Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Delayed Gratification

The start of the River Bed, finally beginning to fill in a little. 
 We spent the 4th of July in our usual fashion, working on the garden.  While people who know how to have fun were enjoying cookouts and parades and swimming and stuff like that, we were sweating.  Carl was working on the stone wall and I was weeding.  I cheated and hooked up a sprinkler and would every so often wander near to move it (and get some refreshing mist) and then go back to my weeds a little cooler. 
  I was trying to make the Something Else bed look nicer, but I'm afraid this area is one of those weird spots in our yard that just defies me to make something of it.  The grass doesn't grow under the cedar trees and the hostas don't either; cedars have very shallow root systems, much like maples, and wrap their roots all into the hostas.  So Carl came over and helped me throw a few more rocks in place and we went out to the Back Eight and gathered up some hay and white pine mulch and called it a day.  All we use this area for is a drive thru to get to the other side of the yard for lawn mowing.  I think someday I'll hit on the right landscaping for it, but it doesn't look like it will be any time soon.
The view when coming over the bridge headed out to the lawn

 Carl's been grumpy about this garden addition right from the get-go last fall.  We had the leftover rocks, and I had this bright idea we could make a 'canyon-y' (is that a word?) effect by piling them all up and just have a neat little grotto-ish (ok, not a word) place to walk and drive the mower through.  I didn't want to plant any flowers there, it was supposed to be all rocks, like our escarpment wall out by the Quarry:
Carl's heart wasn't in the job at all, but when I said there would be no additional weeding necessary once it was in place, he did reluctantly help me put the rocks in last fall.   Then, halfway through, we found we didn't have as many rocks as we thought we had on the pile and it came up short.  So now we have a  rock pile that is not grotto-esque nor canyon-ish.  It's sorta Grotesque-like.  I think the name Something Else fits it perfectly.  It's definitely not like anything else I've seen or even wanted to replicate before. Oh, well.

Carl said we planned it all wrong, it's too narrow to get anything but the lawnmower through (no tractors will fit) and yes, I still have to weed and edge the whole length of it and well, ok, I give up and say Uncle, Carl wins.  I was wrong.  We are supposed to be downsizing.  We didn't need another headache area. Stay tuned to how I fix this.  (I know I'll be glued to my seat, especially if I come up with any more bright ideas.)

But anyway, back to the 4th of July of my yesteryears...when I was a kid, we were dairy farming, so of course there were no trips Up North to go swimming or camping or whatnot.  More than likely we would be baling hay on a day like yesterday.  I was thinking about this while I was sweating away in the garden, how my life hasn't changed all that much, I'm still on the same farm, still doing the work I love.

I think I'm blessed, though a few years ago I overheard our youngest son tell one of his friends, "My parents don't know the meaning of the word Relax. All they do is work in the garden." 

When I heard him say that, I was a little taken aback.  He was right, though.  The thought of heading to a campsite in a woods somewhere and sitting around the fire all day long would bore us both to tears, we'd get antsy and we'd want to rearrange the campfire rocks into something grotto-ish which would lead to a need for more rocks and then the hunt would be on to find them and haul them and yeah, he's right, we're not great at relaxing.  Blame it on my past and farming and Carl's past as a blacksmith's son.  Always too much work to do and not enough time to do it all.  Make hay while the sun shines.  We weren't the best parents, all our kids got for the 4th of July was a few measly sparklers to light.

Which was just like the 4th of July when I was a little kid...I was allowed two boxes of sparklers for the celebration.  I was basically an only child since my late brother was 13 years older, so I didn't have to share the precious flaming wire rods with anyone.  After the cows were milked and evening chores were done, I would ride my bicycle up and down the dirt road waiting in great anticipation for nightfall.  It took Forever for the sun to set.  I'd ride back and forth, just dreaming of the night to come and those sparklers all waiting for me and how much fun it would be.  Oh, it's hard to wait when you're young. 

Way before July I'd be out on the tractor and see the grass seedheads and they'd remind me of sparklers, too.  (I even lit one on fire once, but nope, they don't sparkle.)
 One year Mom bought me my requisite two boxes of little sparklers and a big surprise, a gigantic, long sparkler, must have been almost a yard long; I was so thrilled!  Dad, on the other hand,  thought it was a very big waste of money and was rather angry about it, so to sort of pacify him, Mom talked me into saving it for the next year.  It was a good life lesson on the value of saving things, and would teach me to be patient and give me something to look forward to.   It was tough, but I agreed.  Every time I walked by that big sparkler propped in the corner of my room I thought about the glorious coming 4th of July and how much fun it would be.   I wondered how long it would take to burn the huge sparkler, five, maybe even fifteen glorious minutes of sparkly goodness?   (Yes, I was a goofy kid, this was a big deal to me.) 

Finally, the 4th rolled around one more time, and after much bike riding trying to fend off my nervous anticipation, the dark took pity on me and fell.  It was time.  I went outside with my two boxes of sparklers.  Mom sat on the concrete back porch steps as her daughter proceeded to dazzle her with a fireworks display extraordinaire.  The driveway right in front of the house was the preferred spot for the event since it was far enough away from the barn for safety. 

 Dad wasn't into the 4th very much, in fact, it bugged him that Mom bought me the sparklers in the first place; since they were costly and dangerous.   He would stay in the kitchen seated at the table, enjoying his customary one cigarette before bedtime and finally come to the window just as I was ready to light the first one.  He was a tall man, and looked even bigger when standing above me, backlit from the kitchen light.   Before I could begin my Independence Day celebration, it was tradition that Dad always admonished me with the tale of the Careless Kid.  

Once upon a time there was a Careless Kid who was playing with sparklers on the 4th of July.  He wouldn't just stand in one place and hold his sparkler calmly, oh no, he was the kind of kid who had to throw his sparkler up in the air to watch it come back down.  Well, this sort of tomfoolery led to no good---he tried to throw each sparkler higher and higher and somehow he threw a sparkler right into his dad's straw mow.   The entire barn burned down with all the cattle inside of it.  It was a horrible, terrifying, completely devastating loss and it could have been prevented if the Careless Kid would have held on to his sparkler.

Every time Dad told this story, he grew more indignant over that Careless Kid and I would be afraid he'd say I couldn't light my Barn Burners in a Box.  I'd hold my breath and nod or shake my head emphatically at just the right places in the story so he could see I had no such fool notions in my head as to go throwing sparklers around and burning down barns.  But there were more cautions before the festivities:

The leftover wire was dangerous too, if I didn't pick them all up;  it could get in a tire and/or a cow might eat it (yes, they do eat metal objects, goofy girls, but I don't think they'd eat an entire six inch long wire) and become sick and die from hardware (that's the term used for a cow with a nail or other sharp object in her tummy.)  I would make sure to listen carefully and respectfully to the cautionary Rules of Fireworks even though in the back of my mind I was wishing he would have started this lecture before the sun went down.   Dad was a stern man, there would be no show of impatience while he was speaking.  Truth be told, I know he meant well, but it sure did put a damper on my spirits.  And of course, the last admonition:  "Remember sparks and the wires are hot, so if you burn yourself, don't come runnin' to me." 

Don't worry, if I catch on fire, I'll be sure to stay out of the house, at least until I stop, drop and roll, I don't want to be the Careless Kid who burned down the house.  (No, I didn't say that out loud.) 

So, without further ado, I lit my first sparkler with a big match and carefully stood in the middle of the gravel driveway, watching it blaze to life.   The sparkler stayed firmly planted in my fist even when the hot sparks would bounce off my bare skin.  I refused to set it down because I was terrified of burning down anything and having a lifelong ban of sparklerage imposed on me.  Dad, satisfied I was behaving, went back to his newspaper in the kitchen, leaving Mom and I alone outside.  After he was no longer watching, sometimes I'd wave it in a circle or try to write my name, but I was ever heedful of the Careless Kid Story and didn't let him catch me twirling it around.

I would ask Mom if she wanted to light one and she would come and light hers off of mine and we'd share in the sparkling joy while slapping mosquitoes with our free hands.  I even loved the smell of the smoke, the whole experience shared with my mother was such a joy to me.  All too soon, the last of the sparklers were gone.  But that one year, it was time for the Big One.  The one I'd been saving for an entire year.  I went to my room to retrieve it from it's place of honor in the corner and carefully carried it outside.  This was going to be the Grand Finale of the evening, a whole year in the making!  Dad looked up over his paper as I was walking through the kitchen and said, "How many more do you have?"  I assured him this was it.

I lit a match and held it to the end of the huge sparkler.  Nothing happened.  The match grew shorter and shorter, finally burning my fingers, and still nothing happened.  Dad came to the window again to see what the problem was and after three more matches, told me to quit wasting them, he'd be right out.  Oh, dear...he went in the garage and brought out his propane torch, lit it and told me to hold the sparkler still while he turned the torch up high.  Still no sparkles.    He tried everything (short of throwing it up in the air)  but it wouldn't light.  He probably went through more money in propane torch fuel than the sparkler was worth, but it never did light. Finally, in disgust, he extinguished the flame, handed me the torch and told me to put it away.   By the time I got back from the garage, he was back in the house.   Turns out you really can't keep big sparklers for over a year; well you can keep them, you just won't get any sparkles, lol. 

I ended the evening watching the big fireworks show in Green Bay thirteen miles away from my favorite vantage point, the cement roof of the feed room between our two silos.  The feed room was about ten feet tall and the flat cement roof was still warm from the hot sun.   There was usually a breeze blowing between the two 40' silos that kept the mosquitoes at bay perfectly so I'd plop my bottom down on the cement and let my legs dangle off the roof and watch the colorful display all by my lonesome.  Mom had gone back in the house to keep Dad company by that time.  Five in the morning comes early, especially after a hard day of farming. I wasn't really all that down in the dumps about the big sparkler for some reason, I guess because Dad was taking it harder than I did. 

The faraway fireworks would just clear the trees of our neighbor's woods a mile away, but I could see many of the pretty displays from my perch.  The booming noise would finally get out as far as us long after the firework was detonated.  I used to wonder what they looked like up close.  When I met Carl years later, he took me to my first fireworks show when I was sixteen.   That year we were close enough that some of the shrapnel from the shots actually rained down on us once in awhile. I  was absolutely amazed!  When they were little, we took the boys to fireworks shows too, maybe we didn't always get real close, but we always went.  To this day, Carl makes sure to take me somewhere to view fireworks and last night was no exception.  We met Ann in Green Bay and watched them with her family and it was so much fun.  Just a perfect ending to a hot, sweltering day.

Oh, and by the way, years and years ago, Carl bought me a big sparkler one 4th of July as a surprise.   It's still sitting in my basement sewing room, would you believe I couldn't bring myself to light it? (It probably wouldn't light anyway, since I cried all over it.)

The 4th will be here again before we know it.  We'll see if it sparkles then.


Zoey said...

I used to love those sparklers when I was kid.

I think you and Carl should go outside with that big sparkler and a glass of champagne and LIGHT IT!

Life is way to short to save a good experience for next year!

El Gaucho said...

What a great story, thank you so much for sharing. I grew up in California where fireworks were illegal, so except for the odd (and very illegal one sneaked in from Mexico) sparkler or M-80, my childhood was quite firework free. That didn't stop my parents from spreading the anti-firework fear mongering. Fourth of July was just as much about watching fireworks as it was about telling cautionary tales of fingerless little kids and club handed adults who were maimed by fireworks.

HolleyGarden said...

Oh, your story made me laugh, then made me cry. You are such a great storyteller. I hope you get a big sparkler and actually light it one day, and get to twirl around and write you name, and all those silly things. Your River Bed is looking amazing!

Gatsbys Gardens said...

Sparklers were my favorite and snakes which weren't as dangerous.

Your river bed garden is looking gorgeous.


Alison said...

What a great tale! I loved those sparklers as a kid too, and when my son was younger I used to buy them for him too. No firecrackers though, they were too dangerous. Also, illegal for consumers to buy in Massachusetts, where we lived.

I've always loved going to see fireworks on the Fourth. There's just something magical about it.

Do you and Carl read much? That's my favorite way to relax. Just sitting with a cup of coffee and a book.

africanaussie said...

Thank you for sharing that lovely story, and I quite like your little shady pathway lined with rocks...

Randy Emmitt said...

WE did sparklers too. Enjoyed the story about your youth. I mowed and pulled weeds, then went to a cookout in the later afternoon. We missed the 4th fireworks it rained! On the 2nd our noisy goat peacock neighbor had a party and let off lots of fireworks. Meg was worried they would burn up the woods and us.

Missy said...

I share you love of fireworks too and memories of backyard fireworks from childhood. (We didn't have a barn)
All fireworks except sparklers became illegal here for the general public when I was a teenager. Now I buy my grandchildren sparklers and take them to fireworks displays whenever I can. Not sure who enjoys it the most - I suspect it's me.

Dandelion and Daisy said...

We spent the weekend gardening, as well, the weather here was perfect for it...75 degrees and sunny. Some how I ended up with sun burned lips..a first for me! I wasn't pulling weeds with my mouth, promise! Any way, we got a lot done. You are an excellent writer! Not many can tell a story with as much feeling and color as you do.....something else to do in your spare time...become a professional writer!

Kelsie From Our Country Home said...

I have a habit of working and sweating on my bday...A date on the calendar does not change what needs to be done in a timely manner.

I enjoyed the story of your sparklers and appreciate having to endure the long winded story of warning before hand.

I am so glad Mr Carl takes such good care of you and makes sure you get to enjoy the fireworks each year.

Blessings Kelsie

Tufa Girl said...

Thanks for another great story. The 4th of July holiday is a great time to be with family and friends to create those memories.

Rosemary said...

So glad that Carl takes you for fireworks any guy that buys a girl a big firework is a keeper.....you were very wise to find him..... as a gardener one makes all sorts of mistakes thank goodness mine might only be a plant in the wrong spot or is grows bigger than the locale designated... no boulders for me! LOL

Toni said...

Another great story! We watched the local fireworks from our neighbors' backyard as they shoot fireworks off over the lake (no barns to burn down, and no fighting traffic). We did sparklers afterward at my neighbors, too, and it reminded me of my childhood. My sisters would light sparklers, and my brothers used to light firecrackers when we were kids, and they always scared me! I always thought they were going to blow some body part off. They were boys, after all. Last post I told you I was scared of tractors, and now it's firecrackers -- and my dad. He was "stern" too.

joey said...

I love your gardens and lovely 4th memories :) I grew up in a small resort town on Lake Huron (Saginaw Bay) and owned a store (lived behind). For fun on the 4th, we would slide around the front of the store (with sparklers) on a pavement sea of slippery fish flies ... cheap entertainment :)

Pam's English Garden said...

Dear Karen, I am in awe of your storytelling ability! I loved this posting. Spending my childhood in England, I missed out on the 4th firework celebrations - but we did have Bonfire Night on November 5th. You brought back some great memories. P. x

Shirley @ The Gardening LIfe said...

What a cute story! We used to get those sparklers occasionally for the kids' birthdays, sometimes alighting it on top of the cake sometimes they would hold it. Years later the burn mark on the linoleum remains to remind me of those good times, making me smile.