By Roger Barbee
From our upstairs bedroom window one recent morning, I saw the driver and his machine pass our house. He was driving a state tractor, equipped with a long cutting blade, to the end of our mile-long country road where he would turn and come up the north side to cut grasses and weeds along the shoulder. I thought I had time to dress and get outside.
At Red Hill, we have planted many types of plants in a variety of colors. But one of my favorites is the iris, which was here in 2001 when I purchased the property. I like the iris for many reasons - it has a vast array of colors (its name comes from the Greek meaning rainbow), it is an early bloomer which announces warm weather, it is a rather easy flower to plant and maintain, and it is a fine compliment to an old house. Its unannounced bloom is a welcome sight along The Pike amidst tall grasses and litter.
Several years ago, we dug up the thick bed of irises that cluttered both sides of the front porch. There was a mix of colors, but most were a light purple. They had not bloomed well in several years, and we felt if we separated them into new beds they would do better. As often happens, after digging and separating the bulbs, we discovered that there were many, many bulbs. We designated two new locations for the bulbs -- one on the west side of the corn crib, and the other on the south side of the car barn.
When we transplanted, we were careful not to plant the bulbs too deep and trusted luck for the selection of colors. However, we had more than we needed for the beds and all our neighbors said, "Thanks, but no thanks," to our offer. The extra bulbs sat in a bucket for a few days until one of us thought of a good use for them.
Years ago when the state paved our little road, the small hill that our house sits on was cut in order to lessen its grade, and the dirt was used to fill a low spot before the rise. Now our front walk leads to an 8-foot sloping bank, and the row of ancient boxwoods separate us not from the dusty road, but space. The landowners who approved the new road tell how much better it is now, but there is something from that dirt road I wish I had.
Mr. Wolf, who lived next to the river at the end of the road, had what he called his lucky rock. It was a piece of limestone that protruded through the dirt road's surface and each time he walked out to The Pike, he would step on his "lucky rock." But it, like many items, has been lost to modernity. However, the bank in front could use some sprucing up, and we decided that the spare iris bulbs would help beautify it.
Since it is impossible to plant anything on a hill from a wheelchair, I recruited our neighbor Gordon to help me. We set to and soon had several clusters of irises planted on the banks that flanked our drive. In a few seasons they settled in and began to bloom. Most were, as we knew, light purple, but there were several of a wonderful roan, a few bright yellow ones, and some dark purple blooms. The colors did not matter because anything short of poison ivy or briers would improve that bank. Over the years, we have watched them spread and add a bit of beauty to a bare area.
So that mornin, as I saw the driver and his state machine pass, I thought I had time to dress and get out front to ask him not to cut the banks. Alas, by the time I got out, he had done his damage. The banks lay heavy with rich, green sword like leaves that had been, moments before, adding beauty to the landscape.
I wonder if such a worker sees what he is cutting, or is his mindset such that he sees everything along the shoulder of a road as a weed that needs removal? I wish he would discriminate a bit in his work and see the difference between a weed and Queen Anne's lace. If he would take the time to discriminate a bit, his work would improve our roads.
Roger Barbee is a retired educator who lives in Edinburg with his wife Mary Ann, four dogs and five cats. Email him at email@example.com.