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by Caroline Downs

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George's Grove . . .

Posted 7/24/12 (Tue)

Sometimes things happen the way they’re supposed to happen, even if it’s not the way you want.

Take, for example, the coincidence of my father-in-law’s visit and our tree row tragedy.

First, the visit. George comes here from Ohio to fish nearly every summer, sometimes with another friend or my uncle (they’re great buddies), whether or not the husband is around. This summer, the husband is working out-of-state, but George planned a trip anyway, making plans with some of the fishing and hunting friends he’s met here over the years.

For one reason and another, his departure date kept getting pushed back, until even my uncle couldn’t join him. He called when he got Fargo last Thursday morning and said he’d arrive later in the afternoon and we could use the week to bond.

Now, I’ve been operating at home alone for nearly two months at this point, responsible only to myself, the dogs and the poultry, and maintaining an over-filled schedule that didn’t offer a free weekend until the middle of July. I’ll admit I wasn’t thrilled at the prospect of hosting anyone as company, but I cleaned what I could in the house and tried to limit my grumbling.

I will also admit I hadn’t taken time to inspect the new tree planting since I had a day off on July 4th, when I walked the rows and pulled the few weeds threatening to grow tall at that time.

You’ll see where this is going.

George arrived in fine style and made his fishing plans for the next day. We shared supper, then he wanted to see the new trees.

I was happy to offer a tour, saying I knew I’d need to mow between rows soon.

We walked past the grain bins to the plot.

Where I was shocked.

Shocked to see that although the grass hadn’t grown for two rainless weeks, the previously tiny weeds had skyrocketed.

Shocked to realize I couldn’t find a single tree.

Shocked to discover a friend had mowed our pasture for hay that very day, and the blade had wiped out most of the row of buckeye seedlings.


There were no tears. There was no blame, because several factors were at work: I hadn’t cleared or marked the rows; the promised fabric hadn’t been laid over the soil yet to deter weeds; our haying friend didn’t know where the first row was actually located.

There was a bit of profanity in my initial response to the situation. And there was a whole lot of work, as in, “Let’s find out where these other trees are.”

Bless George. He doesn’t quit. We located one ponderosa pine, cleared weeds around it, then tracked down the rest of the row, stepping off the expected distance between seedlings. Then we started on the buffaloberries, as twilight settled.

When it grew dark, we made a plan that started with a visit to the NRCS office the next morning.

Yes, we could get more buckeyes.

Yes, the fabric will be placed when equipment can be found to do so.

Yes, we should weed around each tree, three feet on each side.

And so we started. Actually, George started Saturday morning while I was gone on an already-planned outing. All the buffaloberries were located by the time I returned, and we started pulling weeds on Saturday night.

Digging weeds. Hoeing weeds.

Tugging and twisting and wrenching weeds.

Whatever it took.

Truly, I don’t mind weeding--I never have. You see immediate results and just exactly where to go next with your work.

Dragonflies and damselflies abound out there, and lady beetles cover some of the plants. In fact, they transferred to George.

He must be sweeter than I am.

By Sunday, we started mowing between the rows and made amazing progress. More weeding followed and hope was restored.

Neither of us has told the husband yet. We’ll get it fixed first.

The tree row is going to be fine.

So are George and I, although I never would have guessed how much I needed his visit right now. And I never would have predicted bonding over weeds.

We’re coated with dirt. We laugh at each other’s weeding strategies and take breaks and lose weight and eat ice cream when we finally go inside after the 10 pm siren. He’s convinced he’s building biceps. My leg muscles have strengthened from a thousand or so squat repetitions. My left hand is stained green from pulling, even though I wear gloves, and George’s white socks came out of the laundry not-so-white even with bleach.

And it’s just fine.

I think I’ll dedicate these trees to him, name the rows in his honor: George’s Grove.

That has a lovely sound to it.