by Raji Sing
Everyone knows the story of Johnny Hempseed.
In the 18th Century, a high-minded Benjamin Franklin commissioned J. H. to sow hemp seed throughout the land to grow the fledgling nation’s cordage industry. The present day taxing bureaus in the American states of Colorado, Oregon, and California are especially happy he did.
In the 19th Century, my great grandmother Shelva’s hired hand Efraim Ephraim, an avid though laid back arborist cultivated his own special grass in a unique way. It started a trend that led to a further greening of America.
It all began when Russian immigrant Shelva glanced out the kitchen window of the Fiction House.
* * *
“What the devil is Efraim up to now, Captain Polly?”
The colorful Macaw drops the sunflower seed she’s cracking and flies from her perch to Shelva’s shoulder to have a look-see. She rrrrrr trills contentedly when Shelva strokes her sleek plumage. They leave the house to investigate.
Efraim is in the sparsely foliaged Potter’s Field, a cemetery for indigents close to the Fiction House. Over and again, he swings a walking stick at the ground. Turt is beside him, lunging with his beak-snout or fin-claws to seize the sumptuous grubs that Efraim’s motions dust-up. The sky is clear blue, but the ecosystem surrounding Efraim resembles a modern day smog alert. Calico is a few feet above Efraim’s head, warning off other passing butterflies that might accidentally flit into the cloud Efraim has created.
“What in the world?” Shelva questions.
“Aark! What in the world?” Captain Polly repeats. She spies an unearthed worm and flies to it. Nearly too late, Turt also sees it. They each grab an end and pull. Poor night crawler, it snaps in two and drizzles down the gullets of the Captain and Turt, like slithery spaghetti.
“You are desecrating hollowed ground, Efraim,” Shelva says. She sniffs. The surrounding air has taken on a scent of clover mixed with that of newly laid hay.
“To the contrary, Mz. Shelva. I am helping preserve it.” He continues swinging. The end of the stick makes a pucking sound when it makes contact with its roundish object-de-desire.
Shelva looks down and sees what Efraim is hitting in nearly continuous golf-like strokes. “Ach! Mine Gootness!” Shelva says, her Russian accent thickening. She covers her mouth with her apron, backs off a few feet, and brushes airborne flecks from her flower printed housedress. “Those are… those are…” She cannot bring herself to say the words.
“Cow pads,” Efraim answers for her. He stops his swinging so the dust may clear. “It’s like this, Mz. Shelva. If they’re not broken apart, being so rich they kill the healthy grass. Can’t you just see how dead this graveyard looks? But I’ll bring it back to life. When I knock the pads senseless into hundreds and thousands of bits, the barren dirt starts to green up.”
Shelva, Captain Polly, Turt, and even Calico seem to look at him crookedly when he says this.
“Oh, I know what you’re all thinking. But these are some of the purest, cleanest thngs in the world. Been filtered through four stomachs don’t you know.”
He pats dust off his khaki pants and shirt, causing the foursome to back away. He points to the lush green fields in the distance. “That’s the result of my work,” Efraim proudly says. “More grass for the Fiction House sheep and cows. And here in Potter’s Field, a not so desolate dirtscape so the residents may recline in a verdant peace.”
The foursome seems to simultaneously cough, or in Calico’s case flutter a little sideways. “Ach, Efraim!” is all Shelva is able to say.
“Ach, Efraim!” Captain Polly repeats, flying to Efraim’s shoulder and flapping her wings into his face to clear the air. Turt trumpets shrilly to show his disdain too.
“It’s not like you all think,” Efraim says. “Just have to breathe a little lighter, on the backstroke, that’s all. Or better yet, just hold your breath.” He goes on to demonstrate and Shelva, Captain Polly, Turt, and Calico retreat.
* * *
Days pass. Shelva and Captain Polly look out the window. Sure enough, Potter’s Field is greening. Shelva, with Captain Polly on her shoulder, and Calico lighting on Captain Polly’s back, climb atop Turt’s giant shell. On tiptoes, Shelva examines the fields in the distance. They’re so thick in grass now, the cows and sheep are sluggish in their chore of bending their heads to eat. They’re beginning to bloat. ‘Hmm! Too much of a good thing?’ Shelva asks herself. “I’ve got to find a way to slow down Efraim’s swinging tirade,” she tells Captain Polly.
* * *
In a few more days, “I’ve got it Captain Polly,” she says as she sits in her rocking chair reading a magazine. Captain Polly perches on the headrest, perusing the words and pictures. “Golf, Old Girl.” Shelva sends a telegram, makes a trip to a department store. “Voila!” she says as she unpackages golf clubs, bag and purple and orange knicker pants, shirt and tam for Efraim in the Fiction House parlor. “You’re entered in the state’s upcoming golf tournament, Efraim.”
He just squints at the bright outfit and strokes the gleaming Mashie. “What is goff?”
“Goff,” Captain Polly mimics. “Efraim the goof off Goff.”
* * *
Comes and goes the tournament. 5 hole in ones, 12 eagles, 19 birdies. Efraim wins by 20 strokes.
Efraim never smiles during the four-day event.
Media from around the nation rush to the golf course to see this extraordinary man complete his extraordinary feat. The highest-ranking golf professionals – brought to their knees on the fairways and greens – crowd around to kneel at the feet of this unknown and learn his ways.
The call goes out at the 19th Hole, “Where is golf’s Savior, Efraim Ephraim?”
“There he is! There he is,” shouts a star struck lad. People follow him as he rushes outside and to a barbwire fence. On the other side amongst the cows is Efraim, driving and chipping to his heart’s content with his walking stick. Never again would he pick up a golf club.
Ah, but his influence and impact that day is never-ending. Golfers, arborists, gardeners, and herders utilize his training and fertilizing regiment to this day, creating an ever greening, verdant world.
(Join me every Sunday night at the Fiction House, your place for short story, lark, whimsy, and merriment. Meet the many residents as I archive their lives and centuries of adventures. You can read of their origins in my novel TALES OF THE FICTION HOUSE. They are completely different stories. My novel is available at Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.)
©2014 Raji Singh