Huffman: Maters and melons

A mater and baby melon grow in Kaleb and Kim Huffman's garden.

Our back porch is covered with ’em... Maters and melons, plus lots of other veggies and fruits.

These include peppers, cucumbers, lettuce, bok choy, Swiss chard, herbs, strawberries, rainbow carrots and zucchini.

Or, as my 5-year-old son, Kaleb, calls them, “zoo-candy.”

Kaleb and his mommy, Kim, started planting everything around early April, using 5-gallon buckets and pots of various sizes. Their fascination with agriculture was sparked by the social isolation precautions spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic. My wife needed something to keep our oldest son busy.

For her sanity.

Her attempt at entertainment has been successful, as she and Kaleb have bonded while sharing watering duties and watching everything grow. Kaleb’s favorite part is shouting with glee every time he spots a new sprout, or helps pick and devour strawberries.

He’s become our strawberry connoisseur, routinely examining and giving updates on their progress:

“I think this one needs one more day. It’s not ready yet.”

Kim shares the same, if not greater, level of excitement, sending daily videos to her friends to brag about our back porch greenhouse. Some of her friends have coronavirus-inspired back porch greenhouses as well. Like doting parents, they’re eager to show off and fawn over one another’s produce.

“Awww! Look at that baby watermelon! So cute!!!”

You’d have never guessed my wife used to hate anything to do with growing plants, always dreading when she’d have to pull weeds from her grandmother’s flower beds.

Now I’m just waiting for her to trade in her car for a tractor and start wearing bib overalls, a straw hat and dirty boots. Then her transformation into a full-fledged farmer will be complete.

In the meantime, I’m subjected to a variety of weekly rants, like the one that damned the dastardly caterpillar who gobbled up a baby mater plant.

That caterpillar has no clue that a hit has been put out on it.

My grandparents were super watchful over their maters and melons as well. When I was a kid, they routinely grew a decent-sized garden on their farm. And, every year, they had to watch out for trespassing bugs and critters aiming to steal a buffet.

Lord knows there was always plenty of corn. The horses knew it, too, always gathering by the area of the fence near the garden with big toothy smiles, hankering for the husks. We always threw them over by the bucket-loads after shucking our gatherings on the front porch.

Those horses loved those annual treats. They knew they were going to get them the moment they started seeing towering stalks, buckets and dirty hands.

My father’s no stranger to getting his hands dirty in rich soil, either, compliments of his daddy’s garden. In fact, many years ago in his teenage years, my father got very familiar with it after alerting Pawpaw Buck that he’d probably get sent home from school for a few days.

My father aimed to get in a fight with a schoolmate who’d flirtatiously pinched my mother.

Pawpaw Buck made no objection — “Oh, okay” — and, sure enough, my father got suspended for three days. He figured he was going to just kickback and enjoy a little vacation time.

But Pawpaw Buck had other plans.

For three days, he woke my father at dawn. The two ate breakfast, and my father was given intensive, day-long chores in the yard and garden.

Periodically, Pawpaw Buck would head over with his rag and wipe some of the sweat off his son’s brow.

His callused hands made even more rugged, my father was glad to get back to school. Still, those maters and melons sure appreciated him.

Now, besides veggies and fruits, Pawpaw Buck also gained experience growing huge marijuana plants. He grew three in an old hog pen — that is, until a helicopter twice flew over his place, and a paranoid Buck quickly phoned a friend with a pickup.

Those plants needed to get gone — Now! — and the friend proved reliable.

I reckon ol’ Buck should’ve just stuck to maters and melons.

Keith Huffman can be reached at kmhuffman86@gmail.com.    

Keith Huffman can be reached at kmhuffman86@gmail.com.

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