As we recall our past, all of us have people
who made us feel special. My aunt and uncle occupied this role within
my life. Perhaps this was because they had been unable to have
children of their own. So I filled this role for them.
& sister, Arlene
Now my Uncle Hap was a very
self-reliant person, and since he did not have children to consume his
energy, he approached life from a very relaxed and creative perspective.
Much of his time was occupied with a wide variety of creations. His
basement was filled with an amazing array of wood working equipment all
painted battleship gray. The smells of sawn lumber, paints and oils
dominated the space. His garage was neatly arranged with many
motorized lawn and garden tools all designed and built with his ingenuity
long before these products were available from Sears and Roebuck.
Below the garage and stretching all
the way to the road was his garden. I wonder now how two people could
consume all the food produced by that soil. The plant varieties were
organized in rows of descending height with the sweet corn closest
to the road. His choice of varieties
assured him he would be able to enjoy the sweet taste experience of corn on
the cob from the beginning of the season until its conclusion. Next
came the tomatoes that fruited in a wide assortment of sizes, shapes and
colors. Successive plantings of bush beans followed also guaranteeing
a long season of that table faire. Then there were the root crops
followed by the cucumbers and the squash.
Each row of plants was perfectly laid
out and spaced with the walkways marked by freshly tilled soil and a total
absence of anything resembling a weed.
Mom and I were frequent visitors to
their home as it was during WWII and Dad was in the service. So we
desired their company to fill in for his absence, but I had never stayed
overnight. Dad was station in St. Louis and required surgery. So
Mother had taken the train to be with him. I was, to my delight,
boarded out to Aunt Alice and Uncle Hap.
In spite of my young age, I still
vividly recall the first night of that stay with my aunt and uncle.
After dinner, Hap took me to the garden, accompanied by the rhythmic sounds
of the evening's insects. With a hoe, he worked up a vacant plot of
earth about six feet long. Then he drew a trench down its length about
2 inches in depth. From his hip pocket, he extracted a plain white
envelop containing what he described as magic bean seeds.
|Each of these seeds was a light
tan in color speckled with small black spots. He showed me how
to appropriately space them within the trench and to use my hands to
gently cover them with the protection of the soil.
Proclaiming the need for magic water
to make magic beans grow, he sent me to the spigot by the garage to fill the
watering can. I recall being unable to lift the can after filling it
and dragging it down the small hill spilling water on my shoes while in
progress. Then I soaked the row from one end to the other questioning
what this magic might produce. I wonder if he realized that evening,
that he was introducing me to the magic of sowing seeds for the rest of my
After breakfast the next morning,
Uncle Hap, with a warm smile on his face, asked if I had forgotten about the
magic bean seeds, and I should check them out.
I ran to the garden and where the soil
had been packed firm the night before, there was a row of newly emerging
bean sprouts. He again suggested they needed some magic water, and
with great excitement, I completed the task.
After lunch, he suggested we again
return to the garden. This time, I discovered my magic bean plants had
progressed to being fully leafed. Uncle Hap, with a small hand held
cultivator, demonstrated how to gently stir the soil around each plant being
careful not to disturb the growing roots. Giving me the implement, he
watched with satisfaction as I explored the cultivation of the soil. I
recall the odor of his earth body as he knelt close beside me with this
learning process. And then I completed my farming duties by again
filling the can and watering those magic beans with my magic water.
|That evening after dinner, a
life-giving thunderstorm was approaching, and Uncle Hap suggested we
quickly make a trip to the garden. To my amazement, my row of
seeds was totally filled with bushy green growth.
Large drops of the earth's
moisture began to do dot the soil around us, and Uncle Hap assured me that
God's water would be even better than my magic water from the spigot.
So we quickly left for the shelter of the house.
The next morning, there was a clear
freshness to the air from the rain, and as we walked in to the garden, it
seemed as if everything was growing desirably toward the sky with a bounty
in mind. My inspection revealed my magic bean plants had also matured,
an they were loaded with beautiful white blossoms. I again gently
worked the soil around the developing plants and coated them with a soaking
of magic water from the spigot.
I was excited by the ability of these
plants to change so quickly, and expressed my desire to stay there and watch
them grow, but Uncle Hap quickly told me that magic beans would not grow if
watched. So I regretfully abandoned my desire.
After lunch, we again journey to watch
the progression of the garden. The sun was high in the sky reaching
down with great intensity. I recall being barefoot and the reflective
heat from the soil being almost too extreme for my touch. All the
plants within the garden had pulled into themselves to protect their vital
ness from the intensity. All that is except fro me magic beans that
were standing proud, their blossoms having turned to inch long new formed
seed pods. I again worked the soil and watered my produce spilling
some of the cold fresh water to cool my toes.
During the rest of the afternoon, I
could hardly contain my return to the garden. Finally Uncle Hap gave
permission to again explore my newfound avocation. There they were.
Beautiful plants loaded with the long green gems of the garden. He
handed me his wicker picking basket and showed me how to gently grasp the
plants with one hand while picking the beans with the other so as not to
pull up or damage the mother plant.
|I ran to the house with my
bounty yelling with joy for my Aunt Alice. She was undone with
excitement about this magic green for her dinner table. She took
me to the kitchen, pulled a stool to the sink and showed me how to
wash them. Then she introduced me to the wonder of snapping fresh
green beans and we placed the vegetable to be into a saucepan and
lightly began steaming the produce for the evening's dinner.
I swear I could smell the
cooking as the vapor escaped from the edges of that lid. So the table
was set and the dinner placed, the serving bowl containing my contribution
of magic beans, lightly coated with butter was occupying the center place of
Uncle Hap asked for a moment of
silence as we bowed our heads, and then he gave thanks to God for his
contribution of wonder and magic to our lives.
A new generation (our
grandkids) discovers the wonder of snapping fresh green beans
The Story behind
Uncle Hap's Magic Bean Seeds
documents one of my earliest memories. During WWII, my father
was in the service, and my mother's brother, Harland (Hap) was my
substitute father for those years.
I must have been three or four years old at the
time and the vividness of some of these images continues to amaze me.
I often wonder if Uncle Hap had any idea of the impact that his little trick
would have on me.
In addition to hosting my mother's and my frequent
visits, he made and repaired many of my toys (new commercial toys were
unavailable because of the war).
He was an avid explorer of new things. I
recall the acetate disc recorder he used to record my childhood
verbalizations. Later, he purchased a reel to reel tape recorder
before such a wonder was available. He also purchased the first TV I
ever saw even though there was no TV station to transmit programs in
Lansing, MI. Hap was also an avid hunter, fisherman, and an
accomplished photographer with his own dark room.
His importance to me returned during my college
years. Uncle Hap and Aunt Alyce's home was just down the road from Michigan
State, and they often shared their dinners when the dorm food got the best
of me. Hap was an accomplished keyboardist, and loved his electronics.
So we would often listen to LPs of the big bands and discuss the art of
recording, my undergrad major.
Today, I look back on the important mentoring role
that Harland "Hap" Galligan played for me. Just like Uncle Hap, I
continue his legacy by always looking forward to new opportunities.
Hap, if you were with us today, you would love this
digital world and all the things you can explore with it. Thank you
for sharing your gift of magic bean seeds with me.