Home » Father's Day » Forty Pounds of Trouble

Forty Pounds of Trouble

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Big Ed lived the words of Benjamin Franklin, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Ed’s experiences growing up during the Great Depression had a lasting effect on him.

Born of a hard working Polish family they spent a great deal of time growing vegetables, (mostly cabbage) and raising chickens and rabbits. Tomatoes, green beans and barrels of sauerkraut would be put up for the winter months. The not-so-fortunate chickens and rabbits were predestined for Sunday dinners.

When the time came for Big Ed to raise his own family he brought that same self reliant approach along with him. Don’t buy what you can grow yourself.  Don’t throw away what you might be able use later. Everything was either repairable or good for parts to patch up something else. Ed believed that all things had a potential usefulness. After all, one can never have enough string, wood screws, old radio knobs and stove bolts…you know, just in case.

Using the spokes of old bicycle wheels, he would attach empty beer cans around the outside of the rims and then stack them one on top of the other. Topping it off with an arched beer can roof, he’d proudly present another of his patented wishing wells. An absolute “must have” for every trendy Polish backyard. The Old Milwaukee model would look great positioned between a tractor-tire flower planter and a bathtub Madonna lawn shrine. Believe it or not, a truck driver traveling down Interstate 80 spotted his wishing wells and pulled over to buy one.

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The 1960’s brought about a better economic period and his vegetable garden turned more into a pastime than a necessity. He started growing odd things like Jerusalem artichokes, strawberry popcorn, and one year almost an entire garden of okra of which he insisted the correct way to prepare it was to boil it into oblivion. That’s a real taste treat!

The garden’s coup de grâce was his attempt at growing “The Forty Pound Bean”. I have no idea of where he first heard of this thing.  I can remember watching infomercials for the Chop-O-Matic, the Veg-O-Matic and Popeil’s Pocket Fisherman, but I never once heard anyone pitch the Forty Pound Bean.  Ed somehow came into possession of these obscure seed packets and his addiction began.

He spent weeks preparing the soil precisely the way the package instructed to guarantee the best possible harvest. Ed carefully nursed the plants as they poked their heads out of the soil.  Constantly weeding and watering, he stood guard making sure nothing would stunt their growth. He would give a full report of the crop’s progress at the dinner table each night.

These, “things” began to spread their tentacle-like vines throughout the garden,  weaving themselves together to form what looked like a thick carpet. Soon blossoms appeared and the garden resembled a lily-pad patch  in the quiet corner of a small pond. His plan was to harvest his prize crop when it reached precisely thirty pounds to assure the utmost tenderness.

As the beans began to form, Ed would painstakingly role each one to assure that sunlight nourished it on all sides. Watching this process was a thing to behold. A man wholly committed to his mission.

I was by no means what you would call a horticulturist, but these things didn’t look like any strain of bean I’d ever seen. They looked like some kind of squash; a banana squash to be exact…a garden full of perfectly shaped banana squash.

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There is nothing quite like a late summer diet that regularly featured squash prepared as many different ways as my mom could come up with. Squash was sautéed, baked, pureed into a soup, tossed in a salad,  and my personal favorite, thrown in the garbage when dad wasn’t looking. It took me years before I could stomach the thought of squash on my dinner table again.

Giving up on his bean dream, the following summer he planted enough cherry tomatoes to fill the Thornton stone quarry. Dad never lost the desire to garden. His garden shrunk in size as he aged, but his vision of harvesting a prize crop never wavered.

Today, I’m that old Polish guy who finds it hard to throw anything away. I love the challenge of repairing broken things by making use of my collection of other broken things. While flowers adorn my gardens, most of my fresh vegetables come from The Farmers Market. When I’m lucky enough to stumble upon a Forty Pound Bean, I like it roasted with brown sugar and butter…and when I serve it, I raise my fork and say, “Here’s to you dad.”

Photo credit: Suzies Farm / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

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14 thoughts on “Forty Pounds of Trouble

  1. I love the photo. Lots happened in that garage and garden. I don’t remember the forty pound bean story. I guess I was up in Wisconsin then. I loved dad’s enthusiasm for life, trying new things, growing things, problem solving, inventiveness, and love of eating what mom made out of the veggies he grew. Reading your story put me back in dad’s garden with him.
    Joanne

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I do remember your Dad always tinkering in his garage, but it was so clean and organized compared to the barns in my backyard! The only time I was ever frightened during one of Thornton’s outbreaks, was after a Friday night football game. Your Dad was picking up Arlene and me and it started to snow. The fights broke out and snow balls were flying and your Dad got hit in the head and his glasses were knocked off his face. We were searching in the snow for his glasses and the fighting escalated. We finally found his glasses that were a little cockeyed but he was able to see and drive. We then went back to your house while he thoroughly enjoyed and probably needed his 45 oz. beer. Don’t remember the name (maybe Schlitz, maybe Old Milwaukee, but remember the empty sitting by the kitchen sink. He was a really wonderful man.

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  3. Dad and mom came one year and the
    40 lb bean came with them . Dad told
    Me all I needed to know about growing
    It . I put it in the ground and looked
    Forward to it showing itself . The day
    came and I was proud . Every day I would
    Go and turn it , every day my chest would
    rise with pride . Dad told me to pick it
    around 6 to 8 pounds. One day , that will
    Forever be in my memories , I went to
    Roll it and the side of it was eaten out .
    So I never got to taste it .

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Love the story! Grandpa was so intrigued with everything – whether it was the workings of an old radio, or the mysteries of a puzzle or the mechanics of photosynthesis. He took such great interest in the tiniest of detail with the most amazing patience and precious gift of nurturing. I love how happy he would be with his garden harvests. He took such pride in a single vegetable! I sure do miss him!

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  5. I never get enough of the life we all had with our amazing gift from God that we call Mom and Dad .It hurts not talking to them but joyful to know that one day we will see them in God’s house .Thanks Eugene for your special way of giving everyone a small look at the love our family has .

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Fantastic. Your writing skill helped me visualize the garden and the man with determination all over his face. I could see him with sweat on his brow, with his tongue stuck out like a child concentrating on a drawing. Someone’s standing over him talking, and he’s listening but he’s on his knees, with eyes focussed on his current obssession.

    I’m going to send this to my dad who spends all his time planting & growing. What an entertaining read. I look forward to more!

    Like

    • Thank you Sharon, your description actually reminds me of my dad, engrossed in his labor of love. There is somethings special about dads that garden! Thanks for the re-blog.

      Like

  7. I love that beer can wishing well. From the age of 14 to 21, I lived in the country. Mom grew many things we enjoyed eating. There also were ample berries on our property. I never got enough of her jams, but I can relate to your being over the 40-pound bean. You can get too much of a good thing.

    Thank you for visiting my blog. 😉

    Liked by 2 people

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