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Partial to Home: A rose for Taddy

 

Birney Imes

 

 

On the morning of the second day of the new year, I was in Friendship Cemetery with a pick, a bag of mulch, soil enhancer and a couple of scraggly twigs purported to be a rose bush in the back of the pickup. The early morning rain had subsided, and Fleetwood Mac's "Never Going Back Again," was playing on the mix CD in the player. 

 

Stopping the truck near Taddy's grave, I turned the music up and got out. A caller on Felder Rushing's radio show, "The Gestalt Gardener," is to blame for this. Right, yes ... some explaining. 

 

Taddy was a friend and a contemporary, who died too young in 2006. Thinking of words to describe him, effervescent and devil-may-care come to mind. As does mischievous. 

 

He was a quick-witted attorney, who helped a lot of people who needed legal help, but couldn't afford it. Two other things: He favored, shall we say, a hedonistic lifestyle, and for most of his life, he looked like he was about 14 years old. 

 

Most of us who knew and loved Taddy during his high school years called him "Blade." Or "The Blade." 

 

His mother, Mary Ann Dazey, a widely-loved English prof at Mississippi State University, had a personality that sparkled like her son's. One of her students referred to Taddy as a dashing young blade, and the name stuck 

 

The inscription on his gravestone reads, "Ever the dashing young blade." 

 

We planted a live oak on his plot at the time of his death, but the site needed something else. As the self-appointed caretaker of my friend's grave, I've been on the lookout for another plant that can survive the neglect a cemetery plot receives. 

 

The caller on Felder's show was talking about cemetery roses. Yes, of course, that's it. Local rose guru Pat Wheeler would have a solution. 

 

Years ago Pat gave me another scraggly group of twigs supposedly a rose. That rose bush is now the size of a Volkswagen Beetle. A pink one, at that. 

 

Pat said she might have some roses she propagated last year. Fine, but they need to be red. 

 

Pat called New Year's Day. She had found a rose. On the white plastic knife she uses for a plant marker, she had written, "Will Scarlet, 12/17." 

 

Perfect. As it happens, Will Scarlet was one of Robin Hood's Merry Men. Here's an excerpt from his Wikipedia entry: 

 

 

 

Traditionally, when the outlaws are depicted as being middle-aged, Scarlet is often depicted as young or youthful, sometimes in his late teens. In the traditional tales, he is hot-headed and tempestuous, but has a love of fine elegant clothes and is often seen wearing red silk. He is the most skilled swordsman of the merry men. 

 

 

 

As I dug with the pick, the misting rain resumed. Fleetwood Mac had finished and Dylan was singing "Mr. Tambourine Man," a song that might have described my friend's sentiments many a night:  

 

 

 

Hey Mister Tambourine Man, play a song for me 

 

I'm not sleepy and there ain't no place I'm goin' to 

 

Hey Mister Tambourine Man, play a song for me 

 

In the jingle jangle morning, I'll come followin' you 

 

 

 

Take me on a trip upon your magic swirling ship 

 

My senses have been stripped 

 

My hands can't feel to grip 

 

My toes too numb to step 

 

Wait only for my boot heels to be wandering 

 

I'm ready to go anywhere, I'm ready for to fade 

 

Into my own parade 

 

Cast your dancing spell my way, I promise to go under it 

 

 

 

Got the rose planted, watered, fertilized and mulched. Dylan had given way to David Byrne. I stepped back and admired my handiwork and stood there in the rain listening to the music, in no hurry to leave. 

 

 

Birney Imes III is the immediate past publisher of The Dispatch.

 

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