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Growing Tomatoes

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Growing Tomatoes

Walter Rice cupped the little tomato plant in his hand and showed his grandson
 how to nip off the bottom branchlets with a thumbnail.
Now, you bury it right up to the leaves, boy, so's you get a nice bushy plant, and you'll have your twenty-five baskets on the first pickin'."
Twenty-five baskets of ripe tomatoes, delivered to the A&P canning plant, would bring enough to buy a Western Flyer bicycle.
Steven Rice thought of red, white and blue handlebar streamers in the wind as he set in the new plants where the old man punched the mounded soil with his cane.

In June the mornings were cool, and Steven hoed out the weeds, and inspected his plants for signs of blossoms. A dry spell came in July, and he passed the afternoons on the long slow swing under the elm tree, looking out at the green rows in the shimmering heat, listening for thunder through the drone of locusts. Finally, it rained a little in the night, then a lot more the next night. Then the yellow blossoms came, more than he had ever seen; and a long time afterward the tiny green tomatoes appeared.
One day he found a tomato that had escaped his notice before. It had ripened before all the others, and Steven proudly bore it to his mother's kitchen.
The thing was so big and sweet that she made sandwiches for the two of them, and had enough left to make one for Steven to take to his grandfather, working in his own tomato field.
Walter Rice sat in the shade beside his field, and ate the sandwich Steven had brought him.
"A&P's gonna start takin' tomatoes in a couple more weeks, boy. It seems we just put those plants in, and now it's almost pickin' time.

"It's been a long time, Grandpa," said Steven. "A long time to wait for a bicycle."
Walter smiled at the boy. "It didn't seem long to me. But then, I wasn't waitin' for a bicycle."
The mornings had become cool again, and it was barely dawn the day Steven loaded twenty-five baskets of bright tomatoes on his grandfather's old pickup truck.
They were third in line at the A&P plant, and waited in the steam clouds that smelled of ketchup.
Later, as they drove home with a new Western Flyer carefully tied upright in the back of the pickup, Walter asked his grandson, "Did you notice that toboggan they had hangin' on the wall, Steven? If you start savin' now, maybe you could have that by winter time."

Steven was on his knees, looking back at the red, white and blue handlebar
 streamers playing in the wind.

"It'll be a long time before it snows, Grandpa," he said.

GROWING TOMATOES - By Jim Fessenden - Copyright 1992 - 2001


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