Op-Ed

Back to normal in the mountains: Sweet corn, bean-picking and coal miners getting shorted

Things are going back to normal in the mountains, in the nick of time. Miners are catching black lung again, despite acts of the Kentucky legislature curing it. Coal operators are shorting their workers, like they did pre-John L, short paying instead of short weighing. Instead of paying their help and those they buy stuff from, the coal operator uses his excess money where it can do more good, in politics, on the side of the enemies of coal miners, and maybe to buy and give out little stickers.

Back to normal, or even better. The Me Too Women’s Auxiliary of a denomination in the mountains called Semi-Pentecostals got a male member of the church kicked out when, to answer somebody wanting to know what he had been doing, unfortunately answered that he had been shucking Honey Delight. He was churched until somebody explained that honey delight was sweet corn, so decadently good on the cob this time of year that you are willing to pay twenty dollars a pound for the seed, which you cannot save and must buy, and you are willing to let your seed stock of Silver Queen or Hickory Cane go extinct. Honey Delight is clearly better than normal, isn’t it?

Normal in July is bean picking and stringing, and back to normal in the mountains means that there are more varieties of green beans available in East Kentucky than anywhere in the world. The best I planted this year was Donnie Bentley’s old family heirloom creamy fall bean, followed close on by Sam Staffords old seed. There is a whole section of my garden full of Bill Best selections, precious strains of mountain food, preserved by a precious and valuable human.

But there are so many temptations to abandon the old ways. Everybody knows that with all those beans you have to cut up an onion, the problem being that Vidalia onions, which you must buy are the onion equivalent of Honey Delight. They are so good that well, who wants to grow an old onion if you can buy one that is better.

Normal would be to plow with a mule and disk it a little bit. Better than normal is now those tillers on the backs of big blue tractors which till and grind up the earth so thoroughly that planting is a dream, and your garden is fine, so long as you do not go back in it or put a machine in it, because that fine- ground soil is by then compacted like concrete.

I had a fifty year old Gravely and the tines on it would only go one way. I thought that Gravely had died and gave it away and replaced it with a new model like sits in front of big stores and was probably made by slave labor in a foreign country. It lasted about one twentieth as long as the Gravely, which is still running under the proud ownership of the guy who took it off my hands. But while the new tiller lasted, its tines would run either way.

The tines they are a changin’.

Reach Larry Webster, a Pikeville attorney, at websterlawrencer@bellsouth.net.

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