Mayor of the Yard
A. D. McNees, Tuscumbia, AL
Gather round cousins and I will tell you some of the hard times of this place. My name is 'Trilby' and I have been living here for many years and have watched all of you as you each have reached maturity. All of you youngsters have come along after the living is easy. But let me tell you a little of the history of this place. Believe you me it was not always this easy. Ole Pete put me here a long time ago and here is how it was. I was in a nursery in Huntsville, Alabama, with my first buds just beginning to show good color when Pete and Jeanie came strolling through. I heard her say something about wanting a rhododendron someday and that this is a rhododendron. They talked and finally it was decided they wanted a "Red" one. That like to have scared me to death. When they just call you a red one you better look out. I tried to hide but he reached down and picked me up rather carelessly and said we'll take this one. They did set me on the back seat on some paper and let me see out on the way back to Tuscumbia. I bet you they moved me a dozen times before they decided here would be a spot where they could see me from all angles.
I tell you I was "give out" trying to bloom and move at the same time. I do remember that if it had not been for a rain I would have starved to death. Well, to get on with it; he went after a shovel and started digging a hole. When I looked at that red clay I started making out my will right then. Sure enough just like I was a tomato he socked me in that deep clay hole and then tried his best to drown me. I knew right then and there something had to be done. I gathered every ounce of energy I had and like they say "if you done it, it ain't bragging"; well I put them on a show that you youngun's wouldn't believe. I made every floret stand out, every truss I pushed to the fullest. Sure enough, I got his attention and he showed some slight interest and bought a book on rhododendrons. Thank goodness it had enough color pictures to get and keep his attention. By fall that first year he was getting a little better and brought in some sixty friends and relatives. He had read enough to almost quit digging holes and brought in some dirt for planting almost on top of the ground; but he still had the farmers syndrome and just had to dig a little hole.
You old timers remember our talks about somehow we had to bring him along. We all bloomed our hearts out and then one day he hung a tag on my branch that said 'Trilby'. Let me tell you that was one of the happiest days of my life. I was no longer just a red one. From there things progressed at a rapid rate. When he joined the American Rhododendron Society we were very pleased and that spring we put on a show that he still talks about. In short order he began to bring in you 'Five-Fives' from the West Coast and I was so delighted to have royalty here with us "common folk". Our friendship grew some when we who were less than perfect were treated, loved, and appreciated equally with the newcomers. As you may recall we started receiving pine needles and oak leaves each fall, and our spray program is now quite adequate but it has not always been so.
One year, long ago, I had so many bites my leaves looked like they had lost the war. We all get a little nourishment now along with some gypsum for our well being. You youngsters really don't understand hard times, what with your specialized sandy loam, peat moss, perlite, pine bark, gypsum, Epsom salts, and the soil amendment with the right numbers that he now uses.
For some reason he has not gone into the marriage broker business; but he is not fooling me. I know he has been slipping around reading all those sex books on hybridization. For sure he can't get careless in this area. I have had my "eye" on 'Francesca' for some time now and hopeful we will get to the altar someday. I suggest you be patient with him because after all he is a human. Some of his mistakes would make you laugh and some would make you cry; but I know for sure his heart is in it. I do wish he would be more careful with some of his experiments. I tell you I have seen him come through here with that wild look in his eye with some strange things in a bag or a bottle and it is best to look real happy or you may get a dose of some concoction that might prove dangerous. He finally dug a well and now we all get a good drink when we need it.
The proudest day of my life was when he took his first cutting from me and made me a proud parent. Since that first cutting I have many, many children to carry on for me and they now grace the yards of his friends. Old Pete comes around almost daily and we have grown very used to each other. We communicate like old friends do and most of the time very little is said; we just look each other over and know that our bonds grows stronger all the time. He touches me and I know. I am right proud of him and Jeanie because they love to share our beauty with others.
This little gathering was called to give you some information you will need in order to do well here. Try to communicate with him because I know for sure he understands our language.
Now as Mayor of the yard I suggest we are going to have to set up some type of zoning regulations and site sizes as he still continues to bring in more of our relatives Some of these new kin folks appear to be real shy and are having trouble getting used to living here in the South; so you be real nice to them and make them welcome. The next time he comes by I will try to discuss with him some of this; but I will have to do it very gently. I see that some of the rooted cuttings are getting sleepy so this gathering is adjourned, "sine die"
Faithfully translated for my friend 'Trilby'.