Sunday, April 3, 2011

Little Boys, Grasshoppers and Rocks

This morning was gardening time. It’s not easy to “garden” on the balcony of an apartment. But, we bought some tomato plants a week and a half ago at the local farmers market and it was time to transplant them into bigger pots.

The reason, of course, that it’s not that easy to grow a garden on a balcony is that space is really limited when you have to get your hands dirty mixing soil and transplanting the plants. Balconies are also a bit limited in making sure that the plants are sited so they get optimal sunlight, but we try to make do. Plus, I hate the thought that anytime you grow anything here in Southern California you have to go out and buy dirt.

We’re going to try to get a bit of a crop this year. I’ve got 2 pots with Roma tomatoes in them—a total of 6 plants which might need transplanting yet again—and I’ve got 2 pots with a “grape” tomato called Juliet. So we’ve got romantic tomatoes in Roma and Juliet (hey, I know it’s a bad pun but that’s our sense of humor). Last time we grew tomatoes, the “crop” was so meager that we not only named the plants but we named the individual tomatoes too. I think that “crop” ultimately cost about $20 a pound to grow.

So I got done gardening and needed to take out the garbage that was created. I bundled everything up and went down the stairs to the dumpster. I heard a little kid talking and what sounded like rocks bouncing off the building. It was a kid who lives in our 4 unit building. He’s about 5 and he was throwing rocks at the ground, peering intently and then throwing more rocks.

I tossed the garbage sack in the dumpster and turned around to look. He was throwing rocks at and trying to kill a 3-inch grasshopper. Every time he’d toss a rock, the grasshopper would, well he’d do what grasshoppers do, he’d hop a few feet. I looked at him and said, “Hey, are you trying to kill that grasshopper?” He shrugged his shoulders and nodded his head.

I don’t know but maybe I was thinking about karma or something but the older I get, the less inclined I am to kill critters—unless I’m going to eat them. “That grasshopper didn’t do anything to you did it? It’s not nice to kill defenseless animals.”

He’s looking at me like I’m the typical old fart bossing him around. So I said, “why don’t you watch him and what he does? Grasshoppers are cool.”

No wonder he was looking at me that way. I sounded like Earl Pickles—the quintessential old fart. But I walked away back to the stairs and our apartment. As I got to the stairs, I looked over my shoulder.

There he was, squatting down head cocked over looking at the grasshopper. And I thought to myself, “You done good. Look at that little boy, fascinated by that grasshopper. He’s enjoying it now.”

Then I saw the rock. The kid pushed the rock down on top of the grasshopper and shmooshed it.

There are a couple of morals to this story.

• A grasshopper has a pretty good chance of survival when someone’s throwing rocks at it. It ain’t got a chance when someone’s shmooshing it.

• Little kids haven’t changed. They still like to amuse themselves by whacking grasshoppers (I hope he doesn’t come across a wasp’s nest next).

• And, I have descended solidly into old fartdom. And now I’m heading towards curmudgeon.

Ain’t gardening grand.

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