Garden Work


Damon and I worked for six hours yesterday in the oppressive 87° heat and humidity. We were both soaked with sweat by the end of the first half hour. But we got the initial piece of the garden job done.

Using the excavator, Damon scraped together and scooped up all the dirt at the edge of the garden trench, and dropped it in the dump truck.

My job was to drive the truck. I was worried about this, but Damon has a diabetic wound in one foot and that leg is in a cast. He could not be hopping in and out of vehicles. I drove the dump truck.


It’s fun working with Damon. He has his father, Allen’s, frown of concentration. He is perhaps equally skilled with heavy equipment. However, Damon is a needler.


For the entire two hours we sweated, cleaning up the dirt, Damon repeated, in a falsetto (meant to be my voice), “Just leave the dirt there. Me and the boy’ll take care of it.” Then, switching to his own voice, “Woulda been much easier if I’da tooken it away when we first dug it up. Wouldn’ta had this mess. All this woulda been green grass. But, oh, no! Just leave the dirt there —”

Of course, he was right. The trench for the garden is directly under the wall. The mess to the right now requires rocking, raking, and seeding — a lot of time and effort. As DH always comforts me, “All education is expensive.”


Then we drove to the back field. Damon had dropped one load of dirt where I could reach it easily for projects. He decided to put the second load in a far corner of the pasture that is currently so rough that it is unmowable. It is also nearly undrivable, so at the T near the cabin, Damon took over the wheel of the dump truck.


He indicated that I should drive the excavator. I’d always refused when Allen suggested I do things like this. I was always too afraid. But again, Damon is not Allen.

“Get in there!” he snarled.

I drove the excavator.


We took load after load of mixed topsoil and compost…


and drove it up the hill to dump it in the garden trench.


Meanwhile, thunderheads began to growl overhead. Lightning flashed on the horizon. It started to drizzle.


We worked on. Dirt mixed with sweat and rain to streak me with mud. My hands were scraped from moving rocks.

I knew Damon was sweaty, tired, dehydrated, and wanted to go home. I felt the same.

“You want me to spread this shit with the bucket?” he asked, after dropping the last load.

“I can do it with a shovel,” I assured him.

He looked at me. He drove the excavator up and began spreading.


In some ways he’s very like his father.


By the end of the day, he had spread the topsoil mix 3/4 the length of the trench.



Behind the house, where the spaces are too tight for the dump truck, he left a pile for me to move with a shovel for the last forty feet.


At last we were done.

I drove the dump truck down the hill one last time, and helped Damon load the excavator on the trailer. As he gave me hand signals to back the truck — the clenched fist that means stop! — I felt tears prickling my nose. How many times over the years had I watched father and son give each other these same signals as they worked? But I did not mention it. Damon is sad enough.

I thanked him for his hard work, and added, “I’ll get busy, raking and seeding, and as soon as I can I’ll start setting the stones along the border.”

His mouth twisted. “Yeah? Next time I see it, it’ll be covered with weeds!”

He was still laughing to himself as he drove out.




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