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Birney Imes: 'Love is a cattlefield'

 

Birney Imes

 

I felt like a stray dog sniffing empty streets on a walk through Southside early this morning. A flattened turtle just down the street from (supervisor) Jeff Smith''s mother''s house I did not sniff. Nor did I the remains of a chicken dinner in styrofoam the ants were polishing off on Eighth, just this side of the tracks. 

 

Linda Spearing''s topsy-turvy front yard is blooming in full glory and worth a field trip (Sixth Avenue between Seventh and Eighth); so is Friendship Cemetery, majestic in the early morning quiet. Thursday a wake-up snack of dewberries was available in the cemetery for one with goat-like footing. 

 

The live oak on the grave of an old friend ("Ever the dashing young blade") isn''t growing as fast as I''d hoped or expected. I''m told it takes a year or two for the roots to establish before a tree starts upward. This should be the year. 

 

I am contemplating planting a fruit tree on my grandma''s plot (probably against the rules). A fig or a pomegranate. She had both in her yard on College Street. The pomegranate was a wonderful thing, so exotic and unlike anything you could find at the A&P. It was right by the sidewalk on Eighth and College. I''m sure passersby helped themselves, and I''m sure she had no problem with that. 

 

More than 100 years ago -- long before the insipid phrase "play it forward" entered the lexicon -- someone planted scraggly oaks and magnolias on that plot of land that is Friendship Cemetery. They''ve since become magnificent. Want to do something for the generation after next, or the one after? Plant trees. 

 

A Habitat house is going up on the corner of Ninth Avenue and South Fifth. Now it is only a skeleton, 2x4s framing the rooms on a concrete slab. Next time I walk by a dog will be sleeping in the driveway and someone will be getting a haircut on the front porch. 

 

A block from the cemetery a solemn 6-year-old boy sits motionless on his porch in his school uniform. I speak, and he launches into a spiel about his birthday party on March 26 where ice cream, cake, Doritos and about six other things were served. He said he got no presents and wondered if I would be coming to his next birthday. I told him I would try to make it. What do you get a 7-year-old? I''ve got some time. 

 

A sprightly lady wearing sweats and a baseball cap picking up cans calls me by name. My Uncle Sammy''s garden next to Mr. Lee''s house seems to be well on its way and big enough to feed half of Southside. 

 

Boxcars of the passing train are covered with beautiful graffiti. Moving canvases by unknown artists from who knows where. Talented unknowns. 

 

I stand and take in this passing exhibition. It''s just after six. The birds are chirping; the Southside dogs are sleeping off another long night -- I haven''t seen a one. The train doesn''t have a caboose. I look around and then back; I almost missed it. Red paint on a cream colored hopper car: "Love is a cattlefield." 

 

Two big pine stumps in Byron''s yard. Gonna be there a long time. A mockingbird dive bombs the cat as he runs across the street. They are dry, the streets. For that and so much we can say thank you.

 

Birney Imes III is the Editor and Publisher of The Dispatch.

 

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