The Sins of the Fathers

DeShawn and I spent most of the weekend at Carole’s house in Columbia. With only a few days left of spring and the official beginning of summer fast approaching, these last 2 days have been hot and muggy.

Before leaving on Saturday morning, I barely managed to make the milestone of having one of the pair of sashes completely painted. The final coat of semi-gloss “sawgrass” tan on the interior facing side of the sashes was totally dry and cured when we returned home to 118 Henry Street today. The heat in the upstairs of the house bakes the paint to a hard, shiny finish. It was a close call this afternoon not to put the last coat of paint on the other pair of sashes. But, in the final decision, mowing the lawn won my attention. The weather forecast for next week includes more rain and the grass would be unmanagably tall if I waited another week.

The lawn mower was in the first set of tools purchased when I moved to Chester 2 autumns ago. It’s a relatively high power push type, moving along at a pace determined solely by the driver, with no self-propulsion. I almost bought the ultimate in yard exercise machinery, an old fashion mower with the spinning curved blades. The prospect of hand sharpening the blades, however, caused me to hesitate. And, a mulching mower is important when 20+ trees with leaves are part of the landscape.

Acreage at 118 Henry Street is about 0.5 with rough rectangular dimensions of 100’x200′. Assuming the mower cuts about a 20″ swath, that’s about 2 miles of pushing a mower up and down the hills in my yard. It takes about an hour and a half at a good walking pace, so that sounds about right for the distance. With the cardboard box, packing materials and all the pieces on the driveway, Kent Vines had come over to watch me assemble the mower when I brought it home. He asked me if it was self-propelled. When I replied in the negative, he sincerely and graciously offered the use of his riding mower should I ever need it. Poor Kent had no idea at the time about the madman newly nextdoor with the nefarious plan for self abuse.

Carole lives in an old house too. Almost a perfect example of tidewater folk architecture, her little house with wooden clapboards and tin roof is undoubtedly over a hundred years old. One of the oldest houses in the neighborhood, it was originally a farmhouse with no indoor plumbing. It’s easy to think of history in terms of the famous people and grand deeds recorded by the victors of human wars. But real history is about how everyday was lived by the normal people of the time. Carole’s house on Maple Street is a time machine back to the ordinary, everyday farm family around the turn of the century.

Carole at the Dwight D. “Ike” Eisenhower Birthplace, Sherman TX

431 S. Maple Street, Carole’s old farmhouse

We created two significant piles of yard debris on Maple Street this Saturday. There’s a terribly old and huge liveoak tree at the back of Carole’s yard that’s over 3′ in diameter and probably 250+ years old. Unbelievably, within 6′ of the big oak, had grown up a magnolia tree. Although 10″ in diameter, it wasn’t very tall and was heavily leaning in an attempt to get some unfiltered sunlight. Carole said that it had been there for as long as she could remember. It took me about 20 minutes to get it on the ground and about 2 1/2 hours to get it cut up and moved to the side of the road for next week pick up. Pile #1 is approximately 20′ long, 6′ deep, and 5′ high.

In the ensuing clear cut that followed the magnolia tree, we created Pile #2, appromimately 10′ square and 6′ high. Pile #2 was created from bushes, vines, 2 or 3 dozen small trees and anything other leafy plant standing higher than 3 inches tall that was in my way. The “reclaim Carole’s backyard” project had originally started last summer. Even though I did have a mattock, not much happened on the project until I bought a chainsaw. This weekend saw the most of it done. There’s still a sizable area behind some wire fence that will get down before winter.

Despite the quantity of yard debris we generated this weekend, Carole and I made time to stop by her, and my adopted, parents today. Jean and Deucey have been married since the dawn of time. She’s in her early 70’s and he made it to 82 this year. Deucey was mixing up some spray insecticide when we arrived and Jean was at the sink, washing an early season round of cherry tomatoes. After visiting a bit in the kitchen with Mom, I went outside to check on Deucey’s garden spray operation. He had just finishing spraying the tomato plants and had stepped on a fire ant mound in the garden. Several ants had bit and stung his sandaled feet. We talked while he cleaned off his right foot and applied alcohol to the stings.

South Carolina is not as bad as Florida but we do have our share of insect species. A large part of every summer is spent fending off the mosquitoes, killing the fleas, avoiding the fire ants, spraying the aphids, and, well, you get the picture. Of course, battling the fire ants was most of what Deucey and I discussed. Shortly, he grabbed a shovel and we determined to find some queen ants. He and I were walking the yard looking for mounds like two kids off school for the summer with nothing better to do. All this at 92 degrees in the noon day sun. After digging up a half dozen or so, we got distracted by some buried bricks and while we dug them up, he giggled about a treasure marker.

Deucey has worked hard for over 70 years, most of it physical work, outdoors, in construction. Although the years have taken their toll, and especially the last 4 or 5 have been hard on his mind and his health, you and I would be blessed and proud to find ourselves at 82 years old with his stamina and energy.

There is an often repeated joke that Satan used to live in Columbia, South Carolina. But he moved to hell to escape the heat.