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The summer of my discontent.

Let's begin with zucchini. If someone could cultivate a species of this prolific vegetable that would stop prolifing after you are up to here in the blasted things, he'd make a fortune. It would be about as easy, however, as cultivating a species of giraffe that could stand on its head.

Pour gasoline on zucchini plants and set them ablaze, they flourish on it. Open your zucchini patch to the neighborhood kids for a ball diamond and designate the most productive plants as bases, they thrive on the action. "Pull the (deleted) things up!" rails my dear wife, who already has dishpan hands clear to her elbows from processing the suckers. After all the work that has gone into raising them? Don't be crazy!

I do have one final strategy up my sleeve, which I'll get to in a minute ... if you'll just hang on.

First, there's the problem of yellow jackets. I refer in particular to the colony that has taken up residence amid the wild onions, wild grape, wild morning glory, lichen, kelp, and assorted stuff we can't even identify, which we call our front lawn.

Why, one might ask--I being the one--do these insidious little buzz bombs lie low until they spot a man confined to the seat of his big red Murray mower before identifying themselves? Why they don't blunt their toxic little syringes on that attractive red metal instead of harpooning unattractive human flesh, is another good question. We're talking here of human flesh that once got off its big red Murray mower to remove a branch in its path, only to see said mower go tearing down the hill unattended, bashing in its front end on a fence post and realigning its big red headlights so that they are now useful only for hunting coon.

Question #3: If yellow jackets are so smart, why would they send out a party of seven when the one that invaded my left ear could have done the job nicely? It alone concentrated my mind so wonderfully, as the saying goes, that a neighbor later complimented me on mowing the neatest Figure 8 he had ever seen in a front lawn.

A yellow jacket attack has one other benefit: The threat of hornets has been reduced to a level just above a friendly housefly with wet feet (I hated that!).

I became acquainted with this particular gang of hornets inside the shed, where we disagreed on the ownership of a half-bushel basket that I, not they, had hung on a nail along the back wall. And I had outrun all but a half dozen (hornets don't run all that fast) by the time I arrived at the patio. Here, by a stroke of luck (bad luck, to be specific), my dear wife was engaged in her semi-annual ritual of sweeping. Exercising her woman's intuition, she immediately sensed that I might not be comfortable wearing this hornet halo.

Ordinarily, as this other saying goes, dear wife couldn't hit a bull in the butt with a bass fiddle. But rising to this occasion, with a single swipe of her broom she not only dismissed the hornets, she also succeeded in draping me over the wrought iron railing. Thus, thanks to her quick reaction, I escaped with noting more than two hornet stings, a sizable nodule on my noggin from the broom, and patch of hide scraped off my upper chest (my lower chewt fortunately being below my belt at the time). Otherwise, I might have been hurt.

My birthday is another summer problem.

"What do you give a man who has everything?" is my dear wife's excuse for getting by with only a card. Everything indeed! The only reason I'm not going to take it with me, as another saying goes, is because I haven't got it. But sometimes, at the last moment, in a fit of compassion she'll drive into Spencer and get something for herself. This year it was an ice cream freezer.

If there was one thing I didn't want it was an ice cream freezer. To retain my Greek-god figure, I have switched to frozen yogurt. She doesn't care for frozen yogurt. So she tied a big red bow on this lousy ice cream freezer and called it my birthday present.

Adding to the problem, the accompanying recipe book included the makin's for Rocky Road, my dear wife's favorite. It being my birthday, I humbly suggested we dedicate my freezer with a batch of good old reliable vanilla. She agreed to put the issue to a vote. The result came out 1 to 1, in her favor.

Worse still, where the recipe called for adding a reasonable amount of chocolate chips, dear wife, who loves chocolate chips, didn't stop adding until she had dumped in the entire pound package.

Have you ever eaten chocolate-coated BBs? Then you know what it's like to submit your choppers to frozen chocolate chips. The only thing in their favor, they do sharpen the teeth. By the time we had crunched our way through the full two quarts, I could easily have qualified for a job biting holes in alligator belts.

This brings us to the barbeque. As eating out means farther out than the backyard grill to the one of us who prepares our meals (or messes, as they are often correctly called), our barbeques are as rare as the hamburgers. But once a summer I am allowed to call the clan together for a--a clan get-together, I guess we could call it. I am also permitted to prepare the fire, do the cooking, and set up 12 places on a picnic tables designed for 8. The only contribution from the opposing party is a pesticide spray job that leaves me concerned that there won't be flies enough to go around. (On this occasion, however, I needn't have worried--at least I didn't hear anyone call out, "Hey, we need more flies over here!")

As it turned out, I might better have spent my concern on the big moment when the adoring grandkinds gathered to watch faultless old Gramps skillfully pyramid the charcoal, with a flourish douse it with lighter fluid, then dramatically flip open the packet of matches and set 'er off. All went well until Old Faultless dramatically flipped open packet of threads, buttons, needle, yard goods, and whatever else goes into a Day's Inn mending kit, which Guess-Who had stuck into the matchbook container.

I suppose I could have dramatically whipped out one of the threads and sawed it across a piece of charcoal until it ignited, but by that time even the youngest kid would be working on his Ph.D.

My dear wife's birthday provided the summer's only bright spot, and that but temporarily. The vegetable dehydrator I stuck a bow on not only evened us up for that lousy ice cream freezer, it also was the solution for a garden that didn't know when to quit.

By this time, the tomatoes had got their second wind, cucumbers are too big to know when their season is over, and the zucchini--well, you know about zucchini. The Mason jars were full, and the freezer side of the refrigerator so loaded that we had stationed a basket on the floor to catch the stuff that fell out whenever we forgot and opened the door.

Now, dear wife is not one to show emotion readily. But when she saw this dehydrator--well, you've seen happier expressions on the faces of goats with their heads caught in a fence. But no arguing with the results. In only one day, working from 7 a.m. to around midnight (I'm nor sure, as I had been in bed for some time), she wasked, scraped, sliced, and dehydrated my entire harvest of carrots to fit into two sandwich bags.

Looking back, I probably should have waited another day or two before bringing in the bushel of onions. Sniveling over onions is not uncommon for dear wife, but never had I seen her completely break down like that.

This of course left the zucchini up the creek without a dehydrator, as still another saying goes. But, I believe I mentioned this, I have one final hope: Halloween. And what I'm hoping is, among the trick-or-treaters this year, at least 25 will be toting sacks that are large enough to accommodate a zucchini.

I supposed sacks large enough to handle a vegetable dehydrator or a two-quart ice cream freezer would be asking too much.
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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:humorous account of seasonal mishaps
Author:Stoddard, Maynard Good
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:May 1, 1992
Previous Article:Catching up with "Candid Camera."
Next Article:Hughes' views.

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