Classic Bob: THEY’LL NEVER TAKE US ALIVE



It's tax time, I'm one civic meeting and God knows how many hard nooz events behind, criminal trials start next week and all I really want to do is ROLL IN THE DIRT. So I thought I'd rerun this classic BLA for all who feel similarly desperate.

Spring, and we are hunkered down at Bob’s Little Acre, trowel in one hand, machine gun in the other, cigar clenched between our gritted teeth not because we like it but because we woke up in one of those Che Guevara moods you get sometimes when the Feds are after you. We are under siege!

As we write, this place is surrounded by armed goons from the Health Department who are trying to shut us down, and IRS hitmen lurk by our mailbox. A pity, because we had hoped to plant clematis down there, but that can wait. Our hands are already pretty full what with setting out our tomatoes and starting our petunia border, to say nothing of the machine gun.

Which we wave defiantly at the T-men as, eyes squinting through cigar smoke, we determinedly pat a Purple Pirouette into place. The Feds can wait, too, along with all the other creditors whose unopened bills clog our desk. So can the piles of laundry that choke the house, clean and dirty becoming indistinguishable as passing cats use them for bedding, or worse.

Not to mention the greasy dishes, the ominous black mold that threatens to engulf the bathroom, and the hungry-eyed man who keeps bleating about supper every time we go into the kitchen for another beer. And especially, with a cherry on top and twice on Sunday, the people who annoy us with phone calls whining about when we plan to show up at work.

It is April! The sun shines! The birds sing! The air is like wine! The earth calls and we must obey its primordial summons. We must plant. We must hoe. We must get down in the dirt and roll!

Spring is clearly a time meant for gardeners to garden. We wait all winter for it, we dream of it through the frozen nights, and when it finally comes it hits us so hard that we lie on the ground and twitch. Then up we get, trowel in hand, madness in our eyes, and head for the mud. It is unnatural, nay, obscene, that we should do anything else.

Yet the cruel world makes its nasty little demands of us just as if it were still winter. Pay your bills! Do your job! File your tax return! This place is a dump! Aren’t we ever going to eat? Si, Senor, we say from behind our cigar. As soon as you pry this trowel from our cold, dead fingers.

The guerilla war that has us juggling seed packets and automatic weapons is caused by modern America’s sad failure to grasp the exigencies of the natural world on those of us who remain connected to it. Spring screams to the gardener: Carpe diem! Seize the day and suck the juice out of it before it slips away! But to normal, virtuous Americans, Nature is the 30 seconds spent between house and car, car and office, and their only response to its wild siren call is to say something like, “Nice day.”

Cleanliness is next to Godliness, says virtuous America primly, whereas we gardeners are happiest caked with filth. Render unto Caesar, we are told, when to go inside and fill out a form would kill us.

But at this time of year, the American virtue that makes us bite most savagely into our cigar is the Protestant work ethic.We believe in the dignity of labor. Oh, from time to time we may have made our little joke about work being the curse of the drinking classes. We may have observed that, with spring for planting, summer so hot, fall for canning and winter taken up by seasonal adjustment disorder, the only time we have work is a couple of rainy Tuesdays in February.

However, we are not under the delusion that the world owes us a living and we are painfully aware that no one saw fit to set us up a trust fund. We have resigned ourselves to toiling for our bread like the rest of virtuous America, though without visible enthusiasm.

But this is spring! As our blood responds wildly to the rising sap, as the diems become exponentially more carpable, we are increasingly inclined to tell virtuous America, and our boss, where to stick it.

Taxes are for the little people, we shriek. Cleanliness is for the stupid! Work is for those with no hobbies! If you’re hungry, open a can of soup!

Anyway, we are not talking full-frontal, X-rated diem-carping here. We are talking about getting the lettuce in before it turns off hot. So why can’t everybody just leave us alone? We are decent, law-abiding, conscientious. We will clean our house, pay our taxes, feed our family. We will even go to work, sullenly, for a couple of hours.

The next time it rains.

These arguments, clear as they are, have never cut any ice with employers or the government, and we are still expected to meet work requirements, tax deadlines and basic standards of cleanliness, whatever the season.

That’s why those of us who are serious about horticulture must learn to accept the machine gun as a necessary and useful gardening implement.

Though frankly we are getting a little sick of the cigar.


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