Dew gave drink to the moss this morning as the frog chorus sang. Among a murder of crows a cote of doves had settled, all looking west. They were white and clean in their new spring clothes.
As their heads bobbed they began to spread like congregants leaving church for Sunday supper. Now and then they found millet which the squirrels had overlooked.
It was a fine morning. I hope Spring does not leave us prematurely as it did last year.
– from the notebook of J.C. Winchell
The cook hit the bell twice and lifted two hot plates of food through the window onto the stainless steel shelf for the waitress.
“Doris,” he called, “your order’s up,” upon which the cook withdrew back into his hot cave, where waiting for his return were his spatula and the griddle.
Doris picked up the ticket, checked its table number, and pulled the plates down without once breaking the flow of her conversation with Ginger (the other waitress) until, of course, Doris was about to cross the pale of the counter’s end and enter the restaurant’s dining room.
“Hold on, honey, my table five is ready,” said Doris.
Doris crossed the dinning room to a booth where two older men sat, sipping coffee.
“Dale, J.C.,” she said as she placed the heavy plates of breakfast in front of the hungry men. “Well, J.C. I thought you’d get enough of this place to stay away on your days off.”
“I just avoid cooking if I can help it,” he said. “But I still eat, and here is the only place that serves breakfast. So, you know, it’s where I come.”
“Makes sense, I guess. Dale, you old razorback, you got a garden this year?”
“You know I do. ‘Bout a quarter-acre is all.”
“Hmm. That’s kind of slackin’ for you, isn’t it?”
“How much you put in, Doris?”
“I’ve got a nice little patch out back, as much as I can handle. I’ll be back in a minute with coffee, fellas. Enjoy your breakfast.”
With a wink Doris was off and back to the counter where Ginger awaited the continuation of their conversation.
Dale Skoggins picked up his fork and began cutting his eggs into squares causing the yokes to puddle into the potatoes.
“But back to what I was saying, J.C.: I mean, I don’t have a quarrel with the idea, per se. It’s a noble concept and I get it. But I don’t think people will go for it. I might, perhaps. But I think it would be something of a horse-pill for most others to swallow. It’s just too idealistic. People rely on their gardens, J.C. You’re talking about jeopardizing them.”
“No, I’m not. It’s not like it’s going to change anything. Even as it now stands, who do you know who would file charges if someone stole a grocery bag full of vegetables from their garden?”
“Well, no one, I guess. But they might go to the law if it happened two or three times or became a regular thing. That would be different.”
“I’m sure we could find a way, outside of the law, to deal with that type of problem, don’t you?”
“Yes, I suppose so.”
“Look, the change of law which I’m proposing is really just symbolic but it’s an important gesture. One that would better align our laws with our values. I see it as another step in our ongoing effort to decriminalize society and broaden personal freedom.”
“No, that’s not what you’ve said. Now the way I understand it, J.C., is that you are proposing that all gardens within the boundaries of Winstanley Canton which have, up to now, been private property—”
“Not private property. Privately controlled property. There is a difference,” interrupted J.C.
“Not much of one,” Dale shot back. “If I own what grows on the property then how is that different from owning the land itself? There’s no real difference as I see it. Anyway, what you propose, J.C., is that privately controlled property should become common property so I don’t see that as simply decriminalization. And there is a difference here—between privately controlled property, as you call it, and commons. There’s a big difference. You say the gardens, all gardens, should belong to everyone which means that anyone who picks a bag of my tomatoes out of my garden—which I alone spent the time and effort to raise—can do so legally without so much as asking me, first. Am I not correct?”
“You are correct. But—”
“Let me finish, J.C.”
“I mean, I’ve never begrudged anyone a bag of tomatoes but this proposal of yours goes too far. So here’s the rub, as I see it: It boils down to incentive or disincentive, however you look at it. On the one hand, if I’m able to go around, without lifting a finger to garden myself, and can basically rob from other people’s gardens, is that not disincentive to grow my own garden? So what you get, then, is less motivation for people to grow gardens which would eventually lead to shortages. Would it not? On the other hand, if I’m someone who enjoys gardening—as I do—but every year, other people eat up my produce simply because they’re too lazy to grow their own, then wouldn’t that discourage me from growing a garden the next year?”
“You tell me. Would it?”
“Well it might. Yes, it just might. A part of the reward for growing vegetables is getting to eat what you grow. That’s a big part of it. Without that, well, I don’t know if it would be worth it. It’s a noble idea, J.C., but damned idealistic, if you ask me,” said Dale.
“Well, Dale, you’re the one person in Jeap’s Holler who I figured loves to garden the most which was why I wanted to ask you about this, first. You’ve given me food for thought. By the way, breakfast is on me, today.”
“Oh no, that’s not necessary, J.C.”
“I know, but I want to.”
“Well it’s my turn next time, then.”
“Good enough. Say, you going fishing tonight?” asked J.C.
“Maybe. Don’t know yet. You?”
“Yeah, going to hit the upper leg tonight after supper. I figure the bass are up there by now.”
“Well, good luck, J.C., with the fishing and all.”
By then J.C. had stood and collected the ticket from the edge of the table. He put on his felt hat, nodded goodbye to Dale Scoggins who had not finished his coffee, then went to find Doris so to pay for breakfast.
It was a quarter till nine, Monday morning, and J.C. Winchell still had a busy day ahead of him with many errands to run. His next errand was to visit Jean Friggatt about the squatters who had recently settled up near the Fowler and Swann farms in the woods above Fish Lake.