Ruby Slippers, a Zebra, a Snake in the Woods, and Miracle Prayers for Keith please!

Summer has finally arrived and we’re having typical summertime weather here on the Gulf Coast. It’s hot and humid, but after the winter we had I have promised not to whine about the heat anymore, or at least for a while. We’re very lucky we got all the way to June before it got hot in the first place. So, for now, I will forbear to complain about it. As the popular saying goes, it is what it is.

We’re still adding items to the availability list, as I hope you noticed. One of the things I’m particularly excited about is the new (to us) Oakleaf Hydrangea called ‘Ruby Slippers’. It is a compact grower for an Oakleaf Hydrangea and it is a profuse bloomer. The flowers emerge white and supposedly deepen to a nice red color as they age. I say supposedly because I have not seen it do this myself – this is the first crop we’ve grown. I do know this, however; the fall foliage is really impressive. We had ‘Ruby Slippers’ liners growing right next to the ‘Ellen Huff’ liners last fall and there was a striking foliage color contrast between the two. I will freely admit to being an admirer of Oakleaf Hydrangeas, but I think ‘Ruby Slippers’ is going to be a winner.

We have another Hydrangea selection waiting in the wings that I think is going to be a winner also. It’s a macrophylly cultivar called ‘Zebra’, because it has black stems and white flowers. We’ve had this one on the farm for about a year and a half but have not had any to sell just yet. We’ll have some full-gallons ready in about another 30 days or so. I’ve been very impressed with this plant and I expect you will be too. I can’t quite make myself believe that the world is screaming out for more Hydrangea varieties, but I think these two will sell very well.

A month or so ago I wrote about some of the funny things I’d seen happen at the golf course when we used to play. I thought of another story the other day, and it really was one of those “you really had to be there” incidents, but I’ll tell you as best I can what happened. As with a lot of my other funny golf stories, this one involves my late brother, Lee.

We were playing with a friend of his that I had not met before. The fourth hole at the Lucedale Golf and Country Club – and if the idea of Lucedale having, or needing, a “country” club strikes you as amusing, it should. If you had ever seen the place it would be even funnier. I’ve seen better kept pastures than our golf course was. At any rate, the fourth hole was a short par 3 and Lee had knocked his ball over the green and into the woods, a situation that happened with amazing regularity.

I had kept my ball in play, as had his friend, and in an effort to help speed things along some, I was down in the woods trying to help him find his ball. Like all normal people in this end of the world, anytime I’m in the woods or weeds in the summertime I am paying close attention to the ground around my feet so as not to step on a snake. If you think I have an irrational fear of snakes it is because you have probably had fewer close calls with snakes than I have. It’s not that I live in fear of snakes, I just don’t like them.

On this occasion I did not find a snake (or his ball), but I nearly stepped on an old black water hose that somebody had thrown down in the woods. When you’re already on edge watching for a snake, a black hose has pretty much the same effect on you as a real snake, and this one scared me. I was fortunate enough to flinch without screaming, because Lee was working his way toward me, still searching for his golf ball. I waited until he was just about to step on the hose and said very loudly, “Watch it”! It worked like a charm. He didn’t faint or wet his pants, but it scared the snot out of him.

The friend, who had been standing on the green and getting a little impatient, heard the commotion and started walking our way and asked what was the matter. Lee, recovering his wits quickly, looked at me and said, “Watch this”. He grabbed up the end of the water hose and started out of the woods in a trot, hoping to burst through a screen of native yaupon at just about the time his friend got there, throw the hose at him and scream “SNAKE”. 

If you are the sort that finds scaring people amusing, as am I, this is a tactic that works every time - unless something happens to derail your efforts. In Lee’s case, at just about the time he came crashing through the underbrush, and at the precise instant he was going to scream snake, he ran out of slack. Part of the hose, at about the middle, was wrapped around a good sized root several times and wasn’t going anywhere. Lee looked for all the world like a dog that forgets he’s on a chain.  The first thing to hit the ground was his shoulder blades.

My brother was lucky not to have dislocated his shoulder because neither his friend nor I would’ve been able to render even the most rudimentary aid. We were on our hands and knees with tears streaming down our cheeks laughing at Lee. Like I said earlier, you really had to be there.

On a more somber note, last time I asked you to remember my friend Keith Hinton in your prayers. He was involved in a traffic accident and suffered a broken neck. I’d appreciate it if you’d keep praying for him and for his wife, Paula. Keith is now in the Shepard Rehab Center in Atlanta and progress is coming very slowly. At the moment he still has little or no feeling from the neck down and it appears that his paralysis might indeed be permanent. This is something you’d hate to see happen to somebody you didn’t like, but to see such a good and decent person endure this is heartbreaking. But God is good, and I’m a firm believer in miracles, so please keep it up!

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