Monday, June 1, 2009

It's About Tines....

In retrospect it wasn't that good a deal. Sally wanted a small tiller to use in processing the output from our new tumbling composters, which we bought in the handy two-pack at Costco. I did some research and found just what we needed: a Mantis, 2-tine furrower for only 64.95. It even qualified for Super-Saver Free Shipping! Sally was happy. I was, as it turned out, inordinately pleased with myself. We had found just what we wanted, for a fraction of the price we thought we might have to pay.

Last night I received the welcome news that our order had shipped. In reviewing the details of my order I read that, instead of a 2-tine furrower, I am receiving 2 furrower tines. In disbelief I returned to the website where I had ordered the tiller, and saw that the photo of the small tiller I thought I ordered had been replaced with a photo of the replacement tines that fit onto a $300 tiller which we do not own. Alas. Alas and alack.

In the late 1950's and early 1960's our family lived in Terre Haute, Indiana, next to the Beals. The Beals had a particularly nasty three-year-old named Billy who was my younger brother's playmate and nemesis. Though Billy always wanted to play with my brother, he quickly became violent when he didn't get his way. My brother still has a cowlick on the front of his head as a result of the time Billy pistol whipped him with a cap gun. My brother shared that fate with the Beal's dentist, who once bent down to greet Cowboy Billy, and wound up with a cavity in his scalp.

Anyway, one day we couldn't help but notice that Billy's hands and wrists were deep purple. These were innocent times before anyone thought of the practice of dyeing the fingers and thumbs of people as they voted, a practice which might have changed the outcome of many elections in Terre Haute. It wasn't a natural look, and we were worried about Billy. O.K., truthfully we hoped he had some dreaded, though uncontagious disease.

In feigned concern for Billy, and real concern that his condition might spread to her brood, my mother asked Mrs. Beal about Billy's hands. It's fun to imagine that conversation. "Isn't this weather something? Your roses are lovely. And speaking of lovely colors, I couldn't help but notice that Billy's hands are totally purple.... "

Mrs. Beal responded in hushed tones. It was her husband's fault you see. He was a notorious bargain hunter, and when he came across cases of raspberry Jell-o for a song, he just couldn't resist, despite the fact that no one in their family could stomach raspberry Jell-o. Those were the days before anyone thought about using Jell-o for hair dye, and not wanting to be wasteful, they did what any other responsible bargain hunter would do with excess cases of raspberry Jell-o. They poured it into Billy's sandbox. I'm just guessing here, but I imagine it was more than Billy's hands that were sorta purple.

I've told that story many times over the last 40 or 50 years, but am just now feeling a sense of compassion for Mr. Beal. Sure, he got a great deal on cases of something he didn't need, but which Costco member can cast the first stone? Certainly not I. Not after buying replacement tines for a Mantis tiller that I don't own. They were quite inexpensive, by the way. And I bet they would be great for incorporating Jell-o into our compost.

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