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Tommy Purser

Some 40 years ago, the late J.N. Boggs, president of Jeff Davis Bank, was my neighbor down the street on Libby Avenue.

J.N. wanted a garden but was getting up in years and didn’t feel he could maintain it. Plus he had a bad knee that caused him to walk with a pronounced limp. So he enlisted his neighbor, me, a young 20-something-year old to form a partnership. He would supply the land, which was a vacant lot right next to my home, ay for the plants, seeds, fertilizer, etc., and I would do the work. We’d share the bounty. Sounded like a deal to me so we shook hands on the idea.

The next day, J.N. showed up at my front door with four wooden stakes, an ax, and a ball of string. It was time to mark off the proposed garden.

J.N. stood at one edge of the lot, drove a stake in the ground and started walking a straight line away from my house toward his three lots away and mumbled over his shoulder, “Tell me when to stop.”

I hadn’t realized that I was supposed to be the determining factor in how large the garden was to be. So I was muted by surprise and then, when I felt J.N. had walked far enough, I suddenly found myself tongue-tied as he walked another 15 feet before I hollered desperately, “Stop!”

He stopped, stuck a stake down to the ground at his feet and hammered it into the soil.

He then turned at a 90 degree angle to walk toward the street. I was so stunned at how far he had walked to put down the first stake that I was momentarily speechless. Actually, it was more than momentarily. After he had walked way, way too far I hollered, again in desperation, “Stop!”

With that, he had two sides of the rectangular shaped garden and it was just a matter of squaring it up to establish its perimeter.

I was speechless. It was much, much larger than I had bargained for.

Besides, this was my first ever attempt at growing a vegetable garden.

Another of my neighbors at the time, was Wallace Cole, who moved away from Hazlehurst many years ago.

Wallace was a whiz in the yard and garden and impressed me as just about the smartest and most knowledgeable garden man I had ever met. He was an engineer by vocation but his hobbies included organic gardening. He was a compost man before compost was cool.

Wallace had about the most impressive looking mounds of hot, steaming compost I’ve ever seen, even to this day. And his yard and garden reflected his expertise.

So, I enlisted him for some advice and he was more than happy to oblige. I, indeed, did all the work myself but I received ample guidance from my good neighbor Wallace.

Some three months later, Wallace and I stood looking over mine and J.N.’s garden and declared, “Tommy, that’s the best looking garden I’ve seen in Jeff Davis County this year.” I had to admit, I was equally impressed and proud of my efforts.

J.N and I harvested a bounty of fresh, delicious vegetables from that garden and ate well all summer long, not to mention the vegetables we preserved for the winter months to come.

The next year, J.N. put the lot up for sale and offered it to me but I told him I didn’t have the money.  A wry smile slowly crept across his face as the bank president said, “Well, I know where you can get it financed.”

Young and stupid. I passed. And today, just about the best garden plot in Jeff Davis County sits next door to me with a brick home atop it.


  1. Robert M. Williams, Jr. on March 29, 2018 at 1:57 pm

    Another great tale by a master storyteller! Loved it.

  2. Editor on March 29, 2018 at 7:33 pm

    Thanks, Robert.

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