On Sunday morning, whilst listening to the nostalgic trip back to youth that they dish up here on Radio Free State, that old song by Trini Lopez got a spin. It took me back, not to a Latino garden basking in the sun, but to my first effort at being a proud home owner.
Keep in mind, throughout this little narrative, that I was only 23 years old at the time, full of vim and vigour (and testosterone) when this event took place. (Yes, Sipho, in the bad old days a young man at that age could build his first house without being subsidized by the tax payer).
Anyway, Piet Marais, the builder, slapped the last mamparra into place, tied down the last rooftile, dusted his khaki's and proceeded to lug the rubble he had generated from my domicilium. It must be recorded here that the man had created more building rubble than the 8th Air Force did on a thousand bomber raid over Berlin during WW II.
Naturally, his utter contempt for the environment (this was 1982) in an era when Green Peace meant you donned a green party hat and refused to muster for National Service, left my residential plot in a devastated condition. Not a sprig of flora could be discerned, just wasteland.
So I girded the young loins, swigged a cold beer, started my new car (yes, Sipho, brand new, right out of the box. -we worked for our money in those days) and set out to Garden, following a well thought out plan.
First stop at Malanseuns Nursery, where I purchased compost, tools, a plethora of greenery and various sundry items, all conducive to getting one's crib into Garden and Home. Next stop was at Solly Kramer's where I invested a considerable sum in cold drinks, ice, a plethora of alcoholic beverages and various sundry items, all conducive to turning one's crib into a high class shebeen.
Once back on the north forty, I chugged a goodly portion of the fortifying liquids whilst waiting on the sun to meander past it's zenith and then I set forth with a will. Sods flew hither and thither, pieces of tile and quarter mamparras were moved and removed, sweat burst from my brow. It was a monstrous effort.
By sundown on that momentous day, my garden was dug, my seeds sown, my saplings bedded in mulch and the pinnacle of my endeavours, the lemon tree was planted in place of honour.
Why did I buy a lemon tree? The laaitie at Malanseuns said every garden should have one. That's why. We even had suburban snobs in those days.
I'll have to prune this story...
Weeks went by, my garden flourished....It bloomed, it blossomed... many a bee would pass me in the street and comment about my arboreal excellence. All except the lemon tree..
It boasted 76 leaves when I bought it. The laaitie at Malanseuns had that fact as the crux of his sales pitch. After two months it shamefully admitted that it still bore only 76 leaves. I composted,manured, sheeted (all flavours, from equine to porcine) and watered and moistened. That tree wouldn't grow.
Conceding defeat, admitting to the miserable failure of becoming the next Green Thumb, I hied myself back to Malanseuns Kwekery. I went to the Afrikaans side of the conglomerate this time, for if there were any swearing and cursing to be done, I wanted to be proficient in my mother tongue.
The laaitie was still there, ( HE had sprouted seven miserable hairs on his acne infested chin in all this time) and had developed quite an attitude for one who earns his daily bread by flogging dysfunctional fruit trees to unsuspecting customers. With no small amount of arrogance in his tone and a definite pitying look in his weasel eyes, he inquired of me, landowner of repute, whether I was not aware that citrus trees had to be flogged to coerce them into giving their best.
Imagine my astonishment. This supposedly knowledgeable purveyor of flora confronting me with this Zionesque titbit of ludicrousness!
I have to prune this story... pass the shears, Sipho.
So I bought a plastic sjambok from him, as the genuine leather variety once used to drove a span of oxen from Koekenaap to Kakamas was no longer to be found, even in 1982. Then I ventured home, after taking a detour to the nearest Solly Kramer.
On arrival at the homestead, I fortified myself more than sufficiently, armed myself with my sjambok like a student police constable did in the darkest days of 1976 and strode forth into the orchard. (I did not take any teargas with me, Sipho. It was illegal for civilians to possess traditional weapons in those days.)
The first attempt at assault was rather tentative, as all this was rather new to me, but as I progressed with the scourging (and fortification), I got into the swing of things. I bliksemed 76 kinds of floral, arboreal crap out of that tree and only desisted when the tree and I were in tatters.
Weeks passed after the incident, with only an inkling remaining in my conscious mind of the vile acts I had committed on that fateful weekend and I had to really drag myself around the house one afternoon, after much fortification, to confront the carnage I had wreaked on that innocent little tree.
At first I thought I was suffering from a serious case of DT's when I beheld the sapling that I had left in that ravaged state. In it's place was a tree, young but robust, bursting with vitality and bearing three lemons, the size of a Titleist 4!
Unbelievable? Believe it!
There is a sequel to this tale. If I am permitted to tell it...
*Thanks, Iru. Borrowed a bit of your style there. Couldn't resist it.
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