Vegetarians are people who are unable to hear the tomatoes scream.
-- Gry Jannicke Jarlum
Despina is hungry for fresh tomatoes. Frustrated by the cardboard taste of the store-bought models and inspired by Vi's bounteous garden, she stops at a farmer's market specializing in seeds and plants when the actual fruits and vegies are still out of season, but the true gardeners among the populace has already picked over the plants and buys a set of four "Big Boys" that don't look terminally scraggly.
Stopping at the river, she pulls her shovel out of the back end of Baby Blue Ram, positions the tail gate over a black bottomed creek area, dons her work gloves and begins to shovel.
When her arms start to shake, she decides she has enough muck. Along the edge of the road, she spies some "road apples" still steaming they're so fresh, so she adds them to the black glop, then drives around to the back of her hovel, out of sight from prying eyes.
Digging four holes, she places a bed of gravel sized rocks in the bottom.
A soft Spanish query interrupts her, "Why do you bury the rocks?"
"Oh, hi, Alberto. You startled me. When I repot my flowers, the rocks aid drainage."
"Why does it seem strange?"
"I've watched a lot, and nobody does it that way."
"Well, it may be extra work, but I doubt it will hurt anything in the long run."
Shaking his head, Alberto leaves when he hears Cu's distinctive truck engine.
Slowly she adds a 2" layer of the manure, followed by the black dirt, with the tiny plants sticking up as an afterthought. They seemed exceedingly sickly.
Collecting old lathe from a dilapidated structure by an old mine office on her next ramble into the back country, she returns to stake the plants with soft strips of a worn out shirt demoted to "rag" status.
Faithfully, she empties out her old water over her four plants. The shadow of the hovel prevents them from getting too much of a good thing in the vitamin D department.
Cu stops by one evening as she is returning from the campfire, heading into her "back" door.
"¿Qué es esto?" he inquires, pointing to the scraggly tomato plants.
"Mis tomatoes." The leaves are turning a sickly yellow.
"Too much water? Oh, is that why the leaves are yellow?"
"Unless they've run afoul of your rocks..."
She begins to water them every other day. The leaves turn green, then brown, and finally black.
"¿Qué pasa con los tomatoes?" Cu asks the next time he sees them. "They seem to be turning black. I've never known rocks to cause that."
"Some green thumb YOU have," contributes Paul Peter. "Now, my mom can really grow a mean tomato. She has a secret formula. She works two year old thoroughly dried out sheep manure in around the plant, top dressing it with more. Don't spread it around... that's a family secret."
"Oh. I used mine fresh from the horse."
"Well, maybe I can dilute it with more water."
Hearing the tale somehow, Mickey brings her some from Vi's garden shortly thereafter, looking curiously at the black stalks not very much bigger than the day she planted them. "She starts them indoors and always has her first ones by the time everyone else is just getting around to planting theirs. It's a matter of pride with her. Did you REALLY put rocks in there?"
Last updated 8/24/04. (Changed . to , after YOU have,")