LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
Loretta and I had decided that we didn’t need to grow any cabbage in the garden this year.
She has discovered some kind of brought-on kraut that you can find in most grocery stores for about a dollar a quart and you sure can’t make it for that if you believe your time is money. Plus, you can buy fresh cabbage for less than a dollar a head when it’s in season but you still have to pay 50 cents apiece for transplants unless you raised your own, in which case, you can’t give them away.
Then you’ve got all that bending and lifting and hoeing and fertilizing and fighting cut worms and leaf loppers before you harvest the first head. But, at least, unlike zucchini, you can give cabbage to your non gardening friends if it isn’t busted open and shows no sign that a bug ever lit upon it, much less chewed a few holes here and there. And it is awful pretty growing there in the garden. So it is with a bit of reluctance that you write off growing cabbage.
Three weeks ago, I wound up in the hospital because my body seemed to have stopped making blood and I was about to run dry. The choices were to get my behind checked in and get a refill or die, and there wasn’t any time to sit around and study about it.
Despite a host of other health problems, I’m still rather fond of living and I told Loretta not to make a big deal out of the hospital visit. But that’s like telling the wind not to blow, the creeks to stop flowing and the bees to stop making honey.
The nurses hadn’t even finished taking my vital signs until one old friend I hadn’t seen in four years, Jeff Brenzel, passing through Berea from Connecticut and our mutual pal, Tom Miller, were sitting beside my bed there in Saint Joseph’s, making their own diagnosis and advising the medical staff as to how they would proceed with my treatment if it was left up to them. Brenzel and Miller have absolutely no medical training, but they would never let something that mundane prevent them from rendering their opinions.
When they had left, Amber Field, the RN attending to my every need, asked if those guys were really my good friends. When I nodded that indeed they were, Nurse Amber advised I didn’t need to be making any enemies.
Later in the day, best pal, Ralph King stopped in with a potted plant because, according to Ralph, you should never visit anyone in the hospital without taking them flowers or a plant. Ralph hadn’t had time to stop at the florist, but somewhere along the way he had managed to find someone growing cabbage plants. He’d pulled up one with three leaves, stuck it, along with a handful of dirt, in a McDonald’s styrofoam coffee cup and reverently placed it on my nightstand.
Loretta promptly named the baby cabbage “Ralph.” So when, a few days later, we were shopping for plants at Shell’s Greenhouses on 52 between Paint Lick and Lancaster, she allowed I’d better get a 3-pack of cabbage plants so that Ralph wouldn’t be there all alone in our garden. Of course, calling the vegetable patch “our garden” is sort of like saying I get up in the morning and put on “our pants.”
But I bought the plants and set them out. Then, last weekend, we were over in Casey County and I was shopping for some heirloom Mennonite tomato plants when the lady at the plant stand insisted I take three more cabbage plants as a gift because nobody was buying them this late in the season.
So I set them out too. Then, last night, we were sitting on the front porch and I was pointing out what I had growing where and when I got to the cabbage Loretta wanted to know which one was Ralph.
I showed her that he was the first one in the row and he was obviously of a different variety than the other six early flat Dutch because his leaves were rounder and a much paler green.
Loretta said, “Well I wouldn’t have named him Ralph if he wasn’t different but I still bet he wins a ribbon at the County Fair!” And I was thinking, well there’s one head of cabbage I won’t have to worry about what to do with since we won’t be making kraut.