A Hedge for the Children
By Janette Blackwell
"Isn't that beautiful corn in those people's front yard?" I asked.
"I will not have corn growing in my front yard," said my husband.
"Corn is a handsome plant. It gives a lush, tropical air."
"I will not have corn growing in my front yard."
So we didn't have corn the next year. Our back yard was shaded, except for one part, and I had decided to grow roses there instead of corn.
The year after that I returned to the argument: "What if we planted corn in the side yard? It gets lots of sun."
"I will not have corn in my front yard."
"This wouldn't be the front yard. It would be the side yard. And you remember how delicious corn tastes when you pick it five minutes before you cook it?"
He thought about how delicious corn tastes. "I guess the side yard isn't the front yard," he said. "Okay. You can grow corn in the side yard."
"And I'll plant a hedge out front so people can't see the corn as they drive by."
"That's even better."
So I began to plan a hedge.
We had many children in our Virginia neighborhood. Why not plant a hedge they could enjoy?
In the corner next to our neighbor's property, I began the hedge with a serviceberry bush (an Amelanchier). Serviceberry bushes and trees vary in size. Mine ended up about eight feet tall, with feathery white blossoms in spring and brilliant orange leaves in fall. In summer it produced tiny black berries with one drawback: between the birds and the children, they zipped off that bush. I got exactly two berries one year and none thereafter. I can state, on the basis of those two berries, that they taste a good deal like huckleberries. They are good.
At the other end of the hedge, in a strip facing the driveway, I planted black raspberries -- which felt so peppy they hardly knew what to do with themselves. I didn't know they needed to be tied to supports, and they stuck ten-foot stalks in all directions. They looked awful. They tasted fantastic.
When the black raspberries got ripe, neighborhood grownups and children gathered to gobble down undisciplined berries warm with the sun and eye each other and laugh for sheer happiness.
As a hedge, they were a mistake. As a treat, they were fabulous.
The main hedge facing the street was a row of Nanking cherry bushes about eight feet high. In early spring they were covered with tiny pearl-like buds and white blooms. In summer they glistened with red cherries within lush green growth. The cherries tasted like a cross between pie cherries and sweet cherries. They were good.
One summer day I looked out the window and saw a little boy coming down the street. I didn't recognize him, but he apparently recognized ripe cherries when he saw them. He stopped and stared at the bushes, then moved in closer. I was about to go to the door and tell him to take all the cherries he wanted, but then I realized he was trying a new maneuver. He turned around facing the street and began to back up to the bushes. Aha! I thought. That kid's had some education that didn't come from books.
His technique was pretty good. He looked blandly into the distance as the branches behind him jiggled up and down. When his hands were filled with cherries, he started off running. And I ran too -- to the door. I meant to call out, "Little boy! Little boy! Come back." But then I realized that would just make him run faster.
I wanted to say, "You can eat my cherries all afternoon, if you like." But by that time, in a splendid burst of speed, he had rounded the corner and was out of sight.
You can come back any time, little boy.
About the Author
Find Janette Blackwell’s storytelling country cookbook, STEAMIN’ DOWN THE TRACKS WITH VIOLA HOCKENBERRY, at Food and Fiction, http://foodandfiction.com/Entrance.html -- or visit her Delightful Food Directory at http://delightfulfood.com/main.html