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Musings About Family, Travel And Gardening With Allen Martinson.


Bumblebees & Tumbleweeds

Last week I was on a packed airplane headed to Denver while I wrote that week’s article. In case you haven’t had the pleasure of flying somewhere lately, I’m here to tell you that what you’ve been hearing or seeing on the news about being in airports right now is true. People are ready to travel and are excited to get the heck out of Dodge! I understand the feeling. I’m doing the same, and it took me a couple flights to get my travel back on. I have many more flights coming my way in the next few months, so I’m learning to be prepared for just about anything. The layovers between flights make me more nervous than the flights them- selves. I usually can’t understand the person squawking over the intercom, so I’m always in a state of feeling like I’m missing something important. I usually haul to my connecting gate when I arrive even if my next flight is hours away. I guess I want to make sure I haven’t entered the Twilight Zone and my gate has somehow disappeared… you never know these days. My game now is to see how light I can pack. I’m down to one shoulder bag that I don’t even put in the overhead compartment. It’s so small that I can slide it down by my feet when the flight attendant isn’t looking. I put in my earbuds with downloaded music so I can’t hear those announcements about what you are supposed to do in the case that the airplane is going to crash. I just don’t think any of that is going to matter after inspecting the crowd as they push and shove their way onto the plane. Even though I pack light, I allow myself one of my old National Geographics to keep myself occupied until I doze off. I have a National Geographic collection that dates back to the 1930’s. They are very interesting to me, especially the advertisements; we live in such a different world now. The one I brought with me this time was advertising the first washing machine. We’ve come a long way.

My son, Max, coming out of Tulsa, was to land in Denver an hour after I arrived, so I went down to his gate to wait for him. I looked around at all the little stores on my way to his gate and tried to avoid getting run over by people who were busy trying to get to their next gate. I would see groups of six walking side by side coming at me on the wrong side of the hall, and all I could do is turn my music up and slide over for them to pass. When I saw that his gate had not disap- peared into some kind of black hole, I found a chair that was close to a charging station where I could people watch and prepared for a little wait. What I wasn’t prepared for was what happened next. The electricity in the entire Denver airport went completely out for just over an hour. When I say out, I mean out! Vending machines, charging stations, arrival and departure boards, squawking intercoms… I mean it was out. I figured they had some kind of generators in place and it would be back up and running in a few minutes, but that never happened. Since Max was about thirty minutes from landing when the lights went out I found someone who looked official to ask what this might mean. The answer was just what I feared. His plane had been diverted to Amarillo, Texas, and wouldn’t be in Denver for another three hours. I settled in for the wait and made a few phone calls. While I was calling the farmer that we were there to meet to tell them that we would be late, I got a text from Max that said, “Wheels down!” He had slept through the whole ordeal with his headphones blaring (like father, like son), and he thought he was in Denver. When I texted back to him that he was actually somewhere in Texas, he didn’t believe me. So I let him find out for himself when he disembarked. That’s when he texted me that he was, in fact, in Amarillo. Seeing is believing.

I WAS GLAD TO see him finally come off that plane a few hours later looking travel weary and discombobulated. It had been too long since we’d had a few days to spend together doing what we like to do best, catching a great show at Red Rocks Amphitheater along with any other adventure that arises, which in this case, was to meet up with some farmers. It just so happened that it was Max’s 22nd birthday weekend, so the timing was perfect. When we got to the car rental place, the guy must have seen the weary looks on our faces and offered us a free upgrade on a spicy looking race car, a black Camaro SS with yellow racing stripes with bells and whistles that would take me a lifetime to figure out. Mimi and I went to all the Transformer movies with Max growing up and we could not pass on this Bumblebee adventure! All of our troubles were over. All the languishing around the airports was soon forgotten. That car started our trip off with a fast and furious bang. We had a two hour drive ahead of us, due east of Denver into the plains of Colorado. We experimented with the speedometer on that desolate road with no gas stations, no nothing. Tumbleweeds tumbled across the road every five minutes. At first I tried to miss them, then we realized they would shatter when we hit them at the speed we were going. My first mistake was taking a picture of the speedometer while at our top speed and texting it to Mimi, thinking she would be impressed with our manly ways. She did not think it was funny. We eventually got over the excitement of driving Bumblebee and took the some of the metal off the pedal, especially after reading her scathing text back to us. We felt like she was somehow watching.

We made it out to the ranch at about nine pm. The farmer left a light on for us in our bunk room, and we would meet them in the morning. Max and I were a little wound up from the crazy day we had just experienced. So we walked around the ranch a little bit, wondering how people must live that far out, away from everything that most of us take for granted. There wasn’t a sound. The last thirty minutes of our route to the ranch was down dirt roads. So not only was it quiet, but it was very starlit from the lack of light pollution. It was so “out there” and desolate, we weren’t even hearing the howl of a coyote. Even they had given up on the area and moved on to fatter land. The next morning at six am, we met the lady who owned the ranch and her husband who farmed big acreage of seed corn all around the area. It was a little brisk, like we expected it to be early in the morning in Colorado. A light long sleeve did the trick. We were there to see a half acre of greenhouses that they had gotten stuck with when a partnership had gone sour, as partnerships often do. Her ranch has a five room motel and a cantina set up for pheasant shoots. People would come out for a few days, shoot at pheasants, eat some good food, smoke cigars and have a wild time out in the middle of nowhere. It was a nice place with a runway and hangars for the airplanes flying folks in to hunt. And right in the middle of all this was a huge range of greenhouses that were fairly recently built. Max and I were there to purchase the greenhouses from them, because their ranch is for sale, and they felt like the greenhouses might be muddling up the sale of the ranch. And because one man’s junk is another mans gold, we came to their rescue. We spent the day getting to know each other, rummaging through the barns for any more “gold” they might want to get rid of, touring his corn farm and inspecting the greenhouses. We are used to seeing the Mississippi Delta style of farming on a grid system, so their style was interesting to us. They farm in circles. Each circle is 110 acres and has a giant irrigation pivot which runs in a big circle. I don’t know how they were able to get enough water to the crops in that dry, windy area. I know that the water is expensive which is something we don’t have to worry about here. It’s not that we don’t get dry, but water is easier for us to come by in Mississippi. This way of life is what these two were used to. They were both born and raised in that area, and it looked like they had it figured out. Their crops were spectacular, and they had what it takes to live the life of a farmer, which is a great sense of humor. We fell in love with each other throughout the day. They loved that we were father and son in the same line of business, and they heard the story of my mother and father starting our family business back in the fifties. She had already gone to our website to read about us and found my blog section on our website. She had already read most of my stories that I write for the Northside Sun. She wanted to know who she was dealing with.

IT WAS TIME TO make a deal on the greenhouses, and as she was accepting my offer, she added one contingency. She would only accept my offer if I agreed to fly her down to Ridgeland and “let” her work at Garden Works for one week. My mouth was agape. I made sure I was hearing her right, and I was. We shook hands. Deal done. Our new friend will stay with Mimi and me, eat Mimi’s food, spend her days at Garden Works and her evenings with us down by the pond. I asked that she hold off until mid-October when the pumpkins and fall plants would be peaking and when we have our annual Plants, Pumpkins & Pinot event on October 15th. We want to make sure we get her down to New Orleans also while on our watch. She said she loves what she read about our life and our business, and how green everything is in the pictures on our website. I guess her appetite had been whetted for an adventure to somewhere different. We are all about that and can’t wait for her arrival.

Next week, Max and I and three other guys will set up camp at her ranch, rent some equipment, and begin dismantling the greenhouses. We have a friend who drives semi-trucks for a living and is willing to get a load headed to Colorado. After he makes his delivery, he will then swing by the ranch to pick up the first of two loads of greenhouses and bring them home for us. We will be out there for a while, probably longer than Mimi and I have been apart. We’re not looking forward to that part of this endeavor, but we are very excited about the adventure and the wonderful new greenhouses coming to Mississippi.

After the deal was done, we dialed it into birthday mode, so Max took his turn at driving Bumblebee back to Denver, where we had a nice hotel downtown and tickets to a great show at Red Rocks Amphitheater. One of our favorite bands, Trampled By Turtles, and new to me, a band called Caamp played, while we watched a beautiful lighting storm between us and Denver. We had a fantastic night out, got some rest and eased back to the airport for more mental abuse. We flew back to Atlanta together where we hugged each other goodbye. Max headed back to Tulsa, and I headed back to my gal.

We will be seeing each other soon in Denver to begin the process. We are talking daily about logistics. One of the things that has already come up is to add a night at Red Rocks, upon completion of the job, as a treat for all the guys who are going to make it happen with us. It just so happens that Joe Bonamassa will be playing just as we should be wrapping up the job! This is going to be fun. I’m sure this endeavor will be article worthy, and I’ll be able to tell you all about it real soon.


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