By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal
Roger and I were starting Marion, Rutgers and San Marzano tomato seeds, followed by Bhut Jolokia, Scotch Bonnet and a few other pyromaniacal peppers that go into the torture tonic that he sells to a select crowd of mail-order masochists.
We were up to our elbows in potting mix. We’d fill each tray, punch 72 holes with a pegged board in the resulting 72 soil pockets, and use a tiny spade-looking device to drop the seeds in before smoothing more soil over the tops.
In the middle of the work, Roger paused and looked straight at me.
“I’ve never grown a crop of pumpkins when I was trying for peppers,” he said.
I waited for the punch line, but it was not forthcoming.
“It still amazes me that though the seeds look nothing like the plants or the fruits, they always produce true to both,” Roger said. “It’s a wondrous thing.”
I offered a half-hearted “uh-huh,” thinking that the parent-progeny link was too obvious for amazement.
“Scripture says it would be so,” Roger said. “‘Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.’”
As I watered down seeded trays, Roger spread another set of trays on the adjacent table and started loading potting mix.
“Anyone who spends his rent money on weed may end up without a home,” he said. “Whiny people often end up with no friends – or only those who sound just as self-absorbed as they.”
I wasn’t sure how the conversation had jumped from DNA to doping and moping.
“If one sports a snakes-and-flames tattoo across his jaw and then complains that people judge him on his appearance, they’ll probably question his intelligence, too,” Roger continued. “And bankers who fudge the numbers probably won’t be bank presidents long, and if they are, they won’t enjoy their money for fear of that late-night knock on the door.
Having finished the tomatoes, we moved to peppers, but my partner in grime never slowed his pace.
“Anyone who toys with another man’s wife may lose his own family, home, money and reputation – not to mention his life,” Roger said. “And anyone who alienates his children may live out his last days with a great deal of regret.”
I didn’t understand what all this had to do with planting tomatoes and peppers.
“Most of life bears a resemblance to farming,” he said. “If you plant kindness, appreciation, generosity and honesty, you’ll get contentment. If you plant cruelty and envy and greed and deception, you’ll get despair.
“Scripture says it like this,” Roger said, reaching for another stack of seed trays. “‘Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.’”
Contact Daily Journal Oxford reporter Errol Castens at email@example.com.