The Seedling Boogie Woogie

Dad loved to sow bedding plant seeds. His first "sowing machine" was a hair clipper that Mom used to cut Dad’s hair. Dad attached a V-shaped piece of aluminum to the cutter end and would simply dump some seeds onto the "V", turn on the clipper, and the seeds would jump and separate so that they could be evenly distributed into the seedling flats. Dad had a really good eye for getting the seeds spaced just right in the flats, and he would check them every day to see how they were growing.

For the most part, Dad had great success growing seedlings with his "high tech" seeder and steady hand, but I remember one day when things got out of hand.

It was a March morning many years ago, when Dad decided that four flats of seedlings had grown to just the right stage for transplanting, so he gathered them up – two balanced on each arm – and was moving them to the transplanting area. He looked proud of the great job he had done – and justifiably so – because the germination was near perfect and the seedlings were tough and stocky. 

But as Dad was cautiously carrying the seedling flats to the transplanting area where Mom was waiting, he inadvertently stepped onto a greenhouse floor drain that should have had a metal grate over it, but for whatever reason, didn’t. The moment his foot hit the drain, Dad did a kind of, how shall I say, "boogie woogie" move somewhat reminiscent of a young lady trying to balance on impossibly tall high heels.

 The flats went flying in all directions and hundreds of valuable seedlings were scattered everywhere! Dad was unhurt but he was so angry with himself at the devastation that when Mom tried to calm him down he just got more angry. 

However, when Dad noticed that one seedling flat had escaped most of the damage by landing right side up on the floor I could see Dad’s demeanor change from rage to complete calm. He walked over to the unscathed flat, gently picked it up with his thumb and index finger on each side of the plastic flat. I thought, wow, what great composure Dad had after losing so many valuable seedlings. 

But then Dad did something that I didn’t see coming. He delicately threw the remaining good flat into the air much like a professional punter would do with a football, and kicked the flat as hard as he could. For a brief moment I was in shock, but within seconds we were all laughing at the absurdity of watching the flat spiral through the greenhouse.

Dad’s philosophy was that if you are going to do a job, do it to the best of your ability, but if you’re going to screw it up, then you might as well really screw it up! Whenever, I screw something up – which is not a rare as I would like it to be – the imagery of Dad and the flats always comes to mind. It is, strangely enough, very comforting.


~Jim Hole