Old friend and Letcher County native Jim Cornett, who has lived in Burnside for many years, often reminds me in late January to not forget to get my peas planted on February 15. This year was no exception to Jim’s gentle reminder.
Then, on the scheduled date, he emailed a note admitting that there would be no pea planting in Burnside in mid-February. The ground there was frozen hard as a rock, just like it was on Charlie Brown Road here in Paint Lick. If I’d had a stick or two of dynamite or some blasting powder I might have set them off on top of the soil and thrown some seeds in blast holes, but that seems a bit extreme. Plus the neighbors would not have taken kindly to the noise, cracked window glass, whatnots falling off their shelves to break beyond repair and myriad other damage the blasts might have caused.
Not to mention the trouble I’d be in with the law and Loretta, either one of which would have been at least as bad as the other and both of which I try to avoid at all costs.
However, I just had a message from Jim who told me that, last Saturday, he had talked his son into helping him get his peas planted as soon as it stopped raining and they were expecting a break in the action pretty soon, so Jim lay down to take a nap. Apparently the rain stopped about the time his head hit the pillow. When he woke up, his son already the pea patch planted. I told him my son loved to eat ‘em but I’d have to see him planting them to believe it. I’m hoping my brother, Andy, will plant some for me but I’m going to try to not sleep through it. We’ve still got at least six weeks to make a good crop of peas.
On the other hand, my brother, Keith’s, father-inlaw, the late Dock Mitchell, would not have frozen ground or even a snow prevent him from planting his peas on Valentine’s Day. I have no idea why some folk insist that February 14 is the magic pea planting date and others insist it’s the 15th. My mom also subscribed to Valentine’s Day. Dad said any time after the ground dry enough to plow in March was a good time.
Anyway, I remember Keith telling me about one time when the ground was frozen hard with a light skiff of snow and Dock called to ask him to take him to the farm supply store in Whitesburg, some 25 miles from their homes in Redstar.
Keith wanted to know why Dock was in such a hurry to get to town and Dock simply told him it was Valentine’s Day. Keith had already figured out that he was not going after a heartshaped box of candy but figured it wouldn’t hurt if he bought one for his wife, Nancy, while he was out. If I know my little brother, he probably told Nancy that was why he was making the trip. That’s what I’d have told Loretta
Anyway, Dock was looking for a few bags of potting soil and he had already called to make sure they had it in stock. When they got home, Dock dropped his pea seeds, in neat rows, directly on top of the frozen ground and they covered them with a couple or three inches of the potting soil.
I never actually saw the planting but I was there in mid-May when they started coming in. I can tell you that was one of the prettiest pea patches I’ve ever seen grow.