The Last Stand

September 5, 2015

There were hugs all around today as Mike and Cathy’s produce stand closed, the last of the tomatoes were sold and the last melons went into back car seats. The record rains of June ensured produce disaster, drowning seedling crops, rotting peach tree roots and apple trees, filling ripe fruit with yellow coloring and spotting.

Apples should be coming, not going. Tomatoes were around last October, and I was sad then. But everything is gone today. Tonight, it’s drive to the grocery store for stony tomatoes from California then Mexico, where there are much less rigorous pesticide laws.

Fruits and vegetables are not nostalgia. They are the reason my generation will be the longest lived in history. A nurse friend of ours bought her last fresh produce today and told us her hospital is filling up with obese kids, diabetic kids, and they will not live as long as their recent relatives.

I was drawn to the old folks who came by and remembered when tomatoes tasted better. This is absolutely true. The hybridization of our food, while it has made vegetables prettier, has come at the expense of lesser taste, watered down taste.

Food scientists tell us that original food from original seeds, wheat say, is no longer available except online for a lot of cash. “Wheat bread” and “whole grain” have become oxymoronic terms. They refer to genetically manipulated, Frankenstein hybrids. It has nothing to do with gluten and everything to do with new foods with a familiar look (if much smaller), with traditional names.

And no wonder. We couldn’t sell a “real” watermelon. The number one question asked was, “Are they seedless?” We ordered “special” watermelons for a local church that wanted to have a watermelon seed spitting contest. Meanwhile we sold fruit that was chocolate-colored, pink, orange, yellow-hued—when it should all have been deep red.

Still, farm stand food is way better, much tastier than supermarket food equivalents. My kitchen is filled with tomatoes, cantaloupe, watermelon, apples. My fruit flies stood and applauded when I came home from the farm stand, laden with fresh food.

But on my early Genehouse walk this morning, I was struck by the prematurity of this autumn. Acorns filled the paths—three weeks early. Leaves were falling—six weeks early. Pumpkins were already huge—weeks early. Monarch butterflies were flying south. The woods were pale green.

We still greet each other, on the path. And then every third hiker/biker/bird watcher talks of global warming.

Humans are on the verge of self-extinction–you are reading science while you hug your grandchildren, right?–but ants and lizards will do just fine. And a man thinks there is a God who favors humans over creatures, over mountains and forests: that is one arrogant, stupid son of a bitch.

Attention politicians: we see it. Our land feels it with labored breaths. And the answer, my friend, is not blowing in the wind.

It fell prematurely to the ground.

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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