Austin C. Kennell
Dateline: Afton, VA January 1986
I've had it!
I'm never, never going to plant another rhododendron - or azalea - or anything else. As a matter of fact, I'm probably going to dig up all my plants, trees, grass, and weeds and replace them with green concrete.
For many years I've agonized as my trees toppled singly and in bunches whenever they got tired of being so upright. I've put up with beavers making like chain saws, squirrels, deer, and rabbits fast-fooding on my buds and tender shoots; raccoons preempting my produce; moles goose-bumping my lawn; and snakes and skunks keeping me agile. But I didn't quit!
I've held back tears when a neighbor's herd of cattle did an old-fashioned John Wayne stampede through my plants. I gave it the old stiff-upper-lip when ice storms restructured my plants. I didn't bitch too much when the snow got up to my ascot. And, I didn't quit!
I merely smiled weakly when old what's-his-name's dog, with paws like potato mashers, put his stamp of approval on my plants. I never opened my mouth when voracious cutting-seeking pruning shears attached at the other end to hands of visitors did a crew cut on some choice things. And winds - you may not believe it but once it blew so hard that three feet of my neighbor's property blew over on my lot. Still I didn't quit!
I've had more bugs than a junk-yard dog - more diseases than the Mayo Clinic. I've fried in equatorial heat, dehydrated in Saharan droughts, sloshed through torrential downpours, and shivered during Arctic weather. Yet, I hung on! I've survived everything that Mother Nature, Old Man Winter, Lady Luck, and Father Time threw at me. I really thought I had them all beaten, for in December my plants were loaded with the heaviest bud set I have ever had. I drooled at visions of blossoms dancing in my head. I was on the threshold of growing greatness. (It's hard to be humble when you've got it!)
But a funny thing happened to me on the way to greatness - an all-time low of -15° with a wind chill factor of 40 below demoted me all the way back to mere mortal status, Just to make sure I got the message, the pipes in my house froze and burst and our furnace decided it needed a rest. This did it - I quit! I'm a beaten man. The mantle of greatness wasn't my size.
Dateline: Afton, VA February 1986
My mind's made up!
Until someone comes up with a 'Lem's Cameo' crossed with a goose-down parka that sheds fallen trees, is immune to all bugs and diseases, withstands extremes of drought, heat, snow and ice, I'm out of horticulture.
Dateline: Afton, VA March 1986
You just can't trust plants!
Why, some of my plants don't even have the tact to stay dead. The contrary things just want to show me how little I know about their will to survive. Maybe I better put a hold on my order for bulldozing and concrete mixing, and there sure are some exciting plants in the 1986 catalogs. Maybe...
Dateline: Afton, VA April 1986
Ah hell, I'll take one more shot at greatness!