Ah gets weary

And sick of tryin,’

Ah’m tired of livin’

And skeered of dyin’,

But Ol’ Man River

He jes keeps rollin’ along.

          —From “Old Man River” in “Showboat” as rendered by Doug Braden et al 



t has been a while since Old Man River (the Mississippi) has ceased to roll. Not since 1811, as a matter of fact, when she ran backward and formed Reelfoot Lake after monstrous earthquakes. 

A company of fools, one of which was me, crossed the Mississippi some years ago in a 14-foot boat when the river was clogged with icebergs and the temperature was in single digits. We were after ducks, and the few open patches of water whirled with strong eddies that threatened to pull us under. “Only by the grace of God.”  

Don’t know when I have been as sick of winter and have done less about it during the latent season than the past couple of months. Here we are on the verge of astronomical spring (e.g. March 20) and there lie askew all sorts of garden haulm I should have taken care of back in November or December, and, of course, the stinking sycamore leaves. 

I have tried, half heartedly. Half a heart is better than none, but it sure doesn’t get the job(s) done. So, now we are abutting another spring and fall and winter work goes unaccomplished. I do believe I have done less gardening this winter than I did back in the years when I duck hunted most of the time, and even worked at a “full time” job too. 

The knees go first, they say. Mine are still relatively workable, but all sorts of other ills come from nowhere, as far as I know minimal compared to those of many of my friends, so, no complaints there.

But where is the get up and go? It has got up and went, and crossword puzzles and books seem to take most of what used to be gardening hours. The spark has faded, but it isn’t out. 

As I perused my garden diaries the other day (I started them in 1984), it was astounding the things I did just 10 years or so ago every day in our garden, winter included. The sum total would be impossible today. Just one example: in the past 10 years, I have planted, sans any hired help, more than 1,200 (one thousand, two hundred) woody shrubs and trees on our place, even after planting up three times that many in the preceding three decades. It would seem that it would let up after 45 years (this month) at our present garden. The kicker: stuff keeps dying. The droughts of the some eight or 10 years ago got more than 100 established woodies that had to be replanted. Some were well established, and years were lost that can never be recovered while I can see the light of day. 

Enough, already. I sound like I am complaining. Well, getting old is not for sissies, according to friend Jim Madison, who holds the record in Memphis hospitals for the most heart stents. Jim gets a stent or two on Tuesday and is back at Sunday School the next sabbath. To him it seems no worse than getting a tooth filled. So he says. 

When the rain and freezes let up I am going back to work. Until then, more crosswords. 


From Poor Willie’s Almanack — Don’t throw in the trowel just yet. 


JIMMY WILLIAMS is the garden writer for The Post-Intelligencer, where he can be contacted on Monday mornings at 642-1162. 

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