News from the Tennessee Valley Columnists
SUNDAY, APRIL 15, 2007


Farmers live at mercy of weather

Dad helped keep locomotives running during World War II, but when the war ended, railroads replaced steam engines with diesels and he was soon out of a job.

For him and Mother, moving to rural Blount County was going home. For my two sisters and me, the move was settling on the frontier.

Dad would farm between being called back to work off and on for a few years and Mother taught at the rural two-room school.

Dad never wanted to mass-produce tomatoes, squash and cucumbers; his passion was quality peaches, apples and strawberries.

Blount Mountain was tomato country and still is. My uncles and grandfather tried to tell Dad that peaches wouldn’t grow out there.

“Too cold,” they kept telling him.

With that advice, we planted 500 peach trees, or enough for us to tend without hiring help. We had varieties ripening from May to late August.

We were the only farmers on the mountain to grow strawberries, too. Everybody had an apple tree or two, but not as many as we had.

The work was long and hard. He derived immense joy from growing the perfect peach and from having the prettiest strawberries in the supermarkets where he regularly sold them.

I always remember those years when a killing freeze wipes out the fruit as it did a week ago. Sometimes our loss was partial; sometimes it was total.

The year I was a junior in high school we expected a bumper crop of peaches. A late-season cold front swept through and killed everything.

Dad left the house that frigid morning for a couple of hours to carefully examine the damage.

“They are all gone,” he said softly. I never heard him mention the disaster again.

Despite the loss, it’s a good memory of Dad.

Tom Wright Tom Wright
DAILY Executive Editor

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