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Musings About Family, Travel And Gardening With Allen Martinson.


Dirt Daubers

LAST WEEKEND MIMI AND I attended a wedding in Clarksdale. A great friend of our family married a new favorite friend of ours whose family is from Clarksdale. We have had a lot of people pass through our world at Garden Works family, some we never hear from again, some we remain friends for life. This guy was a particularly great employee and showed a passion for the horticulture world. The job started as a summer, high school job that led into his working on and off for the next three years. When he graduated from high school we were sad he’d be leaving us to go experience life.

He went to Mississippi State to get his degree in horticulture at the same time that another one of our favorite employees who started at the same time and for the same reason left us to get his degree in horticulture. I checked with them to ask what they planned to do with such a specific degree. I reminded them that if they were planning to do what we were doing, retail, grow and landscaping that I started on third base. My parents got our businesses going very strongly before Mimi and I bought the business from them. I didn’t want them to think that a startup retail business would be an easy thing to accomplish in these complicated retail times. Amazon and Wayfair had already made it easy to get almost any- thing delivered to your door really fast and cheap.

Thank goodness they have not figured out how to ship decent plants at a decentprice. I shouldn’t say this out loud but I don’t think they will. I think too many people love the garden center experience to let that go from our lives as everything else seems to be doing. They both didn’t know what they would be doing with their degrees but they knew they would figure it out. They both experienced college to the fullest and earned their degrees. We got closer to them and our kids got closer with them during this time since we would stop by to see them in Starkville. Mimi and I left our kids with them while we went on a trip somewhere. The kids had a blast and probably had their eyes widened a little too much but such is life.

If I remember correctly they both started their careers by taking jobs for some big landscape companies. One of them started with a large company in Mississippi and the guy whose wedding we attended headed straight to Aspen where he learned how to make plants live in the rocky soils at 8,000 feet. In the winter months he learned how to run a snow plow and how to ski really well. Over the years (talking about 15 years ago) both of these guys have been extremely successful in their endeavors. One of them started his own companies and owns half of Nashville, married the girl of his dreams, popping the question at our house in Pocahontas, blessed with three little boys and together, he and his wonderful wife have built a world of their own that is truly incredible.

Our other friend worked himself up the ladder all the way to the head of parks and recreation in Aspen. He has been responsible for all those beautiful plantings and the wonderful parks in and around Aspen you see when you get lucky enough to spend some time there. After all that time away from home ironically he came home to attend a friend’s wedding where he met his wife-to-be. She tried to go out there to live, got a job, settled in when they both realized the south is where they wanted to be while they experience the married life. Two weeks ago they moved to Chattanooga where he waltzed right into the same head of parks and recreation job. If you’ve spent any time in Chattanooga you know that it will be a big and thrilling job to keep that place as nice as it is today.I believe this fellow will make it even better.

Both of these guys passed me up a long time ago with figuring out what to do with their degrees in horticulture. They made a wise choice and are happy in their lives. This degree will work for people who are very creative and very energetic which these guys wrote the book on.

We are very proud of them both. This industry will hook a person before they know it. I’ve seen it happen more times than I can count with my father’s employees and Mimi and I have seen so many people stop off at our place for a quick job and never leave the industry.

I REALLY STARTED THIS week’s article to be about our weekend in Clarksdale. Of course I moaned and groaned about having to go to a wedding and move to a hotel in the delta and anything else that I could think of to dread. I wasn’t sure if my suit was in order from the last event I was forced to attend but I packed like it was, hoping for the best. I was at one of my buddy’s wedding when someone pointed out that I had a dirt dauber nest on one of my lapels. So I’m always a little tensed up about that, so is Mimi.

Mimi and I stayed at a great hotel downtown Clarksdale and Max and Madeline stayed at the Shack Up Inn outside of town. We were under the impression that most of the wedding party would be staying at the Shack Up but that was not the case. We met Max and Madeline at Ground Zero that night after the rehearsal dinner as did the rest of the wedding party. There was a great blues band playing which we were enjoying until the rest of the party arrived then we kind of took over the place with our loud and proud gang of folks.

The next morning we met for a blues breakfast and got to walk around town and take it all in. I was mesmerized by the countless, well done murals all over town. There was blues music oozing out of every crack and crevice in the delta town. There were cool places to go into and look at all the blues man shrines and old photos and vinyl record shops.

We went out to the Shack Up to see the cottages and grain silos that have been converted into airbnb style stays. We staked out the bar and the band we would come back to after the wedding festivities were over later that night. We had some great tamales and ribs before putting on my suit, which still fit and didn’t have any wasps hanging out in. Mimi looked fabulous as usual in an outfit I’d never seen. We walked the two blocks to the church, watched a 17 minute wedding and we all headed out to the Roxy where the reception was held. We had a wonderful night there seeing our old friends, dancing and meeting new people.

We sensed it was coming to an end so we all changed into regular clothes and met Max at the bar where they stayed. We hung with them as long as we could listening to the blues and watching all the characters coming and going. The blues culture is alive and well in Clarksdale. I was surprised how much the town has going for it and what a great close by getaway we have right under our noses. We want to go back with a group of people and stay at the Shack Up for a weekend, lots of fun.

As usual all my dreading and fretting about having to leave my regular world was for nothing and wound up having one of the best weekends we could remember. I have to remember that a break and a pause every once in a while is refreshing and healthy for keeping the creative juices flowing. Clarksdale is two and a half hours away although it seems like you’ve traveled farther in both space and time. There is a vibe there that really can’t be described, you have to feel it and smell it yourself to really get it. It has a little New Orleans funk to it but there is something else in its vibe that I believe is uniquely Clarksdale. If you are from Mississippi, you should do yourself a favor and go see another very cool thing that is all about our state. Put on your dancing shoes or your listening hat and let the blues have you for a weekend. I have a good friend from Clarksdale who has countless times tried to get me to try it out and I just wouldn’t listen, now I gotta tuck my tail and tell him he was right all along.

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