proudly for your honey to ad­mire your hand­i­work? Sure you have. Did she say, “Mar­velous job, my love”? No she didn’t. She said, “You missed a spot” didn’t she? Aside ended. Sur­pris­ingly, the sun joined us on the deck as Dear­est Duck and I be­held our sprout­ing spuds.

“Easy to see them now,” said I.

“Hmmm,” said Dear­est Duck. “Easy to see the sprout­ing rhubarb leaves among them.” Agggaaah­h­h­h­h­hhh! In the mean­time, any­one want to or­der a bar­rel of spuds come Fall?

Thank you for read­ing.

Have you ever at­tempted to root out well-es­tab­lished rhubarb that was planted decades-deep in the last cen­tury?

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