Capital Gazette wins special Pulitzer Prize citation for coverage of newsroom shooting that killed five



There is a dark cloud hanging over my garden on even the sunniest days. That explains all the bad luck I've had this spring.

It's only May, but many of my tools have been lost or damaged. The rototiller is in the shop already, and the mower needs surgery pronto.

My old hoe is haunted. The loose blade spins around in circles, like Linda Blair's head in "The Exorcist."

I misplaced my favorite pair of pruning shears, and promptly broke the new ones. The dog likes to prune shrubs with her teeth. Perhaps she'll teach me how.

These problems are very discouraging. I feel like throwing in the trowel, except it's one of the few tools that still works.

L I hope summer isn't the bummer that spring turned out to be.

Not that I could have done yardwork anyway. It rained most of April, except for when it snowed. The garden looked like a flood plain. I nearly exchanged my seed order for a box of Minute Rice.

Eventually the weather cleared, and I slogged out to the shed to warm up the rototiller. Cultivating the garden is my favorite chore. A wise farmer once said, "Tickle the earth and she'll laugh with a harvest." It's easy. Gardens have plenty of funny bones.

Turning the soil produces a rich, earthy smell of spring as well as hundreds of squirming earthworms anxious to explore the new-plowed ground. The job is a breeze when you're standing behind a 7-horsepower engine, though frankly I'd rather have the horses. I could use the fertilizer.

Anyway, I gassed up the rototiller and pulled the starter rope. It flew out of the machine and into my hand, where it lay like a dead worm. I recoiled in horror. My tiller had died without making a peep, while the garden still lay there, asleep.

In frustration, I kicked the tiller. Then I rubbed my foot. Then I grabbed a shovel, limped out to the garden and began digging the beds by hand, like all other unspoiled gardeners.

The lawn mower was the next to go. A self-propelled mower, it drags me around the yard at 90 mph when it's working properly and refuses to move when it isn't. This year, the mower has been having rapid mood swings, going from 90 mph to 0 to 90 again. Cutting my grass is like riding with a student driver. I've got whiplash to prove it.

I'm a magnet for mechanical mishaps. Recently, my pickup truck was rammed from behind, sending me straight to the body shop.

The owner examined the damage and said he'd need a week to make the repairs. Meanwhile, the car rental agency offered me the use of a new Ford Taurus.

I grimaced.

"I really need my truck right now," I said. "See, I have a large garden, and it's very hungry, and I have to feed it truckloads of manure from a horse farm nearby."

I asked if the agency rents pickups. It does not. With heavy heart, I took the car. It rides nicely, but it's not what I wanted.

Would anyone mind if I filled the trunk with horse manure?

The dark cloud is getting darker. Yesterday, my wife phoned the office with more bad news.

"Remember that Bradford pear tree in the back yard?"

Of course I remember it. The tree, a beautiful 30-foot ornamental, was OK when I left home.

It looked like hell when I returned. Half the tree had fallen during pTC a heavy wind. It barely missed hitting several nondescript shrubs, landing instead on my favorite apple tree, which escaped with minor cuts and bruises. The apple tree will need extensive trimming once I locate my pruning shears.

The pear tree is doomed. A man with a chain saw is leveling it right now. By nightfall, the tree will have been reduced to a stack of firewood. I would have done the job myself if I had the equipment. But my wife won't let me have a chain saw. It's just as well. With my luck, I'd end up cutting the house in two.

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