Naked Came the Gardener: Wherein Bob “Streaks” for Survival (Retro BLA)

I dug this vintage BLA up when I thought The Planet's garden columnist, master gardener Ann Bartlett, whom The Planet esteems and honors and doesn't deserve, hadn't sent in a column, and I needed something to fill the Saturday slot. Turned out I'd just misplaced Ann's column, and it will run tomorrow as usual. (Thanks, Ann!)

But since this has been a slow nooz week I'll go ahead and run this anyway. It was not really about gardening (how many BLAS actually were?) but was written in October 2010 when Trenton had recently passed its then-controversial beer-and-wine ordinance.

Other headlines you may remember also show up here--remember the naked person who caused such a flap in Trenton that year? And there's also an embarrassing story about East Ridge, Tenn. I wish I'd kept a scrapbook of all the stupid things East Ridge has done through the years--they make us look good! But the real impetus for the column was a tiff with my then-newspaper that had me feeling tetchy and ignored. Anyhoo, here it is, not so much a stroll down Memory Lane as a nekkid streak, just fer funsies...

Robin Ford Wallace, writer of the local gardening column Bob’s Little Acre, was arrested Friday and charged with public indecency as she ran naked across the Trenton town square.

Ms. Wallace wore only running shoes and a nervous smile as she “streaked” the lunchtime crowd sitting at picnic tables and on the courthouse steps. Officers from the Dade County Sheriff’s Department and the Trenton Police Department managed to take the writer into custody only after subduing her with tranquilizer darts meant for zoo animals.

“It took half a dozen doses to bring her down,” said one deputy. “She was thundering along like a herd of bison.”

Ms. Wallace’s age is a closely guarded secret but eyewitnesses interviewed after the event--all still pale, blinking and visibly shaken--reported that from the “sag factor,” her bare pink expanses had weathered well over 40 summers.

“This is obviously just Robin’s way of ramping up readership for her column,” was the disgusted comment of a local newspaper owner, who asked not to be named. “It’s nothing but shameless self-promotion.”

In fact, Ms. Wallace was brandishing, as she hulked nakedly through the square, a banner on which were emblazoned the words: “Bob’s Little Acre – The Naked Truth About Gardening!”

All right, all right. I’m making it up. I didn’t streak and I didn’t get arrested.

I do run. Sort of. I have the kind of family-size, industrial-strength body that was probably intended to plough fields without benefit of mules, and sitting for a living doesn’t leave it tired enough to sleep at night. So most afternoons I go careening through the countryside at what I used to call a dogtrot before it occurred to me this was insulting to my dog.

My dog, Roosevelt, is poetry in motion. Her wisps of black fur stream and flutter as she flies through the woods, one aerodynamic streak from glistening nose to feathery tail. She disappears in front of me and reappears a little later behind me, and I’m pretty sure she does it by circumnavigating the globe.

I meanwhile lumber slowly along with the sick inevitability of those Russian tanks you see in old news footage rolling into places like Hungary, mowing down forests and oppressed peasantries as I go. The earth shakes. Governments fall. Empires are reduced to sand and I keep plodding on.

I’ve never done it naked. I don’t do much naked. I suppose nekkidity is all right in the shower but in my case a little goes a long way. Everybody is naked underneath their clothes but some people are nakeder than others.

Anyway, I run about as fast as a glacier and I’m not centerfold fodder. If I took up streaking they’d have to call it something else.

So why was I considering becoming a late-blooming stripper? Like the man said, shameless self-promotion. The newspaper gardening column is getting to be an endangered species. For Pete’s sake, newspapers are getting to be endangered species! If Bob’s Little Acre is to survive, I need, ahem, exposure. So sure, I’d take ‘em off if I thought it would rope in some readers.

It might actually be sort of fun. Imagine the astonishment of the local constabulary! I saw a video clip of cops jumping the young male streaker who recently caused such a stir in Trenton. I can’t imagine them doing that to a naked person of my age and sex. Rather, I picture them proffering blankets while uneasily averting their eyes: “Er, ma’am?”

Fortunately for the local aesthetics, a much better publicity stunt occurred to me last week after I read an article about a psychic who is suing the city of East Ridge. East Ridge had shut down the woman’s fortune-telling booth in a local flea market pursuant to an ordinance prohibiting certain businesses the city considered unsavory. So the psychic, with the help of the ACLU, filed a civil suit on the grounds that the town was trampling her First Amendment religious and free speech rights.

The result was: The psychic’s smiling face, wearing enormous earrings – for some reason one does expect big earrings of people who can see the future – on page 1 of the daily newspaper. From a $5 flea market act she was suddenly front-page news, and though I’m no psychic myself I feel safe predicting long waiting lines when she opens back up for business.

So what I’ve decided Bob’s Little Acre needs is: persecution. I already have earrings the size of dinner plates. What I’m looking for now is somebody to try to close me down.

Then I can get my face on A-1, brave little smile, earrings and all – I think I’ll wear the leopard print discs with the three-inch diameters – and ride the tide of public sympathy all the way to The New York Times.

So, c’mon, Dade, let me have it! I’m not fussy and I’ll be grateful to anybody who takes a swing at me, but I had particularly high hopes of the local churches that are working so hard to crush Trenton’s proposed malt beverage ordinance.

Churches, you know how richly I deserve to share in your righteous indignation! Bob’s Little Acre relies for humor almost exclusively on the word “beer” and has never made any bones about the fact that more than one yellow liquid is required when cranking up the lawnmower. So lay off the mayor and city commission and bully me!

I’m not making any threats here but I need some ink and we previewed my only other idea for getting it. Persecute me, or Dade may see more than any county ever wanted to of “Bob’s Little Acreage.”

End Note: Two things occurred to me in rereading this piece: (1) The churches have given up their campaign against local governments in the booze fights, haven't they? Leading up to the Trenton ordinance, they bused in congregations and filled meeting rooms. Now, as blue laws loosen further, I never hear a peep. (2) Eight years after writing "Naked Came the Gardener," I could still use, ahem, exposure, this time for The Planet. So anyone The Planet offends, please make some noise! Otherwise, the cheapest, easiest way to attract attention having once again made itself evident, God only knows to what desperate measures I might be reduced...

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