“And don’t walk around on the bank behind that line of irises. The ground is soft and it’ll throw you. You’ll wind up twenty feet straight down in the ravine and I’m not sure how we’d get you back up.” Dad’s given me that warning three times now.
Yesterday I asked him, “So I guess you know this from personal experience?”
“Yeah, I didn’t think I was ever going to climb back up. And right now’s not a good time to go in the ravine, anyway. The snakes are out.”
“You’ve seen snakes?”
“Nope, but I know they’re out. They like this hot weather.”
It’s too darn hot…. too darn hot… That’s from Kiss Me, Kate, isn’t it? Yeah, well, over here on the ravine, it’s too hot for kissing Kate or anybody else and it’s defnitely too darn hot for gardening. I was going out at 6 a.m. this morning – I didn’t. I was going to come in at 9:00 – I didn’t. By noon I’d dug up about fifty iris tubers and planted four barberries and weeded out about twenty clumps of crabgrass. Spent? Oh yeah, I was. And hot.
I was downstairs early so I should have gone on out there but I was watching a big black dog chase a fox – stupid dog. The fox was having a teasing good time. Back and forth across the back yard they sprinted with the fox taking a confusing occasional detour into the ravine on one end and back out on the other. Blackie’s ears went straight up – Huh? he said. What’s this? And finally, he could stand no more; he plunged down into the ravine beside the compost bin, one of the favorite foxtrots.
Fox came back up and sat down in front of the roses and leisurely scratched himself. Now – I’m not saying that something got Blackie down there at the bottom of the ravine, but I never saw him come back out. Not a good time to go in the ravine.
So I didn’t get outside until I thought perhaps Act III of the drama had ended but then, I didn’t have a script in front of me to make sure. My plan was only to plant the barberries, two red and two green, and to weed a sizeable patch of the back corner garden, the one that has the foxpath to the ravine on Don’s property. (Don is our bachelor neighbor. We think of him as the Don of the neighborhood. He sees all, knows all. And he grows some wicked tomatoes.)
“Good morning, Miss Diana.” Don made me jump. I didn’t see him digging around in his lettuce and onions. “What are you doing this morning? Garden’s looking good…”
“Well, I spend most of my time on it just pondering. Then I spend the rest of my time wondering why I don’t get more done. Guess I’m going to dig dirt today. Lettuce looking good, Don.”
“Get you some of it. Onions almost ready, too. What are you digging on?”
“Going to plant these little bushes. Then I think I’ll move a couple of those irises over here by the daylilies.”
Dad and I heeled in a thirty-foot line of irises on the ravine bank last fall when we moved in. They’ve needed weeding, or moving, or both, so I determined to start transplanting a few at a time, here and there. Sure enough, the first ones I dug up had some root damage. It was a quick thought – as opposed to my usual meandering ponder. Uh-oh, I better dig all these things up and clean them up and get them moved before I lose the whole bunch of them.
I dug. I wiped my face with an old damask napkin. I dug. I sprayed myself every few minutes with the garden hose. I pulled grass and vine out of the roots. I dug. Too darn hot. I checked my cellphone; yep, still in its plastic ziplock bag. (I lost the last one to garden sweat.) I dug. I separated the tubers. I got the whole row of irises dug up, cleaned up, separated. And I only threatened a plunge into the ravine twice.
The first time I was rescued by an unwitting muscadine twined into a tight thick pad on a felled tree. The other time I grabbed the edge of the compost bin and pulled and crawled back up. That ground was soft and it threw me. Snakes are out. Big black dog is down in the ravine. How would I ever get back up?
I went to see Dad after lunch. He said he’d been outside but didn’t get any work done. “Too hot to do much outside,” he said. I told him I dug up the irises.
“You did? You better be careful walking on the bank behind where those irises were. That ground is soft and it’ll throw you.”
“Yeah, well, guess what I saw this morning…. that big black dog was chasing a fox across the back yard….” I went on to recount the story.
Dad thought for a minute. “Well, I’m not saying something ate him up down there in the ravine, but you never saw him come back up, and I never saw him come back up…”