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The Wayside Garden - Mile Lane Memory
The Wayside Garden
Mile Lane Road Memory©
As I think about a garden, I think of the hymn, “In the Garden.” The hymn says “as I walk in the garden alone, while the dew…” We always sang that song at Ridgely Chapel Missionary Baptist Church and it still remains as one of my favorites. Having a garden came with living in the country. According to where you live, a garden could have different meanings. If you lived in the country, you would automatically think of a vegetable garden. If you lived in the city or suburbs, you would probably think of a flower garden. We always had a vegetable garden on Mile Lane. I don’t remember having a flower garden, other than seeing the wild flowers grow in the fields or alongside the road.
Having a garden is a lot of work. You had to prepare the soil before you plant, and then take care of it after you plant. You had to make sure that the weeds were chopped and that it had proper water. Taking care of the garden was one of our chores in the summer time. Taking care of the garden was a family effort. As I think about it, I remember all the work and sweat it took to take care of it. We were all responsible for a chore in the garden. Most country gardens had about six or seven rows in it. We grew corn, snap beans (they’re really called green beans), spring onions, watermelons, cantaloupes, cabbage, potatoes, radishes, okra, beets and tomatoes. My most favorite items in the garden were the tomatoes, watermelons and the spring onions. We did not grow all of the things in our garden that Mr. T. Willie grew in his garden. I guess if we would have, we would not have had the opportunity to enjoy his unique vegetables.
I always thought that we grew the best tomatoes in Lake County. Fresh tomatoes were always a part of our dinner. Mom always sliced them and sprinkled salt and pepper on them and sometimes just a little bit of sugar and vinegar. Sometimes we picked one from the garden, washed it off and ate it as a snack. The spring onions went perfect with the tomatoes. I would pick them from the garden, wash them off and then dip them in mustard. They had the best taste to them and no one ever cared that you would have onion breath afterwards.
The watermelons always came a little later than the rest of the vegetables. We would go to the garden every day to check on our watermelons. You have not eaten a watermelon until you have eaten it without using utensils. I’m talking about the watermelon with the seeds and not those seedless ones you buy in the grocery stores or supermarkets. Most folks these days probably eat watermelon that has been cut from the rind and cut into pieces. We ate watermelon sliced with the rind on it. We always sprinkled a little bit of salt on it. We couldn’t wait to bite into that first piece. You were not finished eating your piece until you were down to the beginning of the rind. Sometimes we savored that last bite and sometimes we had to be reminded the watermelon was gone and all you had left was the rind. We were always told that we could not eat fish and later have watermelon. The saying was that you would get stomach cramps. There was also no eating fish and then eating ice cream. That also produced stomach cramps.
We usually spit the seeds out along the side of the front porch. Little did we know that we were planting seeds for a new garden. The summer days were passing by and something started growing by the wayside of the porch. The seeds that we had spat out had produced a wayside garden. New watermelons plants had started growing on the side of the porch. To make the wayside garden more fruitful, we spat a few cantaloupe seeds onto the ground. Before the summer was over we had our own little garden by the wayside of the porch.
There was probably a garden at every house on Mile Lane. As you walk through each garden you would see similar items and you would also see items that others did not have. Mr. T. Willie’s garden will always be known for his popcorn. Our garden had the best tomatoes and spring onions. We often exchanged produce from our gardens.
Each house may have had a garden, but all did not have the wayside garden that was on the side of our front porch. This wasn’t a garden that you would walk in, but a garden that you could view by looking over the side of the porch. Once you saw the little yellow flowers on the watermelon plant, you knew that the growth of the watermelons were on their way. Once you finish walking through the vegetable garden, step up on the porch so that you can take a look over to see the “wayside” garden that blossomed without much effort. We started out with wayside flowers that blossomed into some wayside produce. Our house on Mile Lane is just full of many mysteries and who would have imaged that if you looked over on the wayside of the porch, you would find such a lovely garden.
Regina Burch Spencer
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