Sunday, April 15, 2007

Papa's Roses

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Some of you may remember my story of a rosebush that Kman and I salvaged from his grandparent's old home place. Thought you might enjoy an update - the bush has one new rose and many buds just waiting to pop. Looks like the old plant will once again bring joy to a garden.

Here's the story again:

"God gave us our memories so that we might have roses in December". J.M Barrie

He was "Uncle Zeb" to his friends and neighbors and "Papa" to his children and grandchildren. A good steward of his land, Papa lived as harmoniously as one man can with nature. Peanut farmers from miles around would come to hear his horticultural wisdom, much more valuable than any almanac. The sun was his taskmaster; he rose early before Sol could catch him aslumber, and went to bed with the last fingers of light still streaking across the low horizon. Its been said he could work magic with rain; sitting patiently on his front porch stoop silently coaxing angry clouds to loosen their tears upon his fields, then returning indoors when his vigilance was rewarded.

The Old Homeplace in 2003

He raised his family in the old homestead; no indoor plumbing or electricity. In the late 40's his son-in-law and the nephew built a new house for Papa and Mama just a half-mile or so from the old place. Mama moved up right away, the luxury of water at the easy turn of a faucet handle instead of a cranky handpump a most welcomed gift. Papa sat it out for three weeks, refusing to budge from the place he knew as home. Late one evening just about dark-thirty, Mama saw him slowly walking up the dirt lane, an ancient trunk filled with his few belongings hoisted on his shoulder and a look of stubborn pride in his face. Whether it was from loneliness, or the lack of hot supper, the old fella had moved to the offending new abode. Some things wouldn't change - Papa thought having a toilet indoors was heathen and unclean thus took his daily constitutionals in the outhouse by the mule barn.

In 1947, Papa planted a red rose bush just off the edge of the front porch, his one frivolous gardening concession. Like his peanuts and his orchard, it thrived in the sandy soil.

Papa and his roses in 1963

Years have passed and the clouds have no more magic; Stagg cemetery has grown with headstones and families are rejoined under the same loam that once provided their sustenance. The new place is now in as much disheaval as the old homestead; plaster falling from the ceiling, birds roosting in the top of an old lamp, and deer sleeping in the tall weeds of the once neatly mowed front lawn. An ancient pear tree still bears a few small fruits and the berry vines struggle through the briars. No Sleeping Beauty here, just the land's remembrance of its once more cultivated self.

A couple of weeks ago, Kman and I spied something bright red up near the front porch of the "new place". Gingerly, we made our way through the hip-high weeds and patches of poison oak. A lone rose blossom was bravely clinging to a spindly stalk, stretching towards the few rays of sun that found a way to shine through the overgrowth. Taking a sharpshooter from the back of the Expedition, Kman very gently dug up the rose bush, keeping as much of the dirt ball around the roots as he could. Driving back to Cowtown, we planted it in our backyard garden next to the antique fence railing on the upper terrace. With a little dose of Miracle Grow for Roses and a lot of kind words, we are hoping to keep this small memory of Kman's grandparents alive. Perhaps a tiny spark of that magical farming spirit remains deep within the tough fibers of the old rose and we will be successful in our transplant attempt, much as Mama was those many years ago with Papa.

When the blossoms come again, I will remember the hardscrabble life these people lived and the image of a late afternoon when Papa trudged the path to the new house with a trunk on his shoulder and a begrudged acceptance of change.


Trace said...

Your original tale of "Roses in December" moved me so. Reminded me of my grandfather who raised me. He had a green thumb; planting beautiful flowers, dogwood, etc. that spread all over.

I love the pictures; especially the one of the ole' homeplace and grandpa in front of his rosebush in 1963. Wonderful!

SpookyRach said...

That's so cool!

joared said...

Are these buildings what we call "rustic"? ;-) Amazing they've not been stripped of their lumber since old barn siding is considered quite a interior decorating style, using real old lumber.

Loved this story about the rose bush. What memories every time you see it in your yard.

Anonymous said...

Just found your blog. Native Texan, here, transplanted to California 26 yrs ago. Had a great aunt who didn't like having her picture taken and would turn for a profile every time. The photo of Papa took my breath away as I saw my dear Great Aunt Pearl in his place, white shock of hair and great beak of a nose! My grandmother spoke often of "homeplaces." Thanks for a trip back home. I'm going to visit you again!

Cowtown Pattie said...

Thank you all.

Anon - welcome! Glad to have you aboard. Do yo have a blog?

Gwynne said...

CP, As usual, you have turned words into heartstrings. What a beautiful story. I think I knew Papa. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Anon, here. I thought I had sent you a post to answer your question and introduce myself a bit. I do not have a blog - my daughter does = NotCalmDotCom. My name is Cindy (short for Cynthia - my great aunt called me Cynthie). I'm a 7th generation Texan happily transplanted to Northern CA 26 years ago this month. I had family in Austin and Longview and was born in Sherman - schooled for a short time at Austin College then moved to Richardson and attended SMU. Your blog strikes a very deep chord in me and so I hope you won't mind that I will "lurk" now and then!