Friday, May 25, 2012

Garden of the Month

As long as I can remember there has been a Garden of the Month Club in Crockett.  Unless there is a severe drought which makes water rationing necessary the lawns are lush and green.  Flowerbeds are in full bloom and sidewalks are lined with the most beautiful flowers you can imagine.  Each month in the Spring and Summer season an award is given to the proud owner of the yard judged to be the finest at the time.  An article appears in the Houston County Courier recognizing the lucky recipient along with a photo of the property.  A very nice sign is placed in the yard near the street so everyone passing by will know they are the big cheese, at least for that month.

Not far from my house lived an elderly man named Elwood Allbright.  He was a widower and in failing health.  I would see him around town in his big stationwagon, and be ready to flee if necessary.  His eyesight wasn't good and most felt it was only a matter of time he might whack someone.  He was a very nice man who talked to everyone and was somewhat of a local character.

Elwood was in no shape to take care of his yard, so he hired a local landscaping company to make some changes so he wouldn't have to worry about the upkeep.  At the time this wasn't as common as it is now.  Landscaping in Crockett back in the day was green grass and flowers and not much else.   When the job was finished it was a topic of conversation around town and lots of people drove by to check out the results.  To be fair it did what it was supposed to.  The lawn was covered with gravel instead of grass, which was the point in the first place.  There were some wagon wheels and pieces of driftwood scattered here and there as well as rocks of various sizes.  It was so different by the standards of the time it resulted in a lot of jokes and comments.

To show you what a social life I had and how much there was to do in Crockett, even when I was a freshman in high school almost everyone know who was the current winner of the Garden of the Month.  That was long before Facebook, so what else were we to do.

One evening my friend and neighbor, Steven Satterwhite and I were roaming the streets looking for something to do.  We made our way to town, circled the courthouse square and started back home.  We were walking since we were too young to drive.  As we started down Goliad Avenue we passed the First Methodist Church.  The parsonage was located next door, and there in the middle of a huge flowerbed was the Garden of the Month sign.  We were in awe.  Neither of us had ever been that close to it before.

Stephen and I both were pretty sick and twisted individually, but when we got together our demented thoughts seemed to link up.  Almost instantly we had the same idea; steal the sign and put in the yard of Elwood Allbright!  His landscaped yard was still drawing a crowd so it was up to us to give them something else to talk about.

It was dark and the yard was full of large trees so we weren't concerned about getting caught.  I stood watch while Stephen stepped carefully into the flowerbed and removed the major award.  Each of us grabbed an end and we began our journey of almost a mile to the residence we had elected to host the honor.  We knew there would be some tongues wagging come daylight the next morning.

East Goliad Avenue had a lot of streetlights back then, and it seemed to us like there was more traffic than usual.  Every few yards a car would approach from one direction or the other.  Each time we would toss the sign on the ground and slowly move along.  As soon as the car past by we would run back, retrieve the sign and continue on.  It took us a good forty-five minutes to reach our destination.

We figured we could push the sign into the soft ground and take off quickly, but we hadn't accounted for the yard being covered in rocks.  The sign didn't easily go into the soil, or go into the soil at all.  It was apparent we would break it if not careful.  In Crockett that might be a capital offense.  We finally leaned it against a dead log and piles rocks around the legs.  This was done between running and hiding in the bushes each time a car passed.  After the mission was accomplished we both went home.

I didn't tell anyone about it and neither did Stephen.  A couple of days later there was a picture in the paper of the sign in the yard of Elwood Allbright with a couple of lines about it being the work of some local pranksters.  We did tell a few friends about it, but nobody cared.  I say nobody cared, but the Garden of the Month people were probably upset.

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