Asparagus: spare me

Why, somebody asks me every so often, don't you start an asparagus bed? I have resisted the suggestion, mostly because I like to pass my time in other directions. An asparagus bed is a lot of work and a great deal of care for what you get out of it -- that is, about all you get out of it is asparagus. I like to put my tillage to better purpose and take my chances with asparagus. Neighbors are often kind, and the grocers are willing. The national figure is something like 15 million 24-pound crates, and just lately, to prove my point, a chain store in an adjoining town advertised an agreeable price on the crate. "Let us," I asseverated to my spouse, "purchase one of these cases, insert the contents in our freezer, and I shall again defer all plans to start my own asparagus bed." "It's really a bargain price," she said, and on the day the sale was advertised to start she drove over to the store.

The gentleman in charge of consumer relations on the vegetable side said, "It ain't come in."

"Here is your offer," she said, waving the flier, "and I've driven 40 miles at today's energy price, and I want my asparagus or I want my mileage."

The gentleman smiled as he backed away, saying, "The truck broke down. We'll have asparagus tomorrow."

She came home to say they didn't have any, as at this present point in time -- now -- the truck was incapacitated somewhere the other side of Concord.

"Which Concord is that?" I asked.

"What difference does it make?"

"To me -- that's important."

"Well, you can ask 'em which Concord when you go over tomorrow to get the asparagus."

And so I did. "What truck is that?" asked the vegetable man. "The asparagus truck." "Oh -- thatm truck! It comes tomorrow at 2 p.m. in the afternoon. That's our regular time for the vegetable shipment."

I spoke with severity. "Look, my wife came yesterday, I came today, and at 20 cents a mile you've nullified the asparagus bargain. Will you call the manager so he can give me a mileage credit slip?"

"Ha, ha, and ha!" he said, and added, "We'll have asparagus tomorrow".

"At two o'clock?"

"Yes, regular time."

"What's regular about an annual shipment of Michigan asparagus on a truck that's out of whack in New Hampshire?"

"How's that again?" he said.

Well, I made enough of a touse so they were ready for me the next day.

The vegetable man saw me coming through the door and he snapped his fingers. A bag boy came with the crate, asking where I was parked and if the trunk was open, the manager and the vegetable man greeted me with apologies, and a girl came to take my money so I didn't have to wait at the checkout register. "Thank you, thank you!" was mine from everybody. I could see that 20 cents a mile was a challenge the store would prefer not to consider along with the special sale price of asparagus.

So you see how easy it is to come by asparagus, and that it is not necessary to take the trouble to grow your own.

I lugged the crate into the house and brought nippers to cut the wires. A most beautiful cascade of superb asparagus spilt across the pine-plank table, and my spouse said, "Oh, my -- that looks fine!" I went outdoors and spent the rest of the afternoon at some activity it is not necessary to describe and which I can't remember anyway. As suppertime approached I took down my flag, closed the shop door, checked out the dooryard, and went into the house. There, on the pine-plank table, was the cascade of lovely asparagus, just as I'd left it. "Power's been off," she explained, "haven't had time to blanch the stuff!"

The power came on so we had a late supper and got the asparagus in the freezer about bedtime. Next morning Lute Pingree said a truck had addressed a power pole up on route 1. "Anybody hurt?" "Nope," said Lute, "out-of-stater. Driver fell asleep. Been on the road too long. Was going back to Michigan after fetching a load of asparagus."

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