moved to Roosevelt more than 50 years ago, and the garden has been one of our greatest blessings. Arkansas’ wonderful climate and good soil are ideal for gardening. Our farm is along Highway 157 out in the country, 25 miles from Searcy, the nearest town to the south, 25 miles from Batesville, the nearest town to the north, 25 miles from Newport, the nearest town to the east, and 25 miles from Heber Springs, the nearest town to the west. The garden is just south of the house and its rows run parallel with the highway. It has every opportunity to show itself in all seasons and has always given us many ways to share with others. My husband [Ernest Paul Beaver, October 13, 1917 – October 15, 2000] used to work in construction. The men who worked with him would bail out of the truck and head for the garden to enjoy tomatoes, peppers, turnips, watermelons or whatever else was available. Those same men continued to come by often to see us. However, they would bring the goodies since we were not able to do much gardening anymore.
I was visiting with a woman in the doctor’s office one day. She asked me where I lived. When I began to tell her, she said, “Oh, you belong to that pretty garden!” That was about the size of it.
Local people stop by every now and then to talk garden. One older couple from Floral, up the road a ways, came by to ask how we grew tomatoes. We felt so honored that they were asking us for advice. Many total strangers stopped by to talk gardening and visit. One afternoon we were working out there when a pickup stopped. The couple was from Wisconsin. They had been camping in Arkansas and were on their way to the Air Show at Little Rock Air Force Base so could stay only a few minutes. The very next morning it was raining, but here they came, pulling their camper. They spent the entire morning with us. We had rolls, strawberry jam and coffee, and, of course, we talked gardening. They made pictures and went on their way to make other friends. This didn’t really seem strange to us because similar things happened often. Only a few more days passed before a family from Montana stopped by. The man asked if he could have a limb from a cotton stalk that he saw growing in the garden. We always planted a few cottonseeds among the flowers to remind us of the cotton fields from our past, and to use for crafts. I showed them a centerpiece I had made using fluffy white cotton bolls intertwined with an artificial morning glory vine.
Our one big problem was over-production. One morning, I had taken my husband’s large wheelbarrow to pick cantaloupes. An Arizona family and their Arkansas relatives were on their way to the Blanchard Springs Caverns near Mountain View. I was wheeling out a load of cantaloupes rounded high. They stopped. We visited. I gave them enough cantaloupes to fill their cooler and lighten my load.
I am a giver. My mother taught me to be that way. Her motto was “Never go visiting with your hands at your side.” So we gave. We planned it that way. Every year by the first of September we planted turnip patches, two varieties. One patch was for “greens” and one was for turnips. When they were ready to pick, I would put up a pretty sign, “FREE. ENJOY!”
One year, the first visitor’s car bore a Missouri tag. He didn’t have bags for the greens, so he asked for some. The same day, a family from Batesville picked greens and left some golden apples when they left. In a little while, a car loaded with women drove into the drive. I was on the patio. They got out of their car carrying bags and baskets. They were from Aromatique (smell good factory) in Heber Springs. One lady, one of the founders of the company, said they came for greens and turnips and proceeded to present me with some of their products. I said, “Oh, no – you take all the greens you want, but I don’t want anything for them.” She asked, “May we sit? I want to talk to you.” She asked if I enjoyed giving things and said she did too. She said she had learned a hard lesson and that was to receive graciously. She talked for a while and they got up to go to the garden. I said, “Thank you,” and I really meant it.
So now, I say “Thank you” for allowing me to tell how gardening has enriched my life. vvv
(The author is a member of the White County Historical Society.)