I dropped my purse and car keys on the table as I looked around at the kitchen, dining room and living room. Used food dishes and silverware were everywhere. Books, paper and toys littered the floor. Sofa pillows and cuddle blankets were on the kitchen floor and used kettles filled the sink. Stamping a foot, I raged, “This place is a pig sty! Why do I have to come home from work to a mess like this?”
My husband, sprawled on the sofa, looked up from the newspaper he was reading with a startled look. “I didn’t hear you come in.” he exclaimed. Looking around, he added, “It’ll just take a few minutes to pick everything up.”
My eight-year-old and four-year-old daughters, Niki and Tammie came running from their bedroom for welcome-home-Mommy hugs. Kicking off my shoes, I bargained, “Help me pick up things. As soon as we’re done, I’ll start making supper.”
Seeing that everything was under control, my husband Arnie leaned back to resume reading his paper.
I cheerfully greeted the patient in the wheelchair with a big smile as the admitting department employee pushed him into his assigned room. Opening the bed, I helped the man up from the chair before taking his vitals and recording his personal belongings.
Just as I completed the nursing assistant portion of his admission, the dietician walked into the room. The patient grumbled, “This place feels like a refrigerator. Could you give me a blanket? I’m cold.” Noting several other supplies that would be needed, I left the room.
A few moments later I returned with a blanket, gown and a pitcher of water. Opening the blanket to wrap around the patient, I heard the dietician ask, “Please tell me about your diet.”
The patient reacted to the request as if gasoline to open flame. His face turned red and he shouted angerly, “I’m not on a diet, and you’re not going to shove some stupid a—-diet down my throat!”
Calmly looking up from her clipboard, the dietician wearily explained, “What I want to know is what types of foods you normally eat every day.” Her unruffled demeanor made me want to giggle. Undoubtedly, she’d experienced this conflict in word definition before.
Smiling as I stepped into my hoop-building garden, I took a deep breath and looked around. The smell of good soil and the sight of beautiful growing plants filled me with joy. I didn’t have time to weed, but did have time for making an inspection of the growing plants. I immediately spotted a problem. Something looked different.
There appeared to be fewer carrots than I remembered from the day before. Looking closer, I discovered a small carrot peeking out of the soil, its ferny carrot top missing as if someone had taken a scissor and lopped it off. Its developing greenery was nowhere to be seen.
In the row of peas, every single plant was either chewed down to a stub or entirely missing. Over half of the kale I’d planted was missing, too. I knew who the culprits were. Scanning my back yard, I spotted a small rabbit sitting next to a flowerbed. Another was fearlessly hopping across the lawn. Rabbit number three was nibbling on grass nearer to the river bank.
That evening when talking to my daughter Tammie, I complained, “Years ago when one of the mouse traps killed a rodent, a friend of mine claimed that for every mouse you catch in the house, there are ten more living in the walls. I suspect the same ratio exists for rabbits. For every rabbit you see out in the open, there are ten more hiding in the tall grass.”
My daughter exclaimed, “Ew! That means you have thirty rabbits in your yard!”
I answered with a sigh, “And there are probably also thirty deer who visit my yard every night. You should see what they’re doing to the flowerbed along the driveway.”
Pushing his dinner plate back, Daddy addressed my oldest brother. “I’m going to use dynamite to get rid of that big old thorn apple tree in the center of the cow pasture this afternoon. I need your help in clearing away rocks and roots after the explosion. I plan to plow that field next year.”
Nodding, my brother Casper stood up and left the house with Daddy. Hating to have anything changed or come to an end on the farm, I turned to my sister Mary and questioned, “Why is he getting rid of that tree?”
With her seven-year advantage over me, Mary confidentially explained, “The thorn apple tree is the last one on our farm. It used to have large, sweet fruit. But for the last few years the apples on it have been small and wormy.” I nodded. My brother Billy had picked some for me once. They were more like berries than apples and although bright red, they were bitter along with being wormy.”
Mom went to the basement to wash clothes. My sisters Betty and Mary cleared the table and ran water in the sink, so I slipped quietly out the back door of the house. For once I remembered to not let the screen door slam behind me. I wandered into the farm’s orchard and when I came to my favorite crabapple tree, clambered up into one of its branches.
Gazing at Mom’s nearby, well-weeded garden, my mind pictured the thorn apple tree’s extremely long thorns and craggy branches. I fretted about the world losing its last thorn apple tree. The sound of dynamite exploding announced the deed had been done.