EEEEEEEEEEEEEECH I’ve Got Dirt Under My Nails!

A dramatization?

I know what you’re thinking, that title must be an exaggeration, surely I have had dirt under my nails a thousand times.  You see that statement wasn’t made by me.  It was made by this 8-year-old diva on opening day of Nolan Elementary Middle School’s Planting The Seeds Garden.  Maybe for you to fully understand I should start at the beginning.


Bonnie Odom-Brown (BE Culturally Exposed), Maura Ryan-Kaiser (Snelling Staffing Services) and I were working to get the garden and the beds ready for the first garden club meeting/workday the following Tuesday.  We were all so excited as the garden had taken on an added dimension with the addition of six new beds.  Because of the tenderness of several of our young transplants we had to plant several plants so all the kids would have to do was seed on our inaugural day.

Maura and I had our annual discussion about my Type-A personality style of gardening as she planted things in her usual “helter-skelter” style (oh how frustrating!).  What do you say when somebody says “Oh Poo!” to your argument that is loaded with facts.  Facts like:

  1. Plants will grow straighter and stronger if they are in nice neat rows.
  2. Give all plants sufficient space to grow to their maximum expected size.
  3. The garden is easier to weed when it is structured and organized.
  4. A structured and organized garden is prettier and more impressive.
  5. Plants are more productive.

Yes I had my reasons and they were all good, but all I could get from her in return was “Such Piffle!”

So I couldn’t hide my joy…my glee…my hysteria when I was told I would be in charge of the first club meeting.  I, Arthur Littsey, was going to be in charge.  I was King Arthur!  I was Gen. Douglas MacArthur!  I was President Chester Arthur!  Look at me Ma, I’m on top of the world!  I was going to whip these young fertile minds into shape.  They would find it was a lot of fun to be structured and disciplined…to stand up straight, head up and chin high.  I knew that this was what they not just needed but what they desired.  I was in control…they knew it…and they were going to be happy about that.  Did I say “happy”…they were going to be THRILLED!


I woke up early Tuesday morning to prepare for my day of leadership at the garden.  I had laid out my clothing, and set out my tools, seeds, the kid’s gloves and supplies.  It was going to be a great day!  The sun was shining high in the sky…no clouds…not even a hint of rain…it was perfect.

I got to the school right on time, reported to the teacher, Ms. Carrie Hahn, and proceeded out to the garden to get things ready.  Right on time, Ms. Hahn brought the students out and that was my first surprise.  These were not the kids from last year.  Last year’s kids were almost teenagers, that difficult stage.  I am not saying that they were bad kids because they definitely were not, but they didn’t always seem so eager to be out there.  If you’ve got kids you know what I mean.  There’s that look in their eyes or the body language that says so much yet reveals so little (especially if you don’t speak their language).  No, what I saw was 2 rows of seven to nine year olds, with big expressive eyes, mouths chattering non-stop that were totally geeked about working in the garden.  These were the new generation of Nolan’s Fierce Gardeners and before the day was over I was going to be able to tell you how geeked and fierce they truly were.

Of the 15 to 20 kids that were out there only one of them was a boy and he was quick to take notice of it and to let me know.  He wasn’t happy about it.  I wanted to take him aside and tell him how one day he would appreciate such an environment, but he wasn’t going to buy it, so I kept my mouth shut.  He wanted absolutely nothing to do with the girls so for the moment I had grown another appendage.

After our introductions and Ms. Hahn’s call to order, I was ready to start my planting lesson.  This was going to be sooooooo easy!  I had their rapt attention!  This was going to be so much better than last year!  Hahaha…in your face Ms. Maura!  I will show you and Ms. Bonnie, who’s the boss out here.  Here’s how the first 5 minutes (I think it was only 5) went:

Arthur/Me:  Okay kids, I am going to show you how to plant a garden.  To begin with you need two sticks and some string…

1st kid:  When can we plant some seeds?

Me:  You see we will use the string…

2nd kid:  I want to plant watermelon!

3rd kid:  Can I help?

1st kid:  Let me show you how to do it, my grandma has a garden at home!

Me:  It’s important to have straight rows, so we will use the string and sticks to…

2nd kid:  (Holding up a packet of seeds) Can I plant these seeds now?

1st kid:  I don’t think he knows what he is doing!

Me:  Okay, I want to show you how to plant a seed.  1st, you take your finger and poke it into the ground up the first joint of your finger…

1st kid:  Okay…here’s how to do it!  OH MY GOD…EEEEEEEEYAH…OH MY GOD…Eeeeeeeeeeech…I’ve got dirt under my nails…I’VE GOT DIRT UNDER MY NAILS!!!

And with that she started running around the garden, pigtails flapping, single finger held up pointing at the sky, screaming over and over she had gotten dirt under her nail acting like this was the first time that had ever happened.  WHAT WAS SHE GOING TO DO?  Was she going to have to wear a scarlet letter?  Call the Red Cross!  Looking back this was the very moment that I lost control but I didn’t know it yet.  I didn’t know but I would soon find out.

Hoping to regain their attention I said let’s plant a few seeds.  I asked the kids to pair up into small groups and I said very plainly, “We are going to plant one bed at a time with a different group of kids,” and with string and sticks in hand, I took one group off to plant radishes.  Bent over the raised bed, I got a pat on my back and one of the kids said, “I planted these seeds over there,” and he gestured in a non-directional way over his shoulder.  I didn’t see what seed package he was holding because first with my peripheral vision I saw kids running everywhere…from bed to bed…seed packs in their hands…planting seeds all willy-nilly!  There was no more talk of structure, discipline or orderly rows, these kids in their eagerness to get something in the ground had staged their own revolution as if they didn’t hear or care for my order and rules.

The lone boy in the group came up to me and quietly asked if he could plant something too.  He looked like a carrot type of boy so that’s what we started to plant.  I was going to let him plant the seeds until he shyly asked me if there were worms in the raised bed.  I looked him straight in the eyes and told him that there probably were worms in the bed.  His face went from glad to sad in a blink, so I asked him if he was afraid of worms?  Looking down at his feet he nodded his head yes and in one of those “awwwwww” moments, I told him my little secret that I wasn’t too fond of them little critters either.  His face lit up like a neon bulb.  No, he wasn’t alone with his fear.  If a big guy like Mr. Arthur was afraid of those dirty ol’ worms then it must be all right for him not to like them either.

So, just as we started planting the seeds, lo and behold the marines landed.  Not more adult help, but more kids…boys.  I suddenly felt like I had stepped on an ant hill.  Kids were coming at me from everywhere…on all sides.  Some were working but many of them were playing around.  The first group of kids had gotten into the seeds while the second bunch had gotten into the tool bag.  They were ARMED and DANGEROUS!  Mr. Arthur…Mr. Arthur…Mr. Arthur…Mr. Arthur, it was quadraphonic mayhem!  I was getting urgent calls from everywhere!  Can I plant this?  What are these?  I need to wash my hands, my momma doesn’t like for me to get my hands dirty (guess who said that one?).

The playground was spinning…my head was spinning!  Every time I thought I had one area under control, another fire would start some place else.  I couldn’t believe that only 20 minutes had gone by.  I had pits that you wouldn’t believe.  And then suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere I heard a voice, “Alright children it’s time to go  back to the classroom!”  A heavenly voice of authority that wasn’t mine said, “All of my garden club students get in line.  The rest of you go back to your classes”.  I was saved.  Yes, there is a merciful God.  Hallelujah…Hallelujah…Hallelujah, it was over…finally over.  And just like that, like a sea storm, my ocean was calm.  The rebels were children again as they got in line and started to march inside the school.  As they got to the door they all turned back to say, “Thanks Mr. Arthur…we had a wonderful time!”  I believed they did!!!

I was pulling the hose out to water what had been planted (I didn’t know where to start really since nothing was marked) and a little voice spoke up behind me, “Can I wash my hands, I don’t think I will ever get them clean?”  I was so through…put a fork in me…I was done!!!


8 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    maura kaiser said,

    Loved this one!!! All Hail to Anarchy!!!

    Maura C. Ryan-Kaiser

    Vice President

    Cell (313) 680-7431

    Auburn Hills (248) 373-7500

    Livonia (734) 287-2221

    Southfield (248) 352-1300

    Taylor (734) 287-2221

    cid:image001.jpg@01CC7797.932515F0 cid:image002.jpg@01CC7797.932515F0

  2. 3

    Nancy Bowman said,

    Well, I was going to ask…where are all the fellas? I always see all girls… Then there it was…lol…this ought to keep you on your toes Arthur…lol

    I still think its one of the greatest idea ever…and I see that the group keeps getting bigger and bigger.

    Great idea and great job Nolan Elementary Middle School!!!

  3. 4

    98% of the time only girls will show up. The few boys that do show are juggling a couple more activities. We are going to try a little harder next year to get a better mix.

  4. 5

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