Leni knew what she wanted the moment she stepped into the nursery, and from the quick steps towards me, I surmised she wasn’t going to browse around either.
She wanted answers now.
“Hi, Jonn!” She quickly dispensed with the pleasantries. “Do you have any plants with big thorns?”
As a horticulturist, I’ve grown accustomed to a varied array of questions (and welcome them), and it’s become instinctive to not only listen to the question-asked but also try to understand the perspective of the question-er.
This was one of those times.
Leni and her in-tow husband Shawn were well-known, successful business people in their professional lives, and it seemed as successful (or even more so) in their personal hobbies. Shawn would often stop by to and from the golf course to pick up a plant or some soil, and I’d often watch myself when loading his shiny, immaculate car. He taught me a lesson that I’ve passed on to my fellow horticulturists too.
“Just watch the clubs,” he’d often murmur with a friendly grin.
They seemed up to date on all of the political happenings in the community as well (they knew what the county commissioner did, for example) and would often ask a few political-leaning probing questions I thought were interesting. Except, I’m loath to take the bait. I think the world can improve, quite literally, at the grassroots level: growing one gardener at a time.
Still, I knew Leni was passionate about her garden’s appearance as she was her other hobbies, but especially important was her front yard. This was to look great throughout any season, so the sudden out-of-context question gnawed at my curiosity.
“Thorns?” I asked out loud.
“Yes,” she said impatiently. “The bigger, the better.”
Shawn couldn’t hold up the charade any longer. “We have a first amendment right to display who we want to vote for without being harassed!” He stood firm, pointing to the ground he stood upon. “I just want to strangle those leftists who spend their days and nights protesting and stealing flags while the rest of us go to work!”
I shifted uncomfortably in my shoes while trying to piece the clues together. “Oh,” I managed. Then it hit me. “Ohhhhhh!”
“Yes!” said Shawn. “Why can’t we just all get along?”
Leni and Shawn gave me an indignant look. My mind could only keep to the basics of her original question. I began to mentally tick off “plants with large thorns immediately that could cause pain.”
Apparently, “the plan” was to create a hindrance to sign (as well as a large political flag) stealers of all kinds, for all elections, throughout their neighborhood and beyond by planting a few large thorned plants as a physical deterrence. It’s possible, I thought. Wildlife of all kinds have found great protection in thorny shrubs. Maybe it could help preserve the constitution as well.
I showed Leni and Shawn a few ideas, and they were off with a wagonload as quickly as they had come. No longer was this about a sign stealer that happens in some way in every election season (presidential or not) since, I presume, our very first election. This didn’t have the wide perspective of a long history but rather had shortened and narrowed their view. It was now. It was personal.
I loaded their plants carefully.
As I walked slowly back to my spot in the nursery, I picked up my pruners to begin trimming faded blooms on the echinacea. Fall was heavy in the air and the coolness of evening was beginning to creep in.
“Excuse me…” I heard just behind me. “I understand you sell ‘In Our America’ signs… the one that says ‘Love wins, Black Lives Matter, Immigrants and refugees are welcome’ and stuff like that?”
“Oh! Yes, yes I do.”
“That’s such a relief! I’ve been looking all over for them!” she said. But her face changed suddenly.
“Would you believe this is the THIRD sign I’ve bought? Someone is so intolerant of my views that they’ve been taking my sign from my front yard!”