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If you travel on Third Street near the Roane County Courthouse in Kingston, chances are you know Pat Ward.
You just may not know you know her.
Ward lives in a modest house that might escape your notice; it’s her garden that draws your attention.
Sunflowers and and corn rise tall.
Billowing black-eyed Susans nod at squash and beans. Elegant resurrection lilies stand in a group on the side of the house, while, in front, zinnias in primary colors sway gregariously at passing cars.
In the main plot, cucumbers, okra and tomatoes grow with no room to spare.
This week, Ward dropped by the newspaper with a tomato weighing more than 3.5 pounds.
Someone told me she had stopped in, and although I didn’t know her name until I asked, I tracked Ward down at her home a stone’s throw from the office.
Truth is, I’d been looking for an excuse to talk to her.
Ward showed me the whopper of a tomato and then graciously took me on a short tour around her yard.
She said she learned much of what she knows about gardening from her late grandmother, Willie Mae McDermitt in Harriman, including — and the following is my description — to throw down the seed and get out of the way.
What she grows thrives on old peach orchard land, without added pesticides and fertilizers.
Her harvests are usually generous, and she often puts the excess out in front of her home with a sign that is the garden equivalent of “Free to a good home.” The extra produce usually disappears quickly.
After the tornado struck Kingston this summer, the tree-filled hillside behind Ward was a twisted mess. The street in front of her was even worse — literally clogged with a mass of downed trees.
Ward struggles to describe what she saw and heard that day, but she had the good sense to get away from the back door. The wind lifted the roof over her back porch and set it down again, but aside from that and a few loose shingles, she doesn’t have complaints.
The next morning, when inmates and cleanup crews struggled to remove downed trees from her impassible street, Ward was out in her garden, straightening the tomato cages for a bumper crop that is already coming in.
I like people like Ward – unflappable after the storm, and making the most of what they’ve been blessed with.
So if you drive down Third Street toward Franklin and you see that garden, now you really do know Ward.
She’s friendly; feel free to wave as you go by.