The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

War Garden

By Conway Smith © 1987

Issue: March, 1987

One fine spring day during World War I, Mr. Meek, our county agricultural agent, came to school and made a talk on "Victory Gardens." His speech fired us kids with patriotism. We boiled with enthusiasm to till the soil and help win the war. I volunteered; and after school ran home, full of energy and determination to get the project under way.

Mother gave me some change to buy seeds. Soon I was back from the seed store and hard at work in our backyard.

I had chosen the minimum specification which the county agent had set forth for a victory garden. My garden was the size of a small rug. So it didn't take too long to get the job done. When it was completed I looked over the project with the pride of accomplishment. The rows were laid out reasonably straight; and at the end of each row there was a stake on which was impaled an empty seed packet. In this way I would know what type of produce to expect come harvest time.

The job well done, I turned my attention to other activities. For the remainder of the spring and on into the summer; marbles, baseball, swimming, and fishing required all my time. The war garden slipped completely from my mind, and was left entirely to nature.

Then, as summer waned, came that memorable event. Our family was sitting on the front porch enjoying a pleasant evening, when out of the west appeared an impressive group of some six or eight town dignitaries, both male and female. They were marching down Third Street, and in the front rank was Mr. Meek, the county agent, who seemed to be in command.

We observed their approach with interest; and were amazed when they did a column right and came through our front gate. Father invited them to come up and sit a spell. But instead they drew up in formation on our front lawn. Then Mr. Meek made an announcement that gave me goose pimples. This was a committee of citizens appointed to make an inspection of war gardens.

There was no way out. I must exhibit my garden to this awesome delegation. And I had a feeling I would be unable to point to it with pride. In this dire emergency Mother showed a brand of courage and loyalty such as only mothers are capable of. She volunteered to share my embarrassment by going with me to escort the committee to view my agricultural accomplishment.

I had not noticed my garden for some three months, but I remembered its location. So with a sinking heart I led the committee to its site in the backyard.

At first glance the garden looked impressive. Vegetation stood some three feet high. But on closer inspection it became evident that all the visible foliage was of the wrong variety. The committee stood about the garden solemn and stony eyed. Then Mr. Meek stepped boldly into the midst of the jungle and dropped to his hands and knees, completely disappearing beneath the weeds. The committee, Mother and I stood by in silence while an eon seemed to pass. At length the county agent reappeared, rising through the foliage like a genie. He was holding a radish between his thumb and forefinger. The radish had a fairly healthy top, but the vegetable proper was no larger than a pea.

While Mr. Meek was exhibiting the radish to the delegation, I quietly disappeared over the back fence, leaving Mother to face the committee alone.

But Mother, Mr. Meek and the radish must have impressed the committee to some extent. A few weeks later I was summoned to the courthouse, along with a score of other juvenile agriculturists. Mr. Meek and several members of the war garden committee made speeches, and as our names were called each advanced to the front of the courtroom and received a medal. The medal was embellished with a red, white and blue ribbon, and on it was emblazoned a hoe and a rake. I received the decoration with considerable pride.