Crystal Balls, Saints and Son-In-Laws, and Why We Live in a Small Town!

We finished potting last week at the nursery, which is always a major milestone. I think all nurseries do things a little differently, but we generally pot our azaleas in May and most of the ornamental stuff in the fall. There will be some other things to pot throughout the winter, odds and ends here and there, but the bulk of it has been laid by now. And I’m glad. We can focus on propagation for the next 6 weeks or so until the roses come in, then work like mad to get them planted in a hurry. It seems like we’re always playing beat the clock. I’m sure your business is no different.

The challenge for me in planning crops for the next 3 or 4 years is guessing what might sell. I don’t own a crystal ball, as I’ve said many times before, because if I did I’d be a stockbroker instead of a farmer. It appears to me that they sweat a lot less than nurserymen do. But in deciding what to grow, I look at what has sold well in the past and do my best to extrapolate into the future. Sometimes it works well and sometimes it doesn’t. If you know of a better way to forecast consumer demand I’d certainly welcome your suggestions.

I had a funny thing happen to me this weekend. Funny if you have a sense of humor anyway. My mother-in-law, the sweetest, most selfless, kindhearted person I know, was voted volunteer of the year by the Mississippi Hospital Association. Not just for Lucedale or George County – for the whole state. She is one of those folks who wake up in the morning trying to think of something nice to do for somebody else. Fortunately, all those qualities are heritable traits. Unfortunately, they were passed down to my brother-in-law, Andrew and not to my wife. No, not really. My dear sweet wife inherited at least some of her mother’s good qualities.

At any rate, because our city fathers considered her selection by such an august statewide association to be a very big deal, they asked her to be the Grand Marshall in the Christmas parade. We have 21,000 souls here in George County, and every one of them comes to the Christmas parade – along with a fair number of out-of-towners, evidently. I was honored to be asked to drive the car on which she rode in the extravaganza.

One of the problems was that my mother-in-law, Mrs. Faye, was given two big boxes of candy to throw along the route. As a side note, I’d be willing to bet that 3 tons of candy are thrown at our little parade. We have 5 dentists in town and it has been my long-standing opinion that they ought to be the ones who fund the purchase of all this candy. They’re the ones who ultimately benefit from its distribution…if anybody does. 

To get back to problem number one, my mother-in-law, saintly as she is, has a pitiful throwing arm. I had candy steadily raining down the back of my shirt, and at the end of the parade there must’ve been 25 pounds of Chinese-made taffy still in the car. What small percentage did make it out of the car got nowhere near the crowds at the edge of the street. Naturally, it served to lure every kid in the crowd right out in front of the next vehicle in line. I was a nervous wreck before we’d gone a quarter of a mile.

The other, bigger problem was the car itself. Mrs. Faye had asked a friend of hers if we could use his car, a convertible. You can’t, after all, be the Grand Marshall in the Christmas parade and ride in a hard-top. She needed a car where she could sit up on the back of the seat and wave to the crowds. The car we used was a 70s vintage Triumph. I picked it up an hour and a half before the parade and drove it to her house. It ran like a top, then.

I’m guessing you know where I’m headed here. Very early in the parade, just after we’d turned onto Main Street, the car died. No amount of coaxing or cussing, sotto voce, of course, did the least bit of good. We were sandwiched between the high school marching band and a semi-trailer behind us. Lucedale being the kind of place that it is, a couple of strangers who noticed our plight sprang into action and gave us a push. Every hundred yards or so somebody else would fall in and take over. We made it the whole rest of the way, right about a mile, by having folks push us along. I have to admit that I felt like somewhat of a dunce, but it wasn’t my car, I’m not much of a mechanic to begin with, and we were exactly like the proverbial dog chained in the rain. We were forced to play the hand as dealt and to rely on the kindness of others. It made me glad, for the one millionth time, that I live in a small town.

When we passed the First Methodist Church, a couple of buddies of mine took over the pushing job and did it the rest of the way. When we reached the end of the parade I tried the ignition again, just as I’d done 50 times along the route, and the car cranked. It ran just long enough for me to get my mother-in-law back to her home. They say the Lord takes care of fools and drunks. Evidently he takes care of saints and their sons-in-law once in a while too. Thank God for that.

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