Genetically, I’m just a shepherd boy

By TED ROBERTS, the SCRIBBLER ON THE ROOF

Ted_RobertsI guess I don’t have a green thumb – I think it’s black. I put out thirty dollars and three hours of work for petunias and three weeks later they’re as dead as King Nebuchadnezzar (who can spell his name – right?). It’s a Jewish thing. We never were good farmers. Shepherding – that was our thing. I bet I could successfully graze sheep in our backyard even though I fail at dandelions. The “N” in my DNA, stands for No grow.

My reminiscence of our forefathers’ specialty springs from a recent experience with ornamental pepper seeds. With care, I planted them in a dug-up bed in our backyard; in a pattern of a Jewish star. That way, you see, when green heads begin popping I can distinguish weeds from peppers. I wait. I water. I wait some more. Green heads are surfacing all over. And yes, some of them, though not singing “Hatikvah,” are in the shape of a Jewish star. My peppers! No doubt. I wait some more. They don’t look entirely like peppers. Another week of growth proves they’re definitely NOT peppers. Because at maturity they are crowned with a nasty yellow flower. Evidently, the large retail chain that starts with a “W” and ends with a “T” (who needs a lawsuit) sold me a package of weed seeds. Maybe I did something wrong. After all, a shepherd’s blood – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – is in my blood. So I watch the weeds flourish in the shape of a beautiful six-pointed star.

My next-door neighbor, a good Christian, can plant stones and grow lilies. He planted seeds from the same package and up jumped twelve pepper plants. But I bet he couldn’t graze sheep like me or my ancestors.

No doubt ancestry counts. I can’t recall one of our forefathers who didn’t make his way with livestock instead of cornstalks. It makes sense because remember our progenitors (like my wife) were always “on the go”. Here come the Amalekites waving swords – better round up the sheep and head for the hills. Try that with forty acres of corn. A wandering people needed a mobile occupation. Also, there’s more calories in a sheep than in a cornstalk. And, unlike today’s fad, storing up calories was our ancestor’s goal.

So, my heredity must be why I plant pepper plant seeds and reap weeds.

I did have one victory. My son took a trip to Israel and naturally I expected him to bring me a present. I didn’t ask for an exotic, expensive gift. I only asked for an Israeli pomegranate. Full of seeds – I saw them as baby Jewish pomegranates plants – dozens of them. And who besides me, the Jewish farmer, could boast of pomegranate bushes from Jerusalem? My son complied, I planted, and even gave my neighbor – the good Christian – a seed or two; Jerusalem was equally sacred to him, you know. The unintentional Jewish founder of a new religion, somewhat based on Judaism, walked its streets.

Next – incredible. My neighbor is blessed with a tree that could have decorated the front gate of Eden. Me? I get a weedy, skinny plant that oughta be in a horticultural hospital but it did survive – looked around my background, sniffed the air and and decided it was just like Jerusalem. Consider – both seeds came from the same globe-trotting fruit.

Well, it’s all in the blood. My ancestors specialized in four-footed mammals with wooly backs. His grew cotton in the Mississippi delta.

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