Down to Earth: The Summer of Cucumber Soup

The Summer of Cucumber Soup

| June/July 1994

We had a neighbor where I grew up who used to dispose of her oversized cucumbers by throwing them over the garden fence in all directions. The problem was that her discarded cukes would land in our potato patch, as well as in the flower beds, vegetable gardens, and lawns of her other neighbors.

This otherwise pleasant woman grew a great patch of dill at the edge of the garden and picked her cucumbers every other day during the summer growing season to make dill pickles. For some reason, though, she always planted more hills of the trailing vegetables than she needed and always had far more cukes than she could use. Perhaps it didn’t occur to her that people would notice the large yellow missiles that appeared in their gardens and on their lawns, but they did. Neighbors on both sides and across her back fence all grew weary of dealing with her donations.

Nevertheless, the cuke tossing went on for several summers until one morning a traveling cucumber hit the neighbor over the fence as the old fellow was working among his watermelon plants. He had been taught as a child that one should suffer in silence, teach by example, and always be a good neighbor, but being hit by a flying yellow rotting cucumber, launched from the hand of the lady over the fence, was too much.

The old man threw down his hoe, picked up a withering, moldy, stinking melon, and held it behind him as he parted the growth of elm saplings separating the properties. Winding up for a long pitch, he lobbed the rotted melon at the bent-over backside of his neighbor. “Take that, you old heifer,” he yelled as the bomb hit its mark. “I’ve had enough of your discarded produce!”

A yelling match ensued, with both folks stomping away angry. In a town as small as ours, nearly everyone heard or witnessed the ruckus. For anyone who didn’t hear it firsthand, the words were repeated again and again on the front porch of the old grocery store a block away.

The vegetable war escalated during the summer, with the gardener on each side of the fence throwing old vegetables at the other at every opportunity. Exploded melons, splattered tomatoes, deflated peppers, and blackened potatoes littered the battleground.

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