Friday, February 13, 2009


My veggie garden and this blog are named for my father's father, who I knew as PawPaw. His real name was Dennis, nicknamed Dink. Now, as some of you know my father's family has a habit of using the middle name of the boys instead of the first name so I think Dennis was a middle name. I'm actually not sure, though. Isn't that odd? Anyway, when he was teased in school they called him Dink Dink Cow Stink.

PawPaw grew up in Georgia in a poor family. He didn't go past 6th grade. They were farmers, and he was needed to work the farm. Keep in mind that this was in the 1910s.

He married my grandmother (Granny, Jenni) in the late 20s and they eventually had 5 kids. My dad was the third (Tim, you'll like this: he refers to himself when he signs off on his emails sometimes as '3rd of 5'). The eldest, uncle Harold, made it to 9th grade before they pulled him out of school to make money to help the family. 2 of 5 was my uncle Carl, who had polio and spent years of his childhood in the Shriner's Hospital. 4 of 5 was the only girl, aunt Pat. 5 of 5 was my uncle Sam, who is very tall and was in Vietnam. My dad was the first of the family to graduate from high school.

They moved around a lot, but primarily PawPaw was a buyer and seller of produce, and he also did some transportation. He was the first person to drive a diesel truck in Georgia. Dad remembers as a kid going to the Atlanta Farmer's Market ("the old one" he says) and walking up and down the rows as produce was auctioned off.

One of the coolest things that really makes me wish I'd been older and known my grandparents better is the stories dad has of PawPaw's green thumb and crop knowledge. Dad says PawPaw could walk into a field of tomatoes, pick one, cut it open and rub the to halves together and KNOW how good the crop would be. I think dad said he was testing for calcium, but god I wish I knew half of what he did about crops. It really makes me realize how much we have forgotten because of our love of numbers and science over the 'old' way of doing things.

Dad said once he went with PawPaw to South Carolina to look a field of tomatoes. They went to the field, no tomatoes to be found. The entire field was covered with Kudzu vines! He wandered out into the field and yup, the tomatoes were doing just fine under the Kudzu, and PawPaw bought the entire field of tomatoes while they were still green. He was apparently happy with the dirt and quality of the crop. He paid cash that day, well before they were ready to harvest. If something would have happened with the crop he would have been out that money, but back then people remembered things like that, and that farmer would have worked with him in the future on good terms. This was the 30s, after all, and they were in the middle of a depression.

PawPaw died in 1981 when I was 6. These pictures are from 1978, I was 3 or so. I have no idea what he's pointing out to me, but he kept farming in his yard in downtown Atlanta until he died. I love in the first picture how it shows the garden encompassing the area my grandmother used to hang clothes to dry. She must have loved that.

Dad also talks about visiting my grandmother's family in rural South Georgia and working on the tobacco farm. He spent time in Florida and worked unloading banana boats as a teenager. I think this is why we never had a garden when I was growing up, he was probably sick of it all.

No comments: