Longleaf Stories

full circle in the hundred acre wood

Transfixed, I watched Buck move dirt around in the bed we created between house and portico. He flipped the square shovel over and used its flat blade to smooth the surface with long steady strokes. “I don’t know much about growing flowers,” he said, “but I do know how to work soil.”

We’ve been so busy the past 35-plus years that I’d forgotten he farmed in what we call his “previous” life, a life where he worked hard as a corporate public affairs executive by day, and farmed soybeans in the evening and weekends — partly to try and make a little extra money for his growing family — and partly to provide an experience for his teenage boys. An ancient 60 horsepower Case tractor sits out by the red storage building still, a functioning relic of those earlier times.

I had nearly forgotten that in my own “previous” life, lived mostly in Tallahassee, Florida with my young, pleasant, distant first husband,  I had a thriving rose garden, grew tomatoes, and even briefly considered taking an entrepreneurial leap to lease one of the closed old-fashioned gas stations in town and turn it into a funky plant store.

But a second-bite-of-the-apple romance, a true love at first sight lightning strike, hit Buck and me in the same nanosecond we laid eyes on each other. Thoughts of gardening or farming or practically anything else but the hot immediate presence of each other flew away.

All these years later, it’s still like that. He will turn 80 in December; I’ll be 66 in June. Thanks to Buck and his first wife — who remarried a month before we did, and passed away ten years ago — I have a family of grown children, with seven grandchildren and three great-grands. We’ve traveled, had several careers between us, and retired twenty years ago. We live in splendid semi-isolation in a ninety-acre longleaf pine preserve in Florida’s panhandle, the Gulf coast, and almost daily walk the soft, interconnected fire line roads with our young chocolate lab, Lou.

And now, together, we’re making a flower garden out front, and trusting the deer won’t eat it all up.

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