Gardening GlimpsesBy MRS. HERMAN MCKENZIE,
More on the 49th anniversary of “Gardening Glimpses”, which first appeared on October. 25, 1968:
The title just “came to me,” as I have a thing for alliteration. My byline was as I’d have written on any piece, in that time. I’ve never thought about shifting to “Loyce McKenzie,” having figured I’d be explaining about Herman’s early demise, or more likely, his leaving me because he was weary of my keeping the light on writing my column so late.
But I thought ahead, and as I began editing the 50-year History of the American Daffodil Society, I made a very strong commitment that no one would get an honorific, which avoided the “Ms.-Mrs.” controversy, and also anyone who was a “Dr.” of any sort - he’d just go by his first name.
This proved wise. With the women, I was able to find out the first name for all but one of several hundred. And I would say to a bemused young writer, whether hybridizer, exhibitor, or just afficionado of the daffodil, that if they were so in awe of someone, they could say “Dr. Reed” all they wanted to in their quotations, but why not relax about it.
Why can’t I tell you what I wrote about in my second column, and my third, and so forth? The answer to this will tell you something about the differences in “typing.” I learned to type about like I learned to read, the “old hunt and peck” system my daddy used. I must have been about four years old.
My mother realized this wasn’t a good long-term strategy, and when I came to her, early in the 10th grade, begging her to “get me out of Glee Club,” because “I cannot sing, not the tune, not the parts,” she struck a bargain.
“I’ll get you out of Glee Club if you will agree to go after school, on your own time, three times a week, to the high school typing teacher (who normally taught only 11th and 12th-graders) and have regular private typing lessons. And to reinforce it, I got my graduation gift two years early, my own portable typewriter.
So for years after I began this column, I typed it on this manual typewriter, and mailed it or hand delivered it to the Northside Sun. I well remember typing frantically, at the last minute (nothing changes), and knowing that I could finish the last page in the time that it took the mailman to go down Birchwood, turn down Kirkley, and come back to the mailbox across the street. Because if I missed it, I had to present it at the Sun office in person first thing Monday morning.
Glory be, sometime about the Y-2-K scare, I was able to buy myself a basic computer, and could send my epistles electronically. And even more wonderful to save them in the electronic cloud I welcomed, though I didn’t understand how it worked.
I always had ideas of things to write about - people in the central Mississippi area, and gradually those I began to know all over the country. Things I learned, went to workshops about. Always my trips were great fodder for columns, as I assumed, correctly I think, that most people liked vicarious traveling.
I was never given to writing about: this is the second week in March, so you ought to be out and doing this or that.
So I was delighted to discover that the redoubtable Elizabeth Lawrence, probably the greatest woman writer at least in the South in those early years, was fired by a new editor at a newspaper in Charlotte, N.C., because her columns were not that sort of mindless stuff. She noted wryly, “I was always talking too much about what Mr. Morrison said.” He was such a shallow editor that he preferred that cookbook sort of writing to great prose and accounts of the thoughts of the president of the American Horticulture Association.
No, Mr. Sam, and later, Jimmye Sweat, let me write about what I wanted to. As long as I “covered the Northside,” and Jimmye plaintively wishes I could remember the concept of early deadlines.
Only once did I have to “wing” it. When I was getting to go on my bucket list Top Trip, 23 days to the World Convention in New Zealand in 2012, I had to have about six weeks of columns turned in. So I took the Brent and Becky Heath catalog, which is superbly organized for this sort of cross-referencing, and dealt with the main bulbs and the companion plantings for six distinct seasons of the year.
It was, at least at the time, considered important that folks not know I was gone, so far away, for so long. But as soon as I got back, warming up to cover New Zealand for the Northside, I confessed in print and Brent and Becky were pleased to discover that their catalog was not only beautiful but well organized.