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Gopher Gulch: Surviving first storm of season

Several people have mentioned that they don’t remember the first real storm of the season ever being this early. I’ve been here since the beginning of time, but I have to admit only a couple first storms were memorable. The one that remains warm in my heart happened 20 years ago, when a red-headed grandson lived here. Thomas was 2, and we spent our days together in the garden.

In the spring he was just toddling well, and we’d stop now and then to deal with a diaper when it got so wet and heavy the poor little fella couldn’t walk. By the time the corn was up, he learned to water the edges of the patch to discourage raccoons.

Our pride and joy was the beans. On the north side of the garden we built three tripod tepees, using poles left over from my “real” tepee. I’d quit using it when I could no longer raise 200 pounds of canvas on the end of an 18-foot pole, no matter how good the available leverage.

We strung ropes between the tepees and used twine to support the climbing plants, ending up with a tunnel of beautiful Blue Lake pole beans nearly 30 feet long. With straw we made a warm, soft floor. It was a beautiful set-up and we spent long days playing there. We ate our lunch among the bean plants, napped, read stories and followed grasshoppers and caterpillars.

Thomas was a great garden companion. One day he had a flower in one hand and a bean in the other, so I offered him a strawberry to see what he’d do. He looked back and forth between the little fists clutching treasure, then leaned forward and bit the strawberry.

As winter loomed, threatening our idyllic Garden of Eatin’, l frantically tried to get everything taken care of. I’d spent so much time playing grasshopper that the first storm was looming on the horizon when I dashed out to pick the last of the beans before the wind ruined our beautiful tunnel.

Thomas was with me, as usual, and we were inside the tunnel. We were picking beans that hung through the canopy as the sky darkened and the wind began making the poles creak. The storm hit like a huge fist. Suddenly it was very dark, the wind was howling and rain pounding on the bean leaves was deafening. With a horrendous, terrifying groan, the whole structure came down on us. I hadn’t really noticed how heavy the plants had become on poles that were already so heavy I had to drag them.

David rescued us, digging through the debris with fear shaking his voice. Somehow we were uninjured, crouched together beneath a tangle of rope, twine and bean plants, miraculously missed by the falling poles. I don’t know why I remember the date so well, but I do. It was October 10, and quite the most memorable first winter storm I ever experienced.


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