the little clods,
with all the dadly
strength I could muster until they were
all halved, and then halved
again and again and again.
Breathless and soaked to the bone
with a dripping briny sweat,
I cackled with a cutting
throat and stepped back in the crisp
April air to admire the results of the
day's dreadful and maniacal chore.
I had returned their misshapen
forms back to the earth, all right.
There they were, once robust,
and taunting and whole, scattered into
faceless little bittles, victims, all,
of my merciless blunted steel.
The gardening season was upon us again.
And shame rain down upon all of
you, my misguided readers, who
may have concluded in a media-indoctrinated
bloodlust that your favorite
dad had finally gone off his nut and offed
the very brood that provides
this sad little cybercolumn its ongoing schtick.
Shame upon you, I say!
Although I will haltingly admit,
there is precedent supporting your
evil assumption, dear dads.
Back in my TV news gathering days,
when a "V" chip would most likely be a
new crispy-crunchy Frito-Lay product and
not a 1st amendment issue, we uncovered
a happy little summer gardening
story in a sleepy Ohio town,
and it went something like this:
Once, in a time not all that long ago,
there lived a man who took a bride.
Not happy in an increasingly
unholy state of matrimony,
he kakked her, hacked her, torched her bits
in a 55-gallon metal drum, and
with a whistling tune
on his pursed little hillbilly harelip,
he ever-so-carefully rototilled her
blackened, charred remains into the
backyard victory garden from whence
would ensue a remarkable bumper crop of
zucchinis, cukes and Better Boys.
With guilt piling up and salad fixins
running out, he gave himself over to
the authorities who were kind enough
to let us news ghouls videotape the
gruesome garden for our hyperbole-heavy
usage on the dinnertime evening news.
Killer overnight ratings,
as I am certain you would surmise.
Our own soil enhancement agenda is, of course,
filled less with such egregious exotica
as it is with crap.
Every year, I traipse out into
the wintery backyard wasteland,
turfed mercilessly by our
idiot dog Parvo; every year I smack
at re-congealed clay clods to ready
gentle Mother Earth for her tender
perennial seedlings until my puling biceps,
atrophying from their monumental age,
scream and scream again for blessed mercy.
Every year I conduct a highly exacting and
scientific scatological survey to determine
which species of feces up and down the
Darwinian scale will finally
transform the mirey Midwestern clayclods
into the monster-maker of jackpot bumper crops.
In this Odyssean search, I have raked
in the foulest smelling reek of
dung that has variously
bleated back at me mockingly,
neighed and whinnied,
I have gone as far as purchasing
piles of pachyderm poop from
the city's annual "Zoo-doo" fund-raiser.
But the detritus of Dumbo, like all
the others, sadly has the same
effect year after year, burning
my forlorn cash crop to a crimson crisp.
So it is that I perform perennial
backyard voodoo in an effort to
stave off spiraling grocery bills;
and apparently as a subconsciously
welcome form of self-flagellation.
Naturally, as soon as my pathetic
harvest is a-ready for reapin',
the supersized super-megamarkets are
bustin' at the seams with produce so cheap,
you could cram a mini-van
yupmobile to the sunroof with just
pocket change, making
my ritual misery moot.
Even Mr. Douglas had it easier.
In the verdant acres of Pixley,
Oliver was served scores of steaming
hot cakes by his attendant and
The very highest of high technology in farm
implementation was always delivered,
albeit with a slight mark-up, directly
to Oliver Douglas' door by the lovable,
avuncular and septum-deviated Mr. Haney.
Who could be a finer farm-hand than
the enigmatic Eb, who blazed a fashion
trail of flannel far before
Kurt Cobain slithered out of Seattle
to come a-grungin.'
And as I am sure we all can agree,
Arnold Ziffel could most certainly
kick the wimpy porcine backsides
of both Babe and Gordy any old day.
While Mr. Douglas' furrowed fields
may have ultimately under-performed
(not really unlike mine
or even W. C. Field's doomed orange
grove in "It's a Gift"),
at least he was trapped in a pleasant
existential Sisyphean cycle of sight gags.
Come the harvest moon, back in these
here parts, a barrage of ballistic basketballs
my son elatedly slam-dunks from
3-Point-Land will have crunched my cukes,
pummeled my peppers,
and assassinated my arugula.
And the day after I involve the little kiddles
in the bucolic joys of feeding and weeding,
my gap-toothed daughter will invariably
present me with a glimmering mile-wide
smile and a bouquet of still-developing
garlic and carrots and kohlrabi
violently and prematurely plucked
from their sleepy soily cradles.
The final yearly indignity comes once again,
my friends, when my octogeneric neighbors
perform their inexplicable daily doggie routine,
in which they return from a
Denny's Grand Slam, toddle from their
leather-clad Lincoln on steely
prosthetic knees and hips, beckon Parvo to the
stockade fence with snout-watering meaty
Denny morsels, and then recoil in abject
horror when our canine companion leaps
like a circus seal possessed
against the fence to snap up the scrappets.
It is as if by electing to cheat
death by Doberman, they buy bankable
time against the Inevitable.
Whatever their motivation, in the
course of the Daily Denny Dance,
doggie will have tango'd on my turnips,
fandango'd on my fennel, and
cha-cha'd my chives on to their greater reward.
Nigh on to Labor Day,
I am finally able to produce a bountiful
horn-o-plenty replete with one radish;
two blotched-out tomatoes that
appear to have some alien form of ring worm;
and three successful habañeros
I will surreptitiously use in a
volcanic salsa which I will slip my unsuspecting
brother, just to see him go ape
(as I am still, after all, his Big Brother).
So goes the Circle of Life, dear dads;
but don't get all misty on me
and do some smarmy Lion King schlock in your head.
Go git out in the back-40 and git busy;
the growing season for us dads
won't last forever, you know.
For when Mother Earth issues her clarion call,
we must all, like the hapless lemming, relent;
for we are all of us,
clods unto her sight.
We are There.