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  • Writer's pictureRogene "Jeannie" McPherson, Country Notebook

Third time's a charm

Updated: Jun 19, 2023

Country Notebook

By Rogene "Jeannie" McPherson

Good things come in threes, so I am told. According to the internet, we are hot-wired at birth to manage life in threes. For example, children are read fairy tales like “The Three Little Pigs,” “Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” and “The Three Billy Goats Gruff.” Then in English classes, students are taught that a good story should be written in three parts, the introduction, the middle, and the conclusion. Biblically, we also see threes, the birth, three crosses, and of course, the Trinity.

As taught in English 101, I’ll begin my story with an introduction.

In the gardening world, there is a rule of thumb to plant in threes when doing a grouping. Supposedly it just makes good sense from a proportional stand-point. So, what happens when three plants of the same variety are planted and one plant dies leaving the space out of balance? Most of the time, I’m just glad I didn’t kill all three.

Something similar happened to me three years ago only it involved Shumard oak saplings. Typically, oak trees do well, but the one factor I had not planned for was Charlie-Horse, my very large English Shire who likes rump-rubs. The beautiful Shumard Oak was about seven feet tall and growing straight as an arrow when Charlie-Horse took a stroll right out an open gate and eventually ended up back-side to the tree. My perfectly growing oak tree was now whittled down to about three feet with few leaves still remaining. The remaining groupings of threes were still standing tall.

It was the corner tree of the L of a north-south, east-west planting and there was no way to keep the damage from showing. It was a little like trying to make a bad haircut look better, but I had to give the tree a second chance. I began by removing the branches with the wilted leaves. Eventually, secondary growth sprouted from the bottom of the tree and I hoped pruning might result in one central, straight, and strong core.

As the third story in the series on second chances, I would have preferred writing about my success with these strategies. After giving the tree three more chances and with no improvement in sight, I purchased another oak sapling, hopefully catching up with the other Shumard oaks.

Something I forgot to mention is my inability to plant in straight lines. When I studied how planting the new sapling a little (or about three feet) to the left of the north-south configuration would improve the straightness of the tree line, my conscience did an about-face. Now, I had a second chance and justification for removing the tree Charlie-Horse whittled.

In three years or so, I will forget about Charlie-Horse’s behavior and I’ll be grateful for a straight line of trees. It’s difficult to teach a horse where to scratch and itch, however, as the smarter one of the trio, (including Midnight, the fox-trotter) I sawed off the lower dead branches of a cedar for such purposes.

To conclude, as storywriters must, little children, like horses, are not hot-wired to know the difference between right and wrong. They catch onto reciting numbers quickly, but less so about the consequences of their behavior. Little children need second chances or many more to learn how to live. So, if there is a moral to this story, practice patience. We never know when something bad can turn into something (or three somethings) into good.

Rogene “Jeanne” McPherson is a writer who lives outside of Centerville. She recently published a book about her experiences entitled Posts from the Country, Adventures in Rural Living. It is available online in both virtual and printed editions. Copies are on the shelves at all Linn County libraries.

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