Sally and her daughter, Emma, and April and I were down at Pemberton Farms doing some advance scouting for the Big Dig this weekend. (That’s what we’re calling the Green Roof Project. It’s only funny if you’re a Bostonian.) Several of our gardening friends mentioned that we should go early. We’re not the only ones responding to the food prices with a garden and, as the only local gardening center, Pemberton Farms is running low on everything.
As Sally and I puttered around, marking things to be held for us until the weekend, I noticed a guy in those oddly pixelated fatigues that the army is wearing these days. At least his pants. He was wearing a khaki t-shirt, despite the chill. He was middle aged and broad across the shoulders with short short hair — dunno what color, it was that short — and a deep tan. The tan — and I guess the posture — caught my attention. It’s May in New England. No one has a tan.
He wasn’t handsome, per se, but he had a sort of charisma that made my attention come back to him again and again. Even April, who has been spooked by uniforms, smiled at him and waved.
He was marking many of the same sorts of plants we were — food plants. I figured he was just a local vet with a green thumb until three guys — all in the late twenties — walked up to him and snapped off lazy salutes. He nodded at them and they started going back behind him, picking up everything he’d marked off and carting it up to the cashier.
They were also tanned, with short hair, wearing pixelated pants and t-shirts. One guy had a c-leg, one guy had a metal arm, and the other guy walked slowly and stiffly. And suddenly it all fell into place.
That was The Colonel.
Apparently he’s planting a garden. The implications of that are staggering, and not just because the Parks Department is going to have kittens. He’s planning on keeping his little tent city at least through the summer and he’s putting down roots. He’s going to feed these folks from the land on the Esplanade. (And let me tell you, the landscapers are going to be pissed off beyond measure!)
They had just about gotten through their purchases when one of their cell phones rang. The guy with the c-leg talked for a second, said something, and just like that, they were all gone gone gone, speeding off on bicycles, the plants waving in the wind on the back of a trailer.
About five minutes later, a convoy of BackWater Thugs pulled up in big black Humvees with tinted windows. April, naturally, spazzed and Sally and I sort of hunkered down in the apple tree section, cooing at April and hoping they would leave. A couple of JBT (jack-booted thugs) jogged through but they didn’t stay long in our corner — a wailing two year old is no one’s idea of fun — and then they peeled off again, quite dramatically, only to come to an abrupt stop half a block later at one of the fourteen lights on that section of Mass. Ave.
We paid up and left pretty damned fast after that.