Gardening Feats and Dirty Lies

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in David Brooks, Family, Home and Garden | Posted on 30-01-2009


by David Brooks

One thing we know for sure about Americans: we
are a competitive bunch. The last big political race took aggressive
competition to a new level. Anyone OU plays in any sport brings out the
competitive juices of fans and non-fans alike. Banks are competing for
big bailout money. Car manufacturers are doing the same. Advertisers
are trying to win the title of Best Superbowl ad. All of this so
people, or groups, can declare themselves “winner.” It is also clear
that sometimes those in the competition may tell a little white lie, or
possibly huge, over-the-top, outright lies. Democrats and AIG
executives seem to be the worst. (Just kidding, put down the hothouse

Thank goodness for gardening. Happy people enjoying
the fruits of the ground would never see their work as a time for
competition. How could a lie ever invade the solitude and beauty of a
back yard garden? Tilling the earth is a way of showing peace and love
to each other, the soil we work, and possibly the new administration.
So, it is safe to say that gardeners rise above the cheap, tawdry
competition the rest of the world is locked into. Gardeners show the
world how honesty and compassion really works. Gardeners are truly the
Salt of the Earth. Sure!

I was raised by a gardener. My dad
actually bought a house because it had a 20’ X 40’ greenhouse behind
it. The previous owner raised geraniums for a retail group called
TG&Y. Some of you may actually remember their stores. My dad went
through the OSU Master Gardener program and graduated summa cum laude
and was valedictorian of his class. There were only five in the class,
but we let him gloat.

I had an uncle in Houston named Murray
who was going through the same type of training in a Texas program that
was very similar to the one my Dad excelled in. Both set out the same
summer to plant their first “Big” gardens.  Daddy in the greenhouse,
and Uncle Murray in the backyard. It did not take long for something to
peek through the dirt of both gardens. Naturally my dad’s somethings
were greener, stronger, taller and better in every conceivable way.
That is until Uncle Murray called to let Dad know that his plants were
the greener, stronger, taller and yes, better of the bunch. It was on!
A fist fight held over the phone with Turnips and Tomatoes used for
gloves. The first year was civil, but by year three it was all out

And then the lies started! Over the phone a description
is as good as you can make it. However, one day Uncle Murray sent a
picture. It was a Polaroid of a head of cabbage the size of a
Basketball. This was easily proved because a basketball was in the
picture. It took years for Uncle Murray to admit it was a youth
basketball about 2/3 regulation size. The competition then moved to the
height achieved by the okra plants. While I was doing homework one day,
(maybe not) my dad came in and yelled, “Bring the Polaroid camera and
follow me.” We went straight to the Okra rows planted outside the
greenhouse. There at the end of the row was an impeccably dug one foot
hole. My dad proudly stepped into the hole and faced the camera.  His
instructions were to take the picture from just under the knee so it
would not look like he was kneeling. After 3 or 4 attempts we got the
shot he wanted and shipped it off to Uncle Murray.

A few days
later came a Polaroid of one of the biggest Tomatoes I had ever seen.
Uncle Murray put a dollar bill in the photo to show the size. That
tomato was a beauty. Daddy was fit to be tied. My aunt admitted years
later that he was able to achieve such a huge tomato by buying it from
a gardening pro at the farmers market outside Friendswood, Texas. 

competition between these two lasted more than a decade. Both men are
gone now, but the legend of their lies lives on. Both men bought new
houses late in life based solely on the size of the yard and the
gardens they would hold. Daddy and Uncle Murray lived into their 70’s
with gardening, competition, and a few good whoppers leading the way to
happy retirements. Both had roadside stands where they sold the
abundance of their gardens, and, of course, they lied about how much
they made. One year daddy sold a bushel of Okra for $600.00. Naturally
Uncle Murray beat it with a 3 foot ear of corn that brought over
$1000.00 and is now in the Smithsonian. I fully intend to grow a garden
this year that will beat them both. Since they are not here to defend
their honor, I know my garden will beat them both.

Comments (2)

Marvelous story. Thanks for sharing, and I can already tell you that my tomatoes taste sweeter, ripen earlier and put more hair on the chest than anything you can grow down Washington way.

i don’t care about your political affiliation, if you can grow great tomatoes. so where are you located? If in OKC area, i want to come see your garden..
garden on
love the story. thanks