Ode to Mrs. Hogg

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Family, Home and Garden, Ron Ferrell | Posted on 28-05-2009

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Growing up in a small western Oklahoma town was a blessing for me in many ways.  Rural living, huge families, big gardens, riding horses was an every day event, and being witness to the rural family farm before corporate mono-cropping with chemicals became the normal way to farm, and the school system. 

My brothers and sisters, along with all the neighbor kids, rode the school bus about 10 miles to and from school daily and the road we traveled we called the ‘ridge road’ because it ran along the south rim of the vast and beautiful South Canadian river.  The big creeks that were the river’s tributaries ran through all the prairie and farm land where I grew up and created an endless playground which I explored on horseback every day of my childhood. 

We always had a few horses in the pasture, so I had my pick of which one I wanted to ride.  Television shows of the 1950’s were this wanna- be cowboy’s recipe for fun…a real western adventure right in my back yard.  Of course, I always wanted to be the Indian, so I fashioned bow and arrows out of tree limbs, and covered my front and back side with Mom’s tea towels, stuffed into my underwear. I was a fair skinned Indian, but what great fun I had exploring the rolling prairie, creeks and south Canadian river on horseback to my young heart’s desire. 

School was a world that I didn’t take so keenly to.  There were books, schedules, rules, social structure which was totally foreign to me, and the teachers that made it all work.  I liked most of my teachers, all these women who were married to local farmers, and probably provided the only stable income their family enjoyed.  The lunch room cooks were also farm women, and let me tell you, the food was made from scratch and wonderful!  Those ladies made hot rolls, cinnamon rolls, deserts and the like for all of us kids.  The food was so good that I worked in the lunch room doing dishes through the noon hour in order to get special favor from the cooks, and all the wonderful food I wanted. 

School was a mere extension of my family at home, and any adult at school or in the public at large had my parent’s permission to discipline us if we were out of line.  And they did.  My uncle put me off the school bus about half way home one day for being a nuisance and made me walk home.  I got an ass whippin’ from my Dad when I finally got home, and then had to walk to my Uncle’s house and apologize to him for being a jerk.  It worked!  I never pulled that again. 

One teacher in particular totally captured my exotic interests.  Mrs. Lorene Hogg.  Mrs. Hogg never had children, so she could afford to spend her frivolous money on such things as an aquarium for our class room and at home she had peacocks, exotic pheasants, fancy chickens, plants I’d never heard of nor seen and in a green house no less, with the open heart to share it all with us 6th graders.  She taught us to propagate angel wing begonias for our Mom’s, how to grow colorful salt crystal gardens, the importance of hand- made cards for holidays and the fun side of public education in addition to book learnin’. 

Her flower garden collection was big and impressive to me, as I’d only known about cotton, feed grains, hay and growing vegetables.  Her pea-foul freely roamed the property and I thought that was the coolest thing I’d ever seen.  HOW EXOTIC!  She had cannas, Iris of many colors, elephant ears and I don’t really remember what else, but it seemed like the botanical gardens of a foreign land to me.  She very patiently showed me around her farm answering all kinds of questions.  I would beg my Mom to take me there for a visit because her place was an exciting and foreign place for me to visit and imagine how all that stuff would look at our farm.  But, alas, it was not to be.  We were farmers, not flower gardeners. 

Never taking no for a final answer, I did amass $35.00 from somewhere and bought my very own pea-foul family.  There was the incredibly beautiful peacock, the peahen and 4 babies.  My dad was furious and screamed something about those “noisy bastards”, but soon came to love them as much as I did.  They would follow him around for feed and attention, and at one time he had several grown males beautifying our monochromatic farm. 

Mrs. Hogg and her husband have been gone for 20+ years, and with no children to continue her legacy, their farm has fallen into a sad, quiet decline.  Their home still stands, and to this day it has never been emptied of their possessions.  Peeking through the window it looks as if they went to town on Saturday and just never returned.  A life-time of effort by Mr. and Mrs. Hogg slowly dissolving into oblivion. 

Springtime, 2 years ago while visiting my sister who lives just up the road, the Iris were making their annual effort to grow and bloom.  I asked my sister what was to become of the place, and she said the nieces who’d inherited the place hired a cousin of ours to come ‘round a couple times a year and mow everything flat – denying those Iris the wonder of colorful spring blooms. 

This news was so sad to me that I took about a dozen grocery bags and a shovel to Mrs. Hogg’s now silent homestead and dug samples of Iris from all around her yard.  Were they allowed to bloom, I could have perhaps chosen many colors, but random is as random does.  I took what I thought might provide a big variety. 

Along the driveway at my new homestead, the only place soft enough to dig was the filled in trench that OG&E dug to put my electrical service underground.  Sorry, hard clay soil, but I planted my samples and top dressed them with compost, gave them a drink and hoped for the best.  Now in their second year, Mrs. Hogg’s Iris are again in their glory.  There are about five different colors that have been in bloom for the last two weeks and they have quadrupled in number.  The purples are beautiful, but one bunch of very tall, very yellow Iris surely were Mrs. Hogg’s pride and joy. These flowers make my heart happy and I know Mrs. Hogg would be giddy in the knowing that I still think about her influence on my life whenever I look down my driveway at her wonderful, almost forgotten Iris.  

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