I was traveling down a major boulevard in Mobile in our six passenger Dodge pickup. I love to drive that truck. Apparently one can take the cowgirl out of Oklahoma but not every piece of the cowgirl out of the girl.
Anyway, I happened to spy a garden nursery, the small independent sort I have been hankering after. I had the truck, there was the nursery, obviously serendipity. I whipped in with thoughts of shrubs and who knew what all that I could fit in the truck bed.
I instantly saw it was an eclectic sort of place. So much so that I had to assume about a front door. I found I had chosen rightly, and as I passed through, a man in thick overalls was going out. We smiled and nodded at each other. I said, “How are you today?” And he said, really he did, “Better now that you’re heah,” in the warm, liquid honey old Mobile accent that washed all over me.
The inside of the shop was all plants, a hodge-podge of potted Chinese evergreens, palms, lush green of that tropical sort, and various floral paraphernalia, so much that my eye could not take all of it in and ended up fixing upon an old and graying black female dog that lay on a blanket, wagging her tail. I said hello, and she wagged harder, and grinned at me, I’m certain.
A woman, obviously the proprietor, came forward to greet me, drawling, “Welcome. I’m glad you’re here.” Feeling very welcomed indeed, I asked about the shrubs and trees. She directed me to walk back outside and straight back for the trees and bushes. “He’s back there,” she said, gestering with her arm.
I walked along what appeared to have once been a driveway. Boxes, lumber, tires, all more eclectic stuff was piled on either side. I think I passed an old house. And then, my goodness, rolling yard of pots and pots of shrubs and trees, most shaded by sweeping live oak trees that must have dated from colonial French days.
He turned out to be an older man, bent, stiff, unhurried, and with that great stretch of liquid honey accent, as he, too, said, “Glad to see y’.” He reminded me of Winston. I have no doubt that in his day he had broke many a heart, and even now there was a rakish air about him. He told me to look around all I wanted but be careful of uneven ground.
That part about the uneven ground was an understatement. Every bit of ground was covered by black weed-block, underneath which seemed to have first been plowed in furrows. Potted shrubs and trees were in groups helter-skelter, all healthy looking, but not a one marked as to name or price. Some had been there a long time.
I came upon what I believed to be pots of iris. When I found the man again, he said yes, they were, “Louisiana ‘irish’.” This news excited me– something I remembered reading about. I said I would like a couple of pots.
“Let’s look further back heah and get you some bigger ones,” he said, leading me deeper into the rolling yard. No tags, no idea of color. I chose two, and we pulled the weeds out as we slowly walked back the old driveway to the front, where the man set the pots on a wire table.
“Who do I pay…and what do they cost?”
“Oh…six dollars a’piece ought’a do it.”
“Hmmm…” I peered into my small bag. “I don’t have the cash, I hope you take credit card.”
He, also peering over into my tiny purse, asked, “How much do you have?”
“Eleven dollars,” I said, pulling out the bills.
“That’ll do.” The bills vanished into his pocket.
I smile now, remembering the place and the people, especially the rakish old man, whose warm honey accent still echoes in my ears. All of it was worth far more than the pots of ‘irish’.
The writer experiences everything twice. Once in reality and once in that mirror which waits always before or behind. ~Catherine Drinker Bowen
Blessings for a great day,