It has been a while since I wrote about my friend Farmer Orville. We’ve both had some health issues lately, and we’ve cut back on the cookies. But I’m happy to say we had a great visit this afternoon. He told me what was wrong with him and I countered with what was wrong with me.
Orville and his wife Quilt Queen have had a guest for the last two weeks, Bud the Dog. Old Bud, his Irish setter’s face as white as ash, is sharing quarters with Ruby Puppy. His mistress, their granddaughter Kate had a baby, and she needed Bud to be taken care of, and Bud loves Ruby Puppy.
Which is a miracle if you know the full story. A couple of months ago, Bud started having seizures and trouble breathing. Anticipating the worst, Orville hiked out to the dog/cat cemetery just left of the beehive in the north meadow. He dug a grave next to Reba the farm dog and Cat the barn cat, both noble animal friends of mine. He called me on the phone: “Bud is dyin’, I’ll be burying him tomorrow.”
Miracle of miracles, Bud rebounded—Orville opined that a comely bitch in heat must have passed by—and these days he runs around like a pup. Bud’s grave went unfilled. “Well,” Orville said today, “I am ailin’, you are ailin’, Bud is old. We will hold us a contest, see who gets Bud’s hole.”
I am not in any particular hurry to lie in Bud’s hole. Oh yes, it would be much less expensive than Gent’s Funeral Home, but I just am not ready for the Home or the Hole. Besides, it (the hole) would have to be lengthened; I am a taller drink of water. You could fit two of Orville in the hole, or one Bud. “Well then,” Orville said, “Gene, we’ll put you in the compost heap. Tomato planting is not too far off.”
I told my friend that I had heard a song on a bluegrass radio station today: “Only two things you can count on/True love and homegrown tomatoes.”
I will get my fill of homegrown tomatoes this summer. Every year, I set up a tomato tab—a running account of how many pounds of those luscious red babies I consume. At season’s end I present the list to Orville and pull out my checkbook. He then slaps the checkbook out of my hand and tells me to forget it. It’s the same with the “pick your own” blackberries. Such rituals remind me that I am a lucky man.
Orville tried to send me home with a cake. Fortunately, I don’t care for cake. You never know with a dressed-up, iced-up cake. Strip away the artful icing, and the thing is a gamble. For every German chocolate cake, there is a Bundt cake or angel food cake or sponge cake or fruit cake—things you eat then feel guilty about the next day, like that dressed-up “girl” you met on a blind date. Besides, cake will lead you sooner than later to Bud’s Hole.
Bud is alive; magic is afoot. Orville talks non-stop about death, which only makes him animated and more fully alive. I am alive and headed for a nap, to sleep to dream about dancing girls—there had better be dancing girls in heaven.
And true love and homegrown tomatoes.