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Frugal Living
by Donna Flood
Dust and Wild Roses

The two men, one her husband and the other a neighbor, stood in the front yard, visiting as men in Oklahoma do. One will look off into a distance, the other will look into another opposite direction. One will slap at his trousers and the other might kick at the ground. This is what her husband was doing.

"You think we're ever gonna get any rain, any time soon?"

"Well, it sure is dry, I don't know."

"How is your well doin'?"

"All right. I can't see any diffrance."

Mary wasn't much interested in their conversation. She knew they didn't really care if it rained or not. They weren't farmers or ranchers and all a dry spell did for them was to keep the grass from growing so much, meaning they didn't necessary spend much time mowing. Some years the mowing could be such a continuous thing they would only finish up with one section of the acre when another section would need attention. The woman was thinking her own thoughts about it. She could remember much talk about the dust bowl, and other dry years. There was the year 1955 when she graduated from high school. That was really a drought year. As she thought, she looked out over the back yard from her kitchen window.

The raised beds she had built for the flowers were just a jumble of burned and dried plant material which had been bright spots of color on the lawn during the rainy season of spring. Because the beds were raised it didn't do much good to water, since it would just run off not soaking into the ground. "What does it matter?" she thought. Then again the slow coming answer was resting on her shoulders over the next few days.

"It's the principle of the thing," she thought. "There is no reason to let the weather just take over everything, denying the children and myself to be able to enjoy the yard. With this in mind and with her Nephew's help she began to fight back against the misery of the hot hard packed ground.

"There isn't anything living it seems," she told the young man. "There isn't anything here but dust and, well maybe, those wild roses growing at the bottom of the hill."

"Whatever you need done, Auntie, I can help you." the willing young man had a love for growing things and he truly enjoyed the work.. The first thing he did was to dig wells about a foot deep and three feet out from the base of the very young fruit trees. "If you water these with a good soaking ever so often they will pick up, and with these wells around them, every bit of the water will soak down.

"I hope so," she told him. "They sure look pretty much stressed out at this point in time."

Within about three days the leaves on the trees began to get a fresh green look instead of the grey wilted look they had when they were so dry.

"You know, Nephew, I never thought those trees could be helped so much!"

The heat was broken and she could stand to get out to walk the grounds as she always did. At this time she noticed the row of cedar trees they had planted as a wind break was full of dead branches. The wild fires burning all over the nation had prompted the television to warn people about fires and to cut growth away from the house about ten feet, at least. She and her husband began the job of trimming out the branches, raking the years of dead needles from under the trees, and in turn broadcasting rye grass on the bare ground. After only a few days with a sprinkler on the grass it began to come up. The tiny green blades of grass made such a welcome sight. The children, the chickens, and the adults equally enjoyed the rich new green color of it taking them away from the fact that it was still very dry.

The next project her nephew began was to take out the raised bed and about a foot into the ground where they were. The fact that there was a hole with landscape tiles around it fixed things so no water at all could run off. It too had to soak into the ground. Here again was a bright spot on the grounds since they took bright flowering plants and set them into the area.

"If you want raised beds again, it will be a simple matter just to fill this with rich soil, manure and peat moss and with some sand." He told her.

The green rye grass was up all over and when the rains did begin the grass was more than verdant. It almost glowed with a rich bright green color. These were the things to make Mary's mind go back to the talk her folks would have about how they fought their way through the early day drought. Many people left the dried out burned out area but her family did not leave. She knew there wasn't any great accomplishment she had made. The confronting the challenge was what made life possible. The children rolling in the grass was a thrill not only to them but those who watched them. Instead of the dry crackling brown grass her guests would have had to walk over to get to the door they were gifted with a moment of freedom from the thought of the dry weather. All and all she felt good about their project, she and her nephew and husband. They could have mourned the misery of the heat not doing anything. Just the matter of getting out, working through the thing gave the whole family a breath of air.

For her Nephew, Mary felt a new closeness. This was the short time he could, in helping her, have time too, to forget about his losses, look to new horizons, and to better green fields of his own.



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