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Brian purchased the small four room house in west Texas in 1983. It was equivalent in size to a two-bedroom apartment, but it came with three conjoined half-acre lots, a large storm shelter, numerous pecan and pear trees and a water well. The ground was rich and productive. It was a dream for Brian, a single male in his late twenties and a farmer at heart. “It took me five to six hours to cut the grass yesterday,” Brian remarked to his new neighbor. “The original house stood on this far lot. In 1953, a tornado devastated this whole section of town. The Bakers, owners at the time, chose to rebuild over on the first lot. It’s now your house,” Mr. Bergen explained. The older man was very interesting and they would visit with each other often at the front fence of the distant half acre. One occasion was rather unusual. As they conversed, Mr. Bergen began a sort of dance. Brian thought he might need to use a restroom. But not so! Mr. Bergen, while conversing and dancing, loosened his belt and let his pants drop! He quickly stepped out of them. The underwear went next, and as Mr. Bergen hurried off to his house, the shirt also followed! Brian was shocked. He looked at the ground to check if anything had slipped out of the pockets as he picked up the pants and underwear. He noticed what would explain the bizarre behavior that he had just witnessed. Mr. Bergen had been standing atop of a large red ant colony in the ground! They were still moving about angrily. An ant now bit Brian’s finger. He dropped the garments and went hurrying off himself. Brian spotted an advertisement in the newspaper in the spring that offered forty burlapped bare-root pecan trees for sale for 80 dollars. He might become a pecan tree farmer! Brian would trade thoughts with Mr. Bergen over this idea. Mr. Bergen explained that bare-root trees were not planted from pots. Pecan trees had a taproot and all bare-root trees had to be planted by April 15th. The root could not be bent to fit the hole, nor cut back to fit the hole. They would become productive in six years. “I have the phone number for a ditch-witch operator who does small jobs on Saturday afternoons,” Brian said. “You need to get him out here real quick. You have just four weeks left to get these planted,” Mr. Bergen insisted. “Once warm, spring temperatures arrive, the sap starts to flow. If the roots aren’t in the ground and watered, the trees will suffocate!” “I’ll call this afternoon,” Brian said with assurance. “Start with checking some things out for yourself. Map out the water lines,” Mr. Bergen simply said. “You’ve got to do some water witching. Won’t take you long,” Mr. Bergen said with a smile. “You look confused.” “I am,” Brian explained. “I don’t know anything about water witching. How much water does it take?” “I’ll bet you don’t know how to know if an egg has been boiled,” Mr. Bergen taunted. “Sure, break it open,” Brian said sheepishly. “I always mark the cooked eggs with a marker.” “OH, BROTHER!” Mr. Bergen said while shaking his head. “Bring me pliers, two coat hangers and an egg. You’re gonna get quick lessons in high prairie living.” “I may have a big chicken coop, but no chickens. But I have eggs,” Brian yelled as he went running. Brian returned with the requested materials. “First,” Mr. Bergen said. “Spin the egg like a top in that empty wagon. Brian did this with awkward curiosity.. The egg spun easily. So, what’s the big deal, he thought . . . “I see you like boiled eggs,” Mr. Bergen said smugly. “Yes, I do. Good protein snack,” Brian said proudly. “I have more in the house. I will run in and get you one.” “No, thank you, Brian. You have already brought me one,” Mr. Bergen replied. “If it was not cooked, it wouldn’t have spun, but would only wobble,” Mr. Bergen explained. “Now, snip each metal coat hanger in half at the bottom. Use only one half of each hanger, keeping the top hanger part intact. Straighten the top of each to fit loosely between the hands. Straighten the majority of the metal hangers to a 90-degree angle to the hand-held parts. With the extended hangers held loosely together, walk forward slowly across the front of the three lots. Brian did as he was instructed. At one section of the far lot, the hanger extensions separated to make a 180-degree angle. He then reset the hangers and kept walking. In front of his own house, it happened again. He walked back to Mr. Bergen. “Now, Brian, you know where your city water lines are located. What you have in your hand is a makeshift divining rod. In the old days, living tree branches worked just the same. You need to map out the area to make sure the ditch-witch doesn’t hit a water pipe and be sure to have the gas company come out and check what you have here. Remember, you have water lines running through the property from the well to the spickets.” Brian was amazed. He mapped out the whole three lots and located pipes that led to the numerous water spickets throughout the yard. Mr. Bergen watched the progress and realized that it was folly. The gas company came out and did their inspection. They concluded that there were in fact gas lines under the ground in the far lot, and they were, in fact, still active! Although they existed as well, the water pipes were no longer active. There would be no sense to violate an existing water pipe as it might be important for future use. Official clearance was obtained for the ditch-witch to come do the job. A large, U-shaped trench, eighteen inches wide by sixty inches deep was to be carved in the far lot during the last week of March. Brian spent the next two weeks of his life planting pecan tree after pecan tree. There were many evenings that planting occurred well into darkness using flashlights. Determination and commitment. It might go down in history as Brian’s folly. We all take our turns with our follies, though, many will never admit it. Follies are comprised of dreams, and if one doesn’t have a dream, there will never be a dream-come-true. A sense of humor is important for your health. This dream would never come true. But it had been a lesson in commitment and responsibility. It had also been a life-long lesson in bare-root trees, water witching and eggs. Where were the Boy Scouts for these lessons?

January 29, 2021 19:18

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Sam Ackman
23:49 Feb 03, 2021

I like your story! The ant hill tale is unexpected and comical addition to this. I felt splitting it out into paragraphs would help with the flow as it seemed to go from one topic to the next. There are also a lot of details that might cloud the lesson of sometimes we make mistakes and our dreams don’t come to what we want. I like the ending summarized the story, lessons, and dreams :)


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