The Marking Pole

Ah, February. Flipping the pages of the latest issue of their seed catalog, true gardeners can almost catch a whiff of newly-turned soil. Gone are the reminders of aching backs and sore knees, of bugs and worms and weeds—memories that, alas, have stayed with me these many decades since I was a ten-year-old girl helping my dad get the ground ready to plant. 

Vivid reminders of those days came flooding back in the early spring of 1996. I had been invited by Kathy Gibbons, then editor of Active Years, a magazine published by Record Eagle for and about seniors in the local area, to interview and submit articles of interest to that age group. The stories could feature incidents from the past or accomplishments of the present. I would often be reminded of events in my own past and if I shared that memory with the person being interviewed, it led to more stories and hoots of laughter between us. 

One particular day, the senior citizen being interviewed suggested I should submit to Active Years a garden story I had told her. It was about my dad and his broken rake. I was reminded then of the times I had to help carry the marking pole as we walked from one end of the garden to the other to identify the rows that would be planted. It was utter misery to hold that heavy pole and try to match his long strides so the marker would make straight rows.

I submitted an article of memories gardening with my dad—the good, the bad and the ugly, including mention of the marking pole and a few days later, I received a call from the illustrator of Active Years. 

He asked, “What does a marking pole look like? I have never seen one.” 

Well, that was a striking reminder that the times they were a-changin’ and marking poles were no more. Probably replaced with an automated device that was hooked to a garden tractor and required no steps at all.

Oh, did I mention the row marker was homemade by Dad, using a pole which was originally a small tree limb and the markers were five heavy chains placed about thirty inches apart. The illustrator did one fine job sketching it for the article, titled “My Dad Had A Garden.”  Ah, the memories of spring.     

2 thoughts on “The Marking Pole”

  1. Interesting tale but where is the illustration of the “marking pole”? I am trying to imagine it with the chains attached.

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  2. Very nice. We used a marking drag that looked like a 4 tinged rake. The one in Michigan was wood but Joe made one here out of metal tubing….heavy! We gave up on a large garden and went to containers so Joe cut it up and used it on something else. Hopefully you are doing well. Aunt Dianne read me a couple of articles her granddaughter wrote. One about grandma and the other about her mom Susan. It reminded me of your talent. Wish I could get the magazine you are writing for. Does it come in a digital format? Well stay warm. Our cold snap is going to be bad for these Texans.

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