Once Upon a Time... A Gardener's Daydream The Gardener, Salsa, and a Day at Ranch Article by Rich Showalter Copyright © 2003 by ProGardenBiz ProGardenBiz, an online magazine http://www.progardenbiz.com
This is a tale of a landscape contractor and his quiet getaway in mountains. Now, I'm no gardener myself, but I swear that this is true tale as related to me as we relaxed on front porch on one of those long, summer days spent with a cool one and watching our neighbors mow their lawns.
Rachel Louise Carson authored book "Silent Spring" alerting mankind (which includes you gardeners and landscapers) to long term destructive results of certain pesticides and toxic chemicals. From my own personnel experience and observation, I wish to add one more insidious ingredient to expanding list of dangerous substances polluting our gardens. It is called "salsa picante" or "salsa muy caliente" (Hot sauce to you gringos).
Long, one of favorite lunch choices of many a landscape contractor and gardener, you may want to read on... there is more to that salsa then you've been told.
An obscure legend suggests that Aztec God of Fire captured essence of salsa from bowels of a raging volcano when a high priest prayed for a cure to cleanse Aztec people of plague sweeping land. The priest placed a single drop of salsa in food bowl of every inhabitant. The plague vanished from land and so did Aztecs!
From personal experience, I know better than to touch stuff (as you will soon see), but my landscape crew often indulges. I've related this story to them on many a landscape job, but they laugh it off, much like Boy Scouts around campfire hearing scary tall tales. Unfortunately, this tale is true...
One Friday night not long ago found us rolling toward family diggins in mountains near Julian, CA. After a hard week of building, planting gardens, and irrigating lawns, I was ready for a relaxing weekend at ranch... building, planting gardens, and irrigating lawns. After two years house and surrounding landscaping were nearly half done.
We were almost there when my wife Gerry, blanket burglar, wanted some Mexican food. She should have married a Mexican chef (or gardener in my case) because her craving for stuff is almost insatiable.
I said, "No."
She replied, "I will invite mother to spend another month."
I said, "Oh."
Poor old Cricket, our midget female drip-dry dachshund, was darn near catapulted through window by a 90 degree turn into "Pancho's Taco Y Salsa" stand.
Pancho asked me, in broken English, how much hot sauce I wanted for beef and bean burrito. I told him a half dozen of those little plastic tubs would be fine. They look like miniature "maintenance free" batteries made of same materials.
The expression on his face can only be compared to a war movie where pilot of an enemy plane dives out of sun on helpless victim. He put on a pair of heavy leather gauntlets, welder's helmet, and reached for a pair of long, steel tongs. A lead lined steel box was set in concrete floor with a radiation alert label on lid. He reached in with tongs and removed six tubs; neatly dropping them into my bucket, as I jumped back to avoid flying sparks.
On way out, I glanced over my shoulder at Pancho who was stenciling a new miniature American Flag on a board hanging from wall. This guy was an ace many times over, judging from number of flags that covered board.
I pointed old Chevy pick-up for mountains again with my window rolled all way down, as Gerry, masochist, tears streaming from cherry red eyes, happily munched on her burrito. Cricket had buried herself in a pink asbestos blanket, knowing that a careless spark striking her fur coat could transform her into a crispy critter in a flash.
What happened next was my fault. Normally, after arriving at ranch, I bury any unused salsa tubs in open field, six feet under and 100 yards from any living plant or critter. It's closest thing to a toxic waste dump in these here parts. I should have known better because despite many years as a landscape contractor I have never been able to get a lawn, a tree, or any kind of plant or flower to grow on that spot. I hope critters who make their home here will forgive me someday.
When I first saw Snuffy and Stumpy together they reminded me of Laurel and Hardy. They are a pair of grey field mice who are roommates sharing bottom file drawer located in garden shed. Snuffy was so named because he has hay fever all year long; and Stumpy for obvious reasons – lost his tail in a hunting accident. He was being hunted by Russell rattler at time, who misjudged opening that Stumpy was squeezing through. Old Russ was pretty sore, having broken his nose and fracturing a tooth with nothing to show for it except an inch of Stumpy's fat tail.
After we settled in and before pick-up was cold, Snuffy, led by Stumpy, made a thorough inspection of cab looking for tidbits and scraps of food.
Stumpy was first to spot eerie pulsating light emanating from glovebox. Upon inspection, he came across a single tub of salsa that I had forgotten to bury. Being somewhat of a selfish glutton, he tore open a corner of tub and gulped down whole thing.
Too late, he realized he must have gotten into what humans call "a stash." Gasping for air, he could not imagine human or beast snorting and shooting this stuff into their bodies. By now, Stumpy was deaf and blind. Little Snuffy took his friend by whiskers leading him toward garden shed. With only 25 feet to go, Stumpy gave up ghost, rolling on his back with his little fat feet pointing toward moon, that great orb of cheese where he would rest for eternity.
Snuffy dashed for safety when he heard Russell, who had been attracted by all noise, coming out from under our old riding lawn mower. He rattled to himself with unexpected pleasure as he realized his good fortune. Dessert and settling an old score in one gulp!