Black Thumbs Matter: no green bean genes here

Black Thumbs Matter: no green bean genes here

Tuesday, June 22, 2021 4:00 a.m.

Now that I’m in the middle of my middle years, I focus on getting healthier. In particular, I focus on mine, well. . . my middle. My middle is still there, but I notice that my toes are getting a nice tan, now they finally reach the sun.
The downfall in my Battle of the Bulge is nutrition. I still eat way too much fast food. Instinctively like Pavlov’s puppy, the second I hear the car’s engine turning, my mind plans a course to the next pass.
One of the cures to eating the wrong foods is to grow our own. Experts say that growing our own food has a deeper meaning. The food tastes better, it is more nutritious, and it is cheaper. Gardening keeps us active, gives us vitamin D from the sun and is better for the environment – at least better than car exhaust at Taco Bell ™.
I’ve made a big garden. In the happy summer days, row after row of my favorite agricultural delicacies stood in my back yard. Mother Nature and I tended her gently for three months. Then, when the plants were ripe, I gathered the fruits of my labor. . . which hardly mattered.
My melons were the size of softballs, my tomatoes the size of grapes. I had rows of tiny beet-colored golf balls and marble-sized radishes. I tell you, if it were my turn to grow enough food for my family to survive the winter, we would be on the Donnor Party Diet.
I have a black thumb. It’s not that my Pollex pigment is any different from the rest of my fingers. I mean black thumbs in the sense that I can’t let anything grow. It makes me sad to know that after generations of great gardeners in my family, I am the one who didn’t get the green bean gene.
I always stood in the garden and rubbed my hands over the stave of my great-grandfather’s cultivator. I imagined his calloused hands moving back and forth in the rows, polishing the maple handle until it gleamed in the midday sun.
Papaw was a huge figure in the garden. He was six feet tall and weighed over 300 pounds. Yet he was peaceful and serene as he lovingly tended his crops.
Papaw was a gentle giant. I’m trapped in the bean sticks.
The fear of growing my own food gave me a real appreciation for what it takes to feed us. In a particularly good year of growth, I stood over the kitchen sink pulling the strings from a beautiful bushel basket of English peas from Green Arrow.
I stood shoving peas from their pods into a glass bowl and tossing the used bowls into the compost bin. After two hours of peeling, I had exactly one cup of peas!
I was shocked. I immediately started to do the math.
Think of all the frozen peas in the country. The thousands of thousands. Think how many stacks of peas there are in the freezers of the grocery chains, the mums and dads, the big retailers, the warehouses of the distribution centers. Think of the canned peas on trucks, trains and container ships.
Think of all the hands peeling, sorting, canning. Think of the fingers that pluck, shoot. Think of all the thumbs – usually colored thumbs: black thumbs that split peanuts in the turn of the century south: Latino thumbs in California’s onion fields: Asian thumbs in the Northwest canning factories.
Sure, automation takes us further away from the agronomy that great grandfather knew, but think of all the people who are still working – yes, working – – to feed us.
I despise the term “low-skilled”. We use it to socially sanction blacks, Latinos, immigrants, and even low-wage white workers when, in a galactic irony, these are the people who keep us alive.
The nobility used to wear high collars and long sleeves outdoors. Being tanned in the sun was a sign of low status. Today we worship the sun, but our rudeness towards people who use hands and backs as capital remains.
My mother (or Socrates) always said: “Never bite the hand that feeds you”. We do that every time we don’t appreciate the person who works in a field, refills a shelf, or hands us our burgers.
Today, please take the hand of someone who is feeding you – especially if that hand is a little darker or a little rougher than yours. Thank them from the heart or from your wallet.
Let’s remember that the only thumb that doesn’t deserve our respect is the one we put on our nose.

John O. Marlowe is an award-winning columnist for Sagamore News Media

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