Six Rows of Flowers
Our family lived and worked at a nursery. Growing and selling flowers was the way we earned our living.
When our little nephew Tatsuo was seven years old, he came to live at the nursery. He watched everything the adults there did. After school and on weekends, he went out into our fields. While we worked, he asked us many questions.
Little Tatsuo asked, "How did the plants get here? What is water? What are the bugs and what do they do? Why do birds sing?" and so on.
I said to Uncle Hiroshi, "We must do something about this. We can't spend our time continually answering little Tatsuo's questions. And some of the questions are hard to answer. We don't want to give him wrong information. We must do something."
"I agree," said Uncle Hiroshi. "We'll let little Tatsuo learn through experience. Experience is a good teacher."
So Uncle Hiroshi took little Tatsuo and brought him out into the fields. He showed him the many rows of plants that were growing there. We mostly grew pompons, small plants that have beautiful flowers.
"Do you know what these are?" said Uncle Hiroshi. He pointed to the pompons.
"Yes," said little Tatsuo. "Plants. They are valuable."
"You know that later these plants will have flowers. We sell the flowers to get money for food."
Nephew Tatsuo nodded. "Yes," he said. "I knew that."
"All right," Uncle Hiroshi said. "I am going to give you six rows of pompons. They are yours. You own them now. Take care of them. You must make them grow and have beautiful flowers."
Little Tatsuo looked proud and happy.
"Do you really want to do that?" Uncle Hiroshi asked.
"Sure? Tatsuo said.
"You can begin right away," Uncle Hiroshi said. "But first, let me tell you something. You cannot quit once you start. These six rows of flowers are yours. You must not let them die. You must make them grow and have flowers."
"Okay," little Tatsuo said. "I will."
"There is a lot of work to do," said Uncle Hiroshi. "Every day you must take care of your plants. School is closed now for the summer. But you'll have to take care of the plants even after school opens. You'll have to take care of the plants, rain or shine."
"All right," Tatsuo said. 'I’ll do it. You'll see."
So little Tatsuo began to work on his six rows of pompons, and we were able to do our work without being bothered by him.
Every once in a while, however, little Tatsuo would run excitedly to Uncle Hiroshi.
"Uncle Hiroshi, come with me!" he said. "There are bugs on my plants. They're big bugs-green bugs with black dots. What should I do?"
"They're bad bugs," Uncle Hiroshi said. "You must spray them."
"But I don't have any spray."
"All right. I will spray them for you today," Uncle Hiroshi said. "Tomorrow I will get you some spray. Then you must spray your own plants."
As Uncle Hiroshi sprayed the plants, he noticed that there were some tall weeds among the pompons. He also saw that young weeds were beginning to grow in all of the six rows.
"Those weeds attract the bugs," Uncle Hiroshi said. "Pull out the weeds. Keep the place clean."
It took Tatsuo several days to pull out the weeds. And since he didn't pull all of them up by their roots, a few weeks later the weeds came back. Sometimes, Uncle Hiroshi came around to check the moisture in the soil. He put his hand on the earth and said, "Tatsuo, your plants need water. They need water now during the hot summer. If you wait, it will be too late."
Tatsuo took a hose and began to water the plants.
"Water the plants evenly," advised Uncle Hiroshi. "Don't hold the hose in one place for a long time and in another place for a short time. And put lots of water on the leaves."
Nephew Tatsuo worked at the job through the summer and on into the fall, although at times he didn't seem very interested. Whenever Tatsuo lost interest, Uncle Hiroshi looked at the six rows of flowers and seemed very pleased.
"This is wonderful!" he said with enthusiasm. "Your pompons are growing very fast. Soon they'll have flowers."
"Do you think so?" Nephew Tatsuo asked.
"Sure. You will have lots of flowers. When you have enough to make a big bunch, I'll sell them for you at the flower market." "Really?" Nephew Tatsuo said. "At the flower market?"
Uncle Hiroshi laughed. "Of course. That's the place where people buy flowers, isn't it?"
One day Tatsuo came by with a tennis ball. He wanted us to play catch with him. It was the busiest time of the year at the nursery. We were so busy that we even worked on Sundays.
"Nephew Tatsuo," said Uncle Hiroshi, "don't you know we all have responsibilities? Uncle Hiroshi has a lot of work to do today. Now is the busiest time of the year. You also have a lot of work to do. You should be busy now. Do you know whether your pompons are wet or dry?"
"No, Uncle Hiroshi," he said. "I don't remember." "Then take care of it right away,"
Uncle Hiroshi said.
Nephew Tatsuo ran over to the six rows of flowers. He came running back. "Uncle Hiroshi, they're still wet," he said.
"All right," Uncle Hiroshi said. "But did you see those holes in the ground with little mounds of earth near them?"
"Yes. They're gopher holes," little Tatsuo said.
"Right," Uncle Hiroshi said. "Did you catch the gopher?"
"No," said Tatsuo.
"Then take care of it. Take care of it right away," Uncle Hiroshi said.
Nephew Tatsuo ran off to take care of it.
One day late in October, Uncle Hiroshi's pompons started to bloom. Uncle Hiroshi cut the flowers and put them into bunches to take to the market. By this time, Tatsuo was eager to see his pompons bloom. But by now Nephew Tatsuo's six rows of flowers looked like a piece of earth covered with tall weeds. Not many pompons grew higher than the weeds.
A few of the plants in the six rows of flowers survived. But most of the plants had died before the cool weather arrived. Some died because the earth was too dry. Some were killed by the gopher. And some were crushed by the tall weeds that were growing everywhere.
When the other pompons at the nursery began to bloom, everyone became worried.
"We must do something about Tatsuo's six rows of flowers," Tatsuo's father said. "His six rows of flowers are worthless, and the bugs on them are coming over to our flowers. Let's cut down his rows and burn them."
"No," said Uncle Hiroshi. "We cannot do that. That is out of the question. That would hurt little Tatsuo very much. Let his plants stay."
So little Tatsuo's six rows of flowers stayed. The weeds, the plants, and the bugs all stayed. A little later a few of the plants began to have flowers. Nephew Tatsuo ran around looking for Uncle Hiroshi. Tatsuo called out, "The flowers are here!" He wanted to know when he could cut them.
"Today," Uncle Hiroshi said. "Cut them today, and I will sell them at the market tomorrow."
Little Tatsuo had just enough flowers to make one bunch.
The next day at the flower market, Uncle Hiroshi sold the bunch of flowers. When Uncle Hiroshi came home, Nephew Tatsuo ran to the car.
"Did you sell the bunch of flowers, Uncle Hiroshi?" Nephew Tatsuo asked.
"Sure. They were easy to sell. They were healthy, carefully grown, very good flowers."
Nephew Tatsuo ran around excitedly. First he went to his father. "Papa!" he said. "Someone bought my pompons!" Then he ran over to me and said, "My flowers were sold! Uncle Hiroshi sold my pompons!"
At noon, after lunch was over, Uncle Hiroshi gave Nephew Tatsuo the money he got for selling Tatsuo's flowers.
"What should I do with this money?" Tatsuo asked us all, his eyes shining.
Tatsuo's father said, "Put it in your toy bank."
"No," said Uncle Hiroshi. "Let him do whatever he wants with the money. Let him spend it and enjoy his money."
"Do you want to spend your money?" I asked Tatsuo.
"Yes," he said.
"Then do anything you want with it," said Uncle Hiroshi. "Buy anything you want. Go and have a good time. It is your money."
The next Sunday we did not see Nephew Tatsuo all day. When Tatsuo came back late in the afternoon, Uncle Hiroshi said, "What did you do today?"
Tatsuo said, "I went to a movie. Then I bought an ice cream cone. On my way home I watched a baseball game at the school. I bought popcorn there. I have five cents left."
Uncle Hiroshi said, "You saved something. That is good."
Uncle Hiroshi, Tatsuo's father, and I sat in the shade. It was still hot, although it was late in the day. We sat and watched Tatsuo riding around and around in the yard on his little red bicycle.
Tatsuo's father said, "Next year he will forget about what he did this year. He will be wild again next year."
"Next year is not here yet," said Uncle Hiroshi.
"Do you think he will want to grow pompons again?" Tatsuo's father asked.
"He enjoys praise," replied Uncle Hiroshi. "And he takes pride in good work well done. We will see."
"He is probably the worst gardener in the country," I said. "He is probably the worst gardener in the world."
"Probably," said Uncle Hiroshi.
That night the whole family sat at the table and ate. We talked about what kind of year it was. We talked about the flower business and the flower crop. We talked about little Tatsuo's work, about what he had done, and about what he could do in the future.