During my summers in college I worked as a gardener at a country club. There were four of us, a master gardener and three assistants, and we were busy. It was a great job, though. I got to work by 6:00, spent my days watering, weeding, pruning, and planting and then I would head home around 2:00 and have the rest of my days free to mess around. I scored an awesome tan, made use of the pool and clubhouse facilities in my off time, and enjoyed being outside.
My boss, the master gardener, was my mother’s age, very soft spoken, very unassuming, and one of the most artistic people I have ever met. She saw beauty everywhere. She painted and drew and designed gardens so perfect it made you went to settle in amongst the blooms and watch the day go by. She was never angry, never short-tempered, and so kind.
The course was located just a few minutes from my mom and dad’s house, which means it was in the sticks. Though the area has been built up in the last few years, when I worked there it was golf course, swimming pool, and cornfields.
As a result of the location, we enjoyed a lot of wildlife. Squirrels dug up newly planted bulbs, we had to chase snapping turtles out of sand traps and geese off the greens. Snakes slithered over my tools and feet. I once had a small incident with a badger. A pheasant once made a nest in the rough off the 16th fairway. Rabbits ate the leaves off a lot of our plants, and what the rabbits didn’t get, the deer did.
We sprayed plants with deer and rabbit repellent. We tried sprinkling cayenne pepper around our most snacked-upon beds. We tried every old wives tale you've ever heard to try and keep the critters from eating everything. A little snacking we understood and accepted, but some of our beds were nothing more than sticks, every single leaf and bloom having been stripped and eaten.
We had planted 750 tulip bulbs one fall and the following spring, when I came back to work, the tulips were blooming in the glorious pattern we’d planted them in. The next morning, every single bloom had been bitten off by deer, leaving sad little green stems poking out of the ground.
The next morning a dawn golfer stopped my boss and me to share a story. He was getting ready to tee off at the second hole when he looked up and saw a majestic buck standing at the edge of the woods, caught in the golden glow of dawn. They considered each other, the golfer and the deer, for a few moments and then the golfer teed up and sent the ball straight down the fairway while the buck watched.
“It was magical,” he enthused.
“Did he look full?” my boss asked sourly.