“Hi, Daddy, How are you doing?” I query.
” Okay, Sugar. Where’s Fred?” he replies. There he stands in his garden, hoe in hand, dressed in his old sleeveless undershirt and baggy khaki pants; he’s oblivious to the fact that one pant leg is rolled up, the other is down, and his tennis shoes don’t match.
“Fred’s in the house saying hello to Mom, but I’m sure he’ll be out in a minute to see how your garden is doing.” I comment. This seems to satisfy him and he goes on hoeing the garden.
I never know what to say to my father, but I make another stab at it. “The tomatoes are beautiful this year. Are you selling any?”
“Yeah, Mom’s selling them to the health food stores for seventy cents a pound.” Then he smiles and adds, “The “booger” boys have been coming over and helping me pick them. But, I have to really watch them or they’ll pick all the green ones. John and Mike are getting to be real potato diggers too.”
I think to myself, Daddy’s been bragging about the potato diggers in the family since I was a kid. It’s nice to know the third generation is following in his footsteps.
We wander along, surveying all the green wonder of his garden: beans, melon, Chinese cabbage, tomatoes, onions, peppers, and the newest addition to this international garden, Japanese cucumbers.
Fred appears with a “Hi, Rip.”
Dad rests against his hoe. “Lo Fred. How’s Del Rio? Done any fishing lately?”
“No, but if you come down we’ll go fishing. They’re catching a lot right now.” Fred responds.
“Cain’t come now, Fred, you know that. I cain’t leave my garden.” “Patter girl”, Daddy suggests, “Go get me and Fred a Budweiser.” So I run along to the house to fetch a beer for my Daddy and my husband. Fred really doesn’t want a beer, but he can’t refuse because he and Daddy are buddies: fishing buddies, hunting buddies, garden buddies, bull-shitting buddies.
“Here’s your beer.” I announce, but they don’t seem to notice me. They’re busy swapping stories.
“Fred, are ya gonna be ready for the big hunting trip to Colorado in November?”
“Hell no, I’m not freezin’ myself to death again with you bunch of crazies! If I can’t bring my camper, I’m not going anywhere.” Fred exclaims.
Pretending to be insulted Dad asks, ” Whatsamatter Fred, don’t ya like to rough it?”
“Rough it! Rough it! All I’m askin’ for is an indoor toilet and a warm bed. Do you think the deer care if we’re comfortable?”
I follow along, noticing a new limp in Dad’s stride. As we walk, I muse; Fred never has trouble making conversation with my Dad. They are friends; I’m his daughter. That’s different.