My parents grew up on farms, and I guess they had had enough of that type of life because I only got to go visit relatives who still lived "out in the country."
I was one generation removed from working in the sun, rain, snow, fog, early mornings and late nights. I thought the smell of tobacco plants and cows was exotic.
Now, my backyard is a decent size and looks into a huge cow field outlined by big trees. So I decided to make a small garden: 6 feet by 4 feet, outlined by semi-large rocks I gathered when they were building my development.
Even though it looked kind of prissy, I was determined to give an outlet to the horticulturist I knew was lurking inside me.
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I really like tomatoes. So that was the crop I decided to raise.
I started with the soil: Four 40-pound bags of topsoil, two 40-pound bags of manure, two 25-pound bags of mulch, and about 15 gallons of sweat.
I hand-tilled all that together, then carefully began planting a dozen "Big Boy" seedlings.
Tending them like newborns for two weeks, I was ecstatic when the yellow flowers first sprouted. They were followed by a whole slew of tiny green balls. A couple more weeks went by, and they had started getting bigger and turning a lovely shade of red.
I felt pride at my botanical endeavors.
But one day, I got home from work and glanced out the back door.
Every tomato was gone.
With shock beginning to settle in, I went out to see what had become of my babies.
A deer had stomped through my little piece of rural tranquility and helped itself to my backyard salad bar. The culprit or culprits had left nothing but tracks and stems in my homemade, guaranteed-to-grow-anything dirt.
I, and my "crop," were devastated. How could this have happened?
Seeking revenge on the four-legged moochers, and mentally reminding myself of the location of my trusty pellet gun, I let calmer thoughts prevail and drove down the road to Eagle Guns in Concord.
I wasn't out to buy some kind of magnum salad protector, though. The sign outside said there were N.C. wildlife agents inside. So I took my clipboard and my sad tale indoors for some comforting words and advice on how to stop the marauding vegetarians.
There I met up with Dianne Taylor. Here's what she told me:
"The deer in Harrisburg are overpopulated. Last week there were three dead on Stough Road. The people who own land won't let you hunt them. Take Phillip Morris. There are monsters in there. That's how they're described - monsters. And if nothing gets done about them, the problem of deer and cars is just going to get worse."
I started to tell her about my garden.
I had just said "tomatoes" when she looked me straight in the eye and said, "The deer ate 'em all didn't they?"
My humbling nod told her she was right on the money.
I thanked her for her insights and went back outside and got into the oven that was my car.
Hmmmm. You know, maybe I should have done more research on garden pests.
I mean, grasshoppers and fire ants are one thing.
An entire garden full of luscious red tomatoes gobbled up in one night by a four-legged vegetarian is something I hadn't counted on.
And, upon further review, I don't think my pellet gun is going to be much of a deterrent.