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The hate dance of the love apple

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For some people I know

When spring in her recurring majesty touches the earth with warm fingers and soft constant rains fall upon the land and nature stirs in answer to the ancient rhythm of waking and rebirth, there is, apparently something in man that stirs too. In answer to sounds unheard and forces dimly understood, plants reach for sunlight, animals emerge from extended slumbers, and people my age stick tomato plants into the ground.

May is for young men to chase girls, and not-so-young men already spoken for to plant tomatoes. June is for them to discuss, at length, the fruits (see what I did there?) of their labor.

Every second over the past month and-a-half that has been tomato-talk free has been a treasured one. They know this, and yet the dance continues.

Neither rain nor cold nor aching back, nor cost nor reason nor eight screaming sinuses can stay these addled agriculturalists from their annual idiocy. They could save money at the grocery, get better produce at the farmer's market, but with each spring they set out in droves to do, and discuss, the dance of the tomato plant.

It is an act committed in haste and repented in sweat, for, like the ladies of Rutherford springs past, the tomato plant does not yield up its goodies easily. It must be fertilized, cultivated and tied with bits of cloth to stakes driven into the soil. Taken out, presented with gifts for no particular reason, introduced to parents, and heard discussing the abundance of other tomato plants it does not care for.

Not that there is anything wrong with the tomato. It is tasty, attractive, loaded with vitamins, and highly versatile. Sexy, outgoing, easy to hang around, and unintentionally comedic. Tomatoes make fine ammunition, as well. When contact with desired target is made, they make a pleasant, squishy sound, and the impact is always just enough to shock but not injure.

Strange to say, the tomato was not always a favorite in our land, once being considered poisonous. Its popularity burgeoned when it became known as the love apple, rumored to be capable of investing males with wondrous potency. Sad to say, there is no foundation for the legend.

Based on weekends spent with people I know, all tomatoes tend to ripen at once. One day you're at Kroger paying for supermarket pulp, the next you're up to your ears in home-grown tomatoes, forced to foist off the surplus on your neighbors, co-workers, area homeless, and anyone you can hit from a Ford Focus doing 35 mph.

There is only one problem with this. While you're yearning to share your harvest with the neighbor, co-worker, area homeless, person you can hit from a Ford Focus doing 35 mph, he's longing to share his with you. With tomatoes, it is more blessed to give than to receive. It's also more difficult. The smart man learns to wait until the neighbor has left for the movies and place a gift (sack) on their front porch. Or he takes them to the office, where, with proper promotion, they can successfully be given away.

But when all is said and done, tomato raising is a silly hobby. A friend, who shall remain nameless out of mercy, kept an account last year of his personal tomato undertaking. As a present to those my age and older, who are seeing the wild days of their youth drift further and further behind in the rear-view mirror and are looking for new and equally exciting ways to spend their time, I share the rap sheet with you...

Cost, tomato plants (10)...$3.00
Cost, tomato sticks (20; 10 broke)...$5.00
Bandage for thumb, hit by hammer when stick broke...$.50
Fertilizer...$5.00
Bug spray, etc....$7.50
Labor (minimum wage)...$135.00
Water...$5.00
Candy (given to neighbor child to stop screaming after having been caught picking first tomato)...$.25
Total Cost...$112.25
Total tomatoes produced...94
Cost per tomato...$1.71
Number of times wife said it would be cheaper to buy at the store...83
Number of times wife reminded of superior taste and texture of domestic product...83
Number of times wife smirked...83
Times offered tomatoes to neighbor...6
Times offer accepted with pained smile...3
Times neighbor hid, would not answer door...3
Times neighbor caught, said no way...1
Tomatoes thrown at cats...13
Times hit cat...1
Times hit own car with tomato thrown at cat...2
Times hit passing car...1
Cost, washing car...$2.50
Times took fine samples to office...1
Times found office peopled frustrated comics, dicks, and assholes...1
Times weeded tomato patch...22
Times swore never to plant the f#$%ing things again...22
Times lied...22

Maybe start watching Treme.