ERROL CASTENS: Pure punishment: Weed ’em and reap

By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal

Chip and I were putting in a drip irrigation system for his recently planted Japanese persimmons. As I unrolled plastic tubing, Chip was punching emitters into it at six-foot intervals.
He mentioned casually that his wife, Nan, would be quitting the hair business this fall to return to teaching high-school algebra. I asked what changed her mind.
I should have seen it coming.
“She missed working in the factory,” he said.
I finished the row and moved to the next one. As I connected to the main line, Chip started telling about a friend who’d lost her job making toy babies.
“One of her coworkers couldn’t push the heads on firmly enough to make them stay,” he said. “They had to recall a bunch of them, and the company went broke. The management blamed everything on the weak doller.”
We worked in blessed silence awhile, but then Chip told me his sister Chap had started a second job at a donut shop.
“They start their day with a hymn,” he noted. I hoped he wouldn’t say what I feared he would, but he did.
“They sing ‘Holey, holey, holey,’” he said.
Within seconds I was hearing about our neighbor Otto’s turning over a new leaf.
“He’s given up growing his ‘alternative crops’ out in the national forest,” Chip said. “Now he’s growing organic vegetables up on his daddy’s old place. Given the health claims that go with his natural methods of raising food, he’s calling it ‘The Farmacy.’”
I wished for my MP3 player. I longed to hear “The Pines of Rome”; I’d probably have settled for “Malice in Wonderland.” Instead, I had to listen to Chip tell just how badly his mother-in-law cooks.
“My father-in-law made her an ornate sign to go over the kitchen door,” he said. “It reads, ‘Welcome to the Baker’s Wrack.’ He said when she put her recipe online for chickpea dip, it was no typo when she titled it, ‘humus’ instead of ‘hummus’.”
By this time I was working two rows ahead, but Chip just raised his volume a bit. He began a monologue about how Franklin Roosevelt ended up on the dime.
“There was a secret meeting during World War II between FDR and Mohatma Ghandi,” he said. “They were on the grounds of the White House, talking about how the long war could be won and then turned into peace.
“FDR told Ghandi he planned to honor the peace efforts of Woodrow Wilson by urging Congress to create a new 10-cent piece with Wilson’s image on it.”
I could see it coming, but I couldn’t get out of the way.
“Ghandi looked at Roosevelt and said, ‘No, my friend – you must be the change you want to see.’”

Contact Daily Journal Oxford Bureau reporter Errol Castens at (662) 281-1069 or

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