What does a golf course, a tomato, and a salt shaker have in common?
Find out, as you journey with me into a world that was.
Every golf course has its stories. Many of them are stories about a world that was.This is one of those stories. It is about a special man, his garden and what it is like living parallel to a golf course fairway.
The other day, I was part of an interview by a local newspaper reporter doing a story about Sunny Croft Country Club in Clarksburg,West Virginia. Two of the club's unofficial historians, Sam Scolapio and Jeannie Marsh were present, along with board members Bobby Gaston, Marilyn Flanagan, and past president Bob Dennison. The reporter wanted to know what made Sunny Croft so special. For the next hour, everyone told stories about the 'old days' and the present days. Jeannie and Sam spun stories going back to the 1940's, making them seem like yesterday. Gaston told stories about his youthful caddying days. Scolapio fondly remembered the first time he took his wife to see the property they purchased along the #2 fairway. Jeannie Marsh talked about how the club was like one 250-member small family.
Throughout the decades and into the present, one theme recurred - the people are special. Jeannie talked fondly about her husband Hugh, who passed away a couple of years ago. Jeannie said, "He was the kindest man in the world. He would do anything for anybody." Hugh built a home for Jeannie and their soon-to-be-family alongside the # 2 fairway at Sunny Croft. This is Hugh and Jeannie sitting on their back porch. The view of their back yard was taken from the cart path of # 2 fairway. Look closely: Just beyond the stand of trees is where this story took place - day after day.
As I have often said, "Whenever there is a fascinating story, there is usually a story within a story." And, one particular story Jeannie shared was very special: Right beyond this stand of trees was where Hugh had his garden. Like most men who loved gardening, he grew a variety of vegetables, with tomatoes being a prominent crop. On many occasions, even if the golfers hit their tee shot in the middle of the fairway, they would detour to Hugh's garden to pick a ripe tomato.Hugh never said a word. He just kept tending his garden and watching many ripe tomatoes disappear from the fairway side.
However, one day, the golfers who visited Hugh's garden did find something unexpected. Hugh had taken the time to place salt shakers atop the tomato stakes along the fairway side. Everyone knows a garden picked ripe tomato tastes better with a little salt. With everything I have heard about Hugh Marsh, I can imagine him saying, " Well, Jeannie, if they are going to pick my tomatoes, they should really enjoy the flavor - add a little salt. Everyone knows a tomato tastes best when picked fresh, sun-warmed, with a little salt." And that was Hugh Marsh.
The stories continued about Hugh: Bobby Gaston and Sam Scolapio talked abut how Hugh would place a full gas can beside his garden for golfers who ran out. For non-golfers, older gas powered carts generally do not have gauges and with all the 'pre-round' pomp and circumstances, looking under your seat to see how much gas is in the tank is usually not a high priority. Thus, golfers will run out while on the course. Hugh being Hugh, he would leave a full can for the taking. Often, Jeanie said, he would find money underneath the empty can.
Tomatoes with salt provided and a full gas can for the taking - with nothing expected in return. This was truly a journey into a world that was. The Sunny Croft that was. Hugh's garden is no longer there. The gas can is gone. But, as long at there are people like Jeannie and Sam to pass the stories to the younger members, the Hugh Marsh's of Sunny Croft past will remain alive.
I will always remember the recurring theme during our interview, "It's the people!"
Thank you Jeannie and Sam.
And that's the way I see it.
This is Michael saying, until next time.
“Mike: Thank you for the copy of your book “Life through these Eyes.”
I am honored that you gave me one of the first copies. I have had the opportunity to read several chapters today and must say that I am impressed. You are a very talented writer. Congratulations my friend! Best, Andy”
“Your humor is absolutely spot-on and intelligent, peppered with a bit of sarcasm and childlike wonder. Your stories have that element of memory, poignant and comic at times, but always heartfelt and affecting. Your language is simple and friendly, weaved seamlessly in your narrative that is consistently lighthearted and warm in tone. Your experience as a teacher shows in your elaborate, playful descriptions and your sharp, unpretentious irony. I am also impressed with the way your structured the book—as a collection of short stories in no chronological order as opposed to one big chunk of episodic chapters that are more or less akin to a journal. It serves the tone and heart of your words perfectly.”