"Clem, dad blame it anyhow. Every year you plant a patch of taters, Irish taters, always Irish taters,” Effy Lou said as she poured them some more coffee.
Clem put his pencil and spoon down then canted his head, looking at his wife, not saying anything, but a-thinking. You could tell Clem was a thinking cause he got this funny look when he was a-thinking. Finally, he put down his spoon, lifted his cup, and slurped his coffee loudly. “Hon, we eat taters, we like taters, and shucks I have just always raised the kind of taters my daddy and momma raised.” With that said, he went back to his puzzle. This was Wednesday morning and the NY Times crossword was not overly hard.
“Well, dad blame it anyhow, I like sweet taters, a nice sweet tater with butter on it and sweet tater pie. You like yams, candied yams,” she said as she took the first section of the paper and while eating her breakfast, slowly began to read. “And there are red taters that are good on beans and there is a new gold tater. Clem, dag nab it, why can’t you raise something else other than Irish taters?”
Clem put his spoon and pencil down, looked at his wife, and did not pick up his cup and slurp his coffee, which he knew made her mad; no, he didn’t. “Hon, you write down all the different taters and we will plant some of all of them. Heck, as I said, far as I knew there was only one kind of tater. Yeah, I like a sweet tater too, but shucks as a kid ma used to put a baked sweet tater in my lunch bucket and the kids at school laughed at Clem and his sweet tater.”
After breakfast Clem went to the county library and found nothing, so he called Jake Onsworth the country Ag commissioner, “Jake, you are dumber than I am,” Clem told him as he then went home. “Hon want to drive over to Jokesville to the seed place?” Well, all Clem had to do was say go some place and Effy Lou was off to the John and grabbing her coat and purse. When Clem mentioned going someplace Effy Lou was ready to go. The A & C feed store in Jokesville was a big place, been around for years and one could find most anything.
“Drop me off at the fabric store, and then I will meet you at Josie’s about what? Five?” Both looked at their watches; it was two-ten. Effy Lou liked the strip mall because it had a fabric store, Hobby Lobby and a WallyMart. Josie’s was a small café, diner type that managed to stay in business, catering to the older generation or the young ones wanting good food.
“Think you will be ready by then?” Clem asked. “I take it since we are meeting at Josie’s we are eating out tonight." Clem knew the menu and tonight was beef stew with good homemade sour dough bread. Effy Lou nodded and Clem dropped her off.
“Howdy Clem, thought you gave up farming and most of the gardening a few years back,” Ellis Showsafter said. He was about Clem’s age and most likely would die in the store.
“El, the wife is a-bitching and moaning cause all I ever raise is plain old Irish potatoes. She wants some red taters and some sweet taters.” Clem paused to let his statement soak in. “I thought I would plant a few taters of every kind I can find, and not plant any regular Irish taters this year.”
El grinned and gestured toward the back of the store while pulling out his old corncob pipe, “C’mon Clem, got two things I want to show you.”
“Hey Clem, just the man I wanted to see,” Earl Dull hollered.
“El, give me a minute please and then we can get back to what I came here to do,” Clem said as he turned and walked back to Earl
Afore Clem got close Earl began. “Clem, you know I raise chickens, turkeys, goats and some pigs.” Heck, everybody knew that for Earl was the biggest farmer in the area. “Clem could you help me out and let me bring some good homegrown fertilizer over and spread it on your bottom land and pasture land?”
Without thinking Clem replied, “Yeah sure Earl, going to plant part of that bottom in taters and the land needs some good fertilizer, what is it going to cost me?” Clem knew Earl never gave something for nothing.
“Clem you only have what, two cows now? You don’t use all of that good pasture land you have do you?” Clem knew something was in the offing so he nodded no. “I will spread all of this good fertilizer over your pasture and bottom land and then in the summer if I get in a bind you will let me graze my goats there for a week or two at the time. I have been renting them out to eat weeds and sometimes I have a couple weeks where I don’t have a contract.”
“Sure Earl, but you need to get it on before the spring rains so it will soak in and really work. Yep, and then your pasture can recover if nothing is grazing on it. Sure Earl.”
“What I did was mix all the chicken, turkey, pig and other droppings up and grind it up, next week I will do it, will you be there to show me where?” Clem said yes and then went after El who was waiting back in the corner.
Think I got what you want Clem. Look a-here, I never knew there were so many kinds of taters. Six different sweet taters, seven yams and 27 different varieties of white taters.”
“Lord a mercy El, that be too many taters for me, bet all those hybrids and odd ones go for a pretty penny,” Clem replied as he was already bumfuzzled by how many different varieties there were.
El looked around and saw they were alone, so he moved close and in a subdued voice said, “Mister Ellis went to the big meeting, got all drunked up and had two Lola large lungs a hanging onto him so he ordered some odd stuff.” El looked around and continued, “He bought twenty pounds of each of them plus two hundred pounds of this here new “Idehoe Gold” and nobody round here wants them.”
“That be one heck of a lot of taters for just the wife and I,” Clem replied.
“Make you a deal two hundred for all of the seed taters we have and seeds,” Earl felt he had the right man.
“Too steep for me, but El, let me make you a counter offer. I will give you twenty dollars for them then I will bring samples of each one that comes in and does OK for you to bait next year’s customers. I will plant them all, try to make my wife happy, and try to get you some business for next year. Then any extra I have, I will cut and fix fer seed taters and I get half of what you sell them for.” Clem was not to be outdone on coming up with deals, especially since he had nothing to lose and all to gain. El had that hesitant look on his face. “El, everybody in three counties knows ole Clem do pretty good with his garden and look how it will help you for next year.”
El shook his head as he went to a filing cabinet and took out a box of books. “This here tells you about each tater and what you need to know. And Clem you have to buy your fertilizer and dust and stuff from me, OK?”
Clem grinned, “Dang El, you shyster, want me to work, spend all my money and maybe die raising these here odd taters.” The two men shook hands and the forty different types of tater seeds were loaded in the back of Clem’s old yellow pickup. El even threw in a tarp that only had one rip in it to cover up Clem’s seed taters.
The following afternoon and the next day one of those big old fat tired high riding manure spreaders was busy. They covered all of the pasture field and the bottomland, the garden, the yard and the whole dang place. Matter of fact the bottomland and garden got three coats of the mixture. Two days later there came one of those slow continuous rains; the kind that are just a little more than a drizzle but lasts for a couple days. Clem had made a deal with El for some leftover grass seed, so it too was spread around throughout the pasture. Clem and Effy Lou both loved pretty green pasture fields.
Clem was busy going over his old tractor and checking his turning plow and stuff. As soon as it dried out enough and turned a little warm, he plowed the whole bottom, turned the soil over and harrowed it smooth. Effy Lou checked the farmer’s almanac to find the best time to plant taters. Effy Lou’s momma and granny both believed in the Farmer’s Almanac.
It was a chilly day as Clem laid out the bottom for all of the taters, putting each in its own area and marking it accordingly. He even went so far as to plant popcorn and bell peppers between each different type so they would not cross-pollinate. Well hoping they would not, but as Clem said, “Dang bees got their own idees.” He had read each little booklet on each type of tater and the kind of ground in which it grew best. Heck he even wired up the addition to Dolph Addmore’s house for ten dump truck loads of good river bottom silt and sand.
Clem’s uncle Cephus had died from breathing the dust you put on taters to keep the bugs off so Clem did not like any of that stuff; he believed in good luck, good weather and being in the sticks.
“Clem honey, if the plants are any sign, then you are going to have one heck of a crop of taters this year,” she said as she weeded her squash and lettuce. Effy Lou did not work the garden, she only worked the part she planted and wanted. That way it minimized the arguments and disagreements. One year Clem was down with a bad back and she had planted, cared for and brought in the garden. It was bigger, better and tastier than Clem’s so he had gone all out after that to outdo his wife’s garden.
There was a good wet spring and so the pasture field with its fertilizer and seeding grew wild with tall thick luscious green grass. Three times the goats were brought in, but they could not and did not keep the grass down. So on top of his garden, great big tater patch and other work, Clem was a busy man. It really hurt him but twice he had the pasture cut and baled as hay. Heck, he had one heck of a good hay crop.
During the summer, they had eaten last years left over taters so the forty some varieties of taters in the bottom were not dug or sampled as one normally does during the summer. Go dig enough for whatever is being cooked for dinner.
Clem heard nothing from El about his special crop but a feller from over in Diggsville called Clem about his using his tater digging machine, cause he knew Clem had a bad back and trying to plow up taters then picking them up was a lot of back breaking work. “Gosh dang it anyhow, a feller tries to do something to make his wife happy and the dang thing is about to send a feller to the poor house,” Clem told the man from Diggsville.
”Mister Clem, I quoted you a fair price, so either say yes or no, cause I too make my living doing this kind of work for others.” He was frank and Clem liked that. “You got any idea how many bushels you will have?”
“Lordy, I don’t know, I know how many I get from three rows in the garden and here I got acres of taters, so you provide the croaker sacks and I will pay you, cause I know you buy them and make a little on them.”
Finally, fall came and the large green tater vines turned brown and died, time to dig the taters. Clem came up with a special tag for each different type of tater so each sack had a special colored tag with its type and stuff. The first ones dug were the yams and they were durn nigh as big as gourds, 76 bushels worth. And plain old yellow sweet taters, 78 bushels. By the time they were done, Clem had more taters than he could ever dream of. He called the Ag extension agent and he came out and said it was just the fertilizer and good wet weather that did it. “Lordy, lordy what am I ever going to do with all of these taters?” That was all he could say as the seed store sent El and a photographer out to record the digging of the taters and to make some advertising material.
There had been so many bell peppers that Effy Lou had started selling them down on the road from the back of Clem’s pickup. People came from near and far, so when the popcorn got ripe Effy Lou sold it by the stalk. Of course, when people stopped to buy there was always prattle and when Clem dug the potatoes the phone started to ring. “Effy Lou, honey, we have a heap of sweet taters so you save back what you want then sell the rest down on the road if you wish, but charge them twenty cents a pound more than the store in town cause these are special ones.”
The IdehoeGold taters had Clem buffaloed for he had planted all of them and he now had 587 bushels of IdehoeGold taters. The two supermarkets in town said that the gold type or yellow taters were poor sellers but they cost less. Clem made up a big tale about them and told it to his wife. About how they were raised down in Peru and could only be eaten by Incan royalty and trash like that. So when she sold the special yams, including the great big ones, she told them about this special tater Clem had contracted for to raise. Needless to say, Effy Lou began to take orders and soon 487 bushels were sold, all at a premium price. So the retrace went, with them saving what they thought they would each of each type and Clem taking the rest to the feed store.
Finally, they were down to about fifty times the amount of taters they would eat when Clem asked his wife how much money they had made so far. Effy Lou grinned and told her husband, “I done made reservations for us to go to Florida to Disney World and it is all paid for and I bought one of them big Plasma TVs.” Clem hugged his wife, but deep inside he wished he had raised some plain old Irish taters cause they tasted best.
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