The Slowcook at Spydog Farm The Slowcook at Spydog Farm

Happy, RIP

July 2nd, 2009 · No Comments · Posted in garden

Happy's Cherokee Purple tomatoes

Happy's Cherokee Purple tomatoes

Last year we made the acquaintance of a wonderful man down the street who suggested we trade some of our produce for some of the venison from his family’s farm in Virginia. He had a big smile and a big personality to match. Everyone called him Happy, so we did too. It was, as Humphrey Bogart might have said to Claude Rains, the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Our first exchange with Happy was a box of our canned goods for venison tenderloin and stew meat. We gave him a wide assortment of some of our favorite pickles and preserves. Then in the spring he came by with a surprise: two huge venison salamis. They were some of the best salami we’d ever tasted.

We agreed to plant some tomatoes for Happy and his family, so in effect they became partners in our garden. We designated three heirloom tomatoes for them: Dr. Carolyn, a wonderfully sweet golden cherry tomato; Cherokee Purple, a very resilient and exceptionally delicious variety; and Mortgage Lifter, a famous beefy tomato, this year a resistant variety.

We planted the tomatoes but then got a visit from Happy’s cousin telling us Happy was laid up in the nearby Veteran’s Administration hospital with liver cancer. The prognosis was not good. But we were urging Happy to fight on.

Yesterday we got the news that Happy died. He had been transported to a hospice in Charlottesville, Virginia, closer to his family home. He was buried next to his mother near the place where he grew up, rural Arrington, Virginia, on a rainy day that made for a difficult funeral.

Happy’s real name was Royal Fletcher. He came from a family of famers. He had been a welder in the U.S. Navy and as far as we know was living on disability. He was 52 years old. He is survived by a son and a four-year-old granddaughter.

We are sorry that Happy will not know the lovely tomatoes that are growing in his name. We will miss you, Happy, and the friendship you initiated. Life in the garden goes on.

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