He pulled up to the house in a new model Chevy Silverado. I was couldn’t immediately tell who it was. The figure inside seemed incongruous with the shiny, gold-painted truck. His beard was long and his hair scraggly and gray.

Louder erica
Freelance Writer
Erica Louder is a freelance writer based in Idaho.

He was wearing a bucket hat, like a fisherman, and old faded overalls. I walked around to the driver’s door as he ambled out. “Oh, it’s Mike,” I thought as he pulled me in for a hug. Though the hug was not unwelcome, it was surprising. I noticed that while not quite crying, Mike was emotional. His voice shook just a tad as he said, “Hello young lady, I came to get flowers for my wife’s grave.”

I’ve shared this a little on this blog, but last year as an effort to diversify our operation, I started a small specialty cut flower farm. While I’ve never talked to Mike about my flowers, I know my husband, Craig, has. I think it’s about the only thing he’s ever bragged about me. He is really proud of the flowers I grow on this high-elevation desert.

It was Memorial Day, and Mike’s wife, Carolyn, died rather unexpectedly two years ago. All of us wondered if Mike would soon follow Carolyn. He wasn’t in bad health, but Mike had been dependent on Carolyn. So those who loved Mike worried and fussed until Mike bought his new pickup and grew out his beard and appeared to be healing.

I had some leftover bouquets in my flower cooler from the market the previous Saturday and I got one out for him. Of course, I told him I wouldn’t charge for the flowers, not ones for Carolyn, and they were leftovers anyway. He smiled again, and I could tell that tears were again close. Changing the subject, he asked about my little farm that lined our driveway. I told him about what was planted in my high-tunnel greenhouses and how I just flipped my tulip bed and planted zinnias and cosmos in that same space. I could tell he was surprised or maybe a little impressed.


I nudged him and said, “I’m a real farmer, Mike, double cropping and all.” Mike, an old farmer and dairyman, smiled and said, “I can see that. We just completed our double crop by finally getting our corn in the ground.” I thought about it, and tulips and triticale, and cosmos and corn made a nice little ring in my mind.

About that time my 3-year-old son wandered over from the front yard, followed by one of his big sisters. Mike joked, “Looks like you’ve got another double crop there too.” My children aren’t particularly close in age, but they look a lot alike. They are all long limbs, blonde hair and summer tans. I think he started thinking about Carolyn again and maybe his double crop of long ago. I guess for him it would be sextuple-cropped with his six kids.

He looked down at his flowers wrapped in kraft paper and asked how I thought he should display them on the grave. I told him to take the paper off and I would get him a jar from in the house. As I came back out, he’d fished some candy out of those deep overall pockets and my double crop, and soon the third, gathered around him to grab a piece of sugary love.

I smiled and waved at Mike as he drove away to put flowers on Carolyn’s grave. It left me thinking about life and family and farming, and all the ways those things intersect.