Girly Boys

May 15, 2014 

Today was the end of raspberry winter, the full moon in May and the subsequent chilly weather. Today you could plant tomatoes.

Today I went on the Genehouse walk and marveled at my own muffled footsteps, the forests now fully fledged and absorbing sound, the Osage iron trees bursting with notched green leaves and the oaks waving green. Yellow and purple irises were everywhere. The river was pregnant from heavy rain. A dead snake lay on the trail, a tire rut almost cutting it in two.

I stopped off at Farmer Orville’s and was greeted by Quilt Queen and Reba the dog and the orange barn cats, at the kitchen door. Orville was in the raspberry patch, transplanting new growth from between the rows. He keeps adding rows, even as he says this row is the last row. There will be more rows until there aren’t. He took a break and we jawed by the strawberry plants and cut asparagus spears with a Barlow knife (cutting anything with a pocket knife that’s not a Barlow, the knife of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, is sacrilege) and eating the crunchy raw tops, which tasted like fresh sweet peas.

Yesterday was Orville and Quilt Queen’s 54th wedding anniversary.

“Look at me,” Orville said, rubbing his beard stubble. “Somebody loves me.”

“I sort of love you,” I said.

“So do all those old ladies who come for tomatoes and my husband smiles and gives them away,” Quilt Queen said, joining us. “And, I suspect, some of the younger ones too. We couldn’t have imagined it, that on that wedding day we’d be together, be alive 54 years later.”

I allowed as how I have a passel 20-something nieces, none of whom have shown interest in marriage, which is fine by me because I fear I would have to sing in public again, at a wedding. They didn’t know I had been a pro since junior high school. I told them I had been a boy soprano, even in college.

“Orville sang on the radio, the Lutheran Hour,” Quilt Queen said, as her husband rolled his eyes, “when he was a little boy soprano. Then his voice changed and that was the end of that. Do not ask him to sing now.”

That gush led Orville and me to exchange that glance that men do when they’re outed and revealed to have a soul and a soft side. We look like grizzled extras from “Lonesome Dove.” He reached into a bucket and filled a bag with fresh picked asparagus and handed it to me. Tonight I would have asparagus salad with kale and radishes and cucumber and Genespaghetti drenched in black pepper and Tabasco sauce.

“Hidden talents,” I said.

“Really hidden,” Orville said.



About Eugene Jones Baldwin

I am a writer: non-fiction, fiction, journalism (Alton Telegraph), essays (The Genehouse Chronicles) and have a website: I've published a couple dozen short stories and had eleven plays produced. Current projects: "Brother of the Stones" (available on Kindle), a book of short stories; "The Faithful Husband of the Rain, short stories"; "A Black Soldier's Letters Home, WWII,;" "There is No Color in Justice," a commentary on racism; "Ratkillers," a new play. I am an avocational archaeologist and I take parts of my collection of several thousand Indian artifacts (personal finds) to schools, nature centers, libraries etc. and talk about the 20,000 year history of The First people in Illinois. (See link to website) I'm also a playwright (eleven plays produced), musician, historian (authority on the Underground Railroad in Illinois, the Tuskegee Airmen) and teacher.
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