Great Hydrangeas, Heucheras, and a whole lot of God's Grace!

On my last availability list I mentioned that the Hydrangea paniculatas (Phantom and Limelight) were beginning to look good. Now they are spectacular. If you want something to make your customers stop and look, I suggest you try some of these. It would take a natural born plant hater not to like these guys.

We grew our first crop of Heucheras this year. They are colorful, shade-loving perennials that I’d seen in a landscape at a resort a couple of years ago. I heard somewhere once that if you always do what you always did you’ll always get what you always got. I’m thinking that’s a very true truism. Plus, growing new plants is usually an interesting proposition for me, if for no other reason than having a little break in the monotony.  You know what they say about variety being the spice of life and all.

Since I had no idea which varieties would grow well here, and more importantly which ones would sell well, I had to rely on the advice of the salesman I bought them from, a situation fraught with peril if you don’t know who you’re dealing with. In this case I lucked out for the most part, because at the time I didn’t know the salesman at all. He suggested four varieties for starters so that’s what I did. Three of the four turned out good, one of them especially so. We still have a few Fire Chief and Brass Lantern on hand, both of which are nice. We sold out of one called Black Beauty very early, so guess which one I’m going to grow more of next year? The real dog of the bunch is a white one called Paris. I’ll scratch that one for sure next year. I don’t think it’s all that happy in south Mississippi anyway.

I don’t know if it made the news where you live or not, but there was an incident at my neighbor’s farm, about a mile from here, week before last that was all the buzz in the community for a few days. A good friend of mine and his wife own a very large produce farm, about 80 acres of which is in a “U-Pick” field. You wouldn’t believe how many folks show up on Saturday mornings, especially early in the season, ready to get out there and pick a bunch of tomatoes, squash, peppers, eggplants and okra. I am not exaggerating when I say it’s something like 3,000 people on a decent Saturday. By sunup it looks like you kicked open an ant bed around there.

At any rate, on Wednesday night, the 5th of June, we got a little over two inches of rain. On Thursday morning a charter bus load of first graders from Baldwin County, Alabama showed up for a summer field trip. Unbeknownst to anybody there, the rain from the night before had opened up a long abandoned well bore, about a foot in diameter, but still covered by a layer of grass. A six year old girl walked off the bus, shepherded by one of the farm employees, and walked straight into the hole.

It is only by the grace of God that it happened right there where everybody saw it. If it had been out in the middle of the field, between rows of chest-high vegetable plants, they might never have known what happened to her. As it was, a couple of employees, both friends of mine, sprang into action immediately. What they didn’t know at the time was how far she’d fallen. You couldn’t see very far down into the hole, but she was answering them when they called her. As it turned out, she fell 35 feet.

The next time you think about it, look up a light pole or a tall tree and see if you can judge just how far 35’ is. Or better yet, if you really want to get some perspective on it, climb up a tree 35 feet and look down. I promise you it’ll make your stomach feel queasy if you’re looking down that far. Luckily for the little girl there was a lot of mud in the bottom of the well and she didn’t break her legs and back when she landed.

Within a couple of minutes my friends had found some rope, lowered it down into the blackness, and instructed the child to hang on while they pulled her out. She made it about halfway up before falling back down, unable to hold on. The local authorities had been alerted almost instantly and were there within a few minutes, but nobody had any idea of how to effect the rescue. The general consensus was that it was too dangerous to try pulling her out with the rope again.

My friends on the scene tell me that during the whole ordeal, or the hole ordeal if you want to be glib about it, even shining a flashlight into the well you couldn’t see the child. Fortunately for everybody involved, one of my friends who works at the farm is also a youth minister and, somehow, he was able to keep his wits and talk to the child, keeping her calm. I have never thought of myself as particularly claustrophobic, but I don’t know how I would’ve handled being so far in the ground in such a tight spot.

A special rescue team was called in from Hattiesburg to try and make the extraction. Hattiesburg is an hour away from here if you’re in a hurry. They did get here eventually and took charge of the situation. They set up a tripod right over the hole and lowered, but use of a pulley, a special harness into the well. They managed to tell the child how to slip the cuffs over her wrists and, once they got her positioned, hoisted her to safety. She was caked in red mud from head to toe, everything except her eyeballs.  She didn’t have a scratch on her.

From the time she fell in till the time she got out was just over three and a half hours. God is truly good. I get choked up just thinking about how relieved everybody there was. Certainly there were a whole bunch of prayers answered in Rocky Creek that day.

My great hope now that the child is safely home is that lawyers don’t get involved. My friends who own the farm are very good and decent people who could not possibly have prevented the whole affair. The well bore, which might have been a hundred years old, was filled in with concrete the very next day. Being the kind of person I am I had briefly considered making a big plywood sign that said “Watch For Holes” and putting it up at the entrance to the U-Pick field before daylight last Saturday morning. I decided against it. My friend has a good sense of humor, but it might not be that good. And there is the little issue of his excellent marksmanship. He is a dove hunting buddy of mine and I’ve seen him shoot enough birds to know that he sure as heck wouldn’t miss me if, in fact, he didn’t see the humor in the situation.

It would be funny, though. Maybe I’ll give it a year or so and try it then.

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