Wes, a seasonal gardener employed by a city in southern Ontario, has written to us with a biographical note. We feel that it has merit and so we have printed it here in its entirety:
Don’t even talk to me you can’t roll up a fifty foot half inch EPDM rubber hose into a tight coil no more than eighteen inches in diameter. I know secateurs is French for pruners. You call a pair of secateurs pruners I will take you for an amateur. You don’t know the best secateurs ever made are the Felco #2 you are probably a phony. You’re shy of the line trimmer and back pack blower that tells me you learned it out of a book as in you know the Latin but you don’t know the lingo.
Mrs. Caruso has a chocolate lab named Crosby who is fit unlike many of the dogs I see. Mrs. Caruso said to me Wes, you’re all on your own in this big park. I said to her, you know Mrs. Caruso I am a seasonal gardener but just the same this ain’t a big park if you got thirty weeks. This would be a small park if you got thirty six weeks which is the number any self respectin gardener in this part of the world would want. You got twenty-six weeks, well then it was big park. Mrs. Caruso had no idea what I was talkin about. In my dreams I am dazzlin her with my steely good looks.
I came in here five years ago there were weeds growin out of the weeds. There were rampant day lilies as in somebody had a two-fer-one on sale. There were overgrown shrubs, badly pruned and choked with old and dead wood. There were dead and half dead Austrians and Red Maple. There was weeds and grass in the cobble and the limestone scree path down to the embankment was a field of dandelions.
The year they gave it to me you could see the dead patches all across the turf from the dog poop. I talked to the dog owners. I explained to them a good solid dog turd may mean your pet is in good health but that little puppy will still retain enough of its potency to burn a lawn after the big melt. At that time I didn’t know I was comin back in the spring. Well I did come back and you know there was maybe a fifty to sixty percent decline in turf burn from dog poop.
Now Mrs Frumpy, as I call her, came to me and said Mr. Gardener, I have found some mushrooms and I want you to identify them for me. I am concerned they are poisonous and may pose a danger to Chico. Well, Chico is a noisy irritatin little rat dog Chihuahua. I know Mrs. Frumpy don’t pick up after it.
So I said, Mrs. Frumpy is Chico partial to mushrooms? She said, I beg your pardon. I said ma’am because if he is, that is Mushroominous Canadiansis Queen of Transylvania or some dumb thing like that. I said, it is impossible to kill and it will sure as shootin kill your beautiful dog he even takes a whiff of it.
Well don’t Mrs. Frumpy look shocked. I pressed my advantage. Mrs. Frumpy, I said, best advice maybe take Chico to another park until I can get the poisonous plant people over here and get rid of this menace of a mushroom. Of course, I said, but you know how City Hall works. It could take years.
She looked at me out of the corner of her eye. Yes then, Mr. Gardener, thank you. Well, no further comment on Mrs. Frumpy, as I don’t believe in speaking ill of people whatever I might think, although I should say there was an old couch put out for pick up on my street and I had to take a second look as I thought I was bein stalked.
I got five years to go to full retirement. My old knee cartilage is tellin me I should be shmoozin Mrs. Frumpy who I’m guessin is a sad and lonely old thing. This year and the next. That’s it. I mean probably what I’ve got left in me. I lay awake at night listenin to them knees burn. That way I pretend they don’t hurt. I pretend they are a song from an opera I once heard with Patti Scram. Ibuprofen works a little. I got a prescription for these anti-inflammatories. Some days I have to gobble the stuff. I ain’t complainin.
They started callin me Wes the Dope. I had finally got the park headed in the right direction. Maybe twelve things that had to be done. I wrote up a list. This was the middle of year two in a heat wave that had been goin on for some time. A garbage troll gave me that moniker one day it was near forty with the humidex. He gave it to me from the inside of an air conditioned cab while I was workin the perennial beds down by the channel. I wear it with pride.
I came out of the north. I came down here with Patti Scram as my common law wife. We had two children. Donny wasn’t quite right and maybe we should have had him in a different school. When he was sixteen he tried buttin heads with a subway train. A witness said he must have been down the tunnel. The witness Donny came out of the dark at the train like he was chargin the scrimmage line, one shoulder down, a wild grin on his face. They say he was bullied at school. I never learned the truth of it. I lost track of Elaine and her mother. I think they might be out on the west coast.
We came down here I did hard landscapin, interlock mostly, in the private sector until my body broke down. They kicked me out and then I got on with the City as a Parks Handyworker. I liked it. I liked workin in a park. I woke up one mornin and realized I had found my callin in life.
I wanted a park of my own and so I studied for one year and wrote the gardenin test. Darn if I didn’t pass it. I know there is a God because He persuaded Parks and Rec to give me this place and to let me stay. I know there is a Satan because he sent Mrs. Frumpy and Chico to torment me. By the way she ignored my advice on the mushrooms and I am still pickin up after that rat dog. God also gave me Mrs. Caruso who gave me a Harris Tweed jacket with the patches on the elbows that smelt of mothballs. She said her husband had outgrown it. I would marry Mrs. Caruso in a heartbeat.
I play it by the numbers. I’ve got twelve numbers in my head. Second or third day on the job back in year one I sat down on one of the park tables and made a list of the things I had to do to bring the park back, resurrect it you might say. There were twelve things. I forget what they were now. They were basic gardening things; dividin perennials, weedin and pruning, de-thatchin, aeratin and overseedin the grass, gettin to know the locals. Things I needed to do to put the park right, challenges then, and you know what I got them done.
I think about the death of my son all the time. I think about my wife and daughter runnin off. I think about my body breakin down. I don’t know that I ever did anythin to deserve that, but the boy killed himself and the girls are gone and my knees are made of glass. Some how I think it is down to me. Maybe I was a little harsh with them. Maybe I didn’t take care of myself they way I should have.
I do my best with the park. I love this place. I think to myself I keep a good park, I keep it so that it’s right, I’ll be forgiven. It’s what gets me out of bed in the mornin, thirty weeks a year. The other twenty two are a little on the rough side.
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