Shawnee News-Star Blog for May 14th Becky Emerson Carlberg The Shawnee Nikaho sign by the old Cinderella Hotel (close to Shawnee Pho, one of my favorite places), has been liberated.   The board on wood legs had been blown back against the Red-Tipped Photinia (Photinia x fraseri) during one of our little storms.   It was leaning [...]

Shawnee News-Star Blog for May 14th

Red Mulberry at the Japanese Peace Garden

Becky Emerson Carlberg

The Shawnee Nikaho sign by the old Cinderella Hotel (close to Shawnee Pho, one of my favorite places), has been liberated.   The board on wood legs had been blown back against the Red-Tipped Photinia (Photinia x fraseri) during one of our little storms.   It was leaning back as if it had just finished a heavy Thanksgiving meal. The Photinia actually kept it from going all the way to the ground.    Last week the sign was re-positioned and cemented.   Since the protective Photinia was covering over half the letters, it needed a trim. This Tuesday morning, Tom Terry cut several of the masking branches and I finished the job.   Tom amazes me.   He's seen many more years on this earth than I have, and is strong as an ox.   He remarked he just doesn't have the energy he used to have.   What was he like in his heyday?   Thinking ahead, he had previously filled 6 gallon-sized milk cartons with water to accompany the many flats of Liriope muscari, both green and variegated, he brought.   I whipped out my woodzig to work on the Photinia, Tom raked away the soil and mulch, I sawed, he dug holes, I sawed, he moved the one surviving Nandina and two chrysanthemums to the other side of the bed, I sawed and he began planting the Liriope (Monkey Grass, Lily Turf or Border Grass pick your favorite common name.)

The complex of branches fought hard, my woodzig was dull or I sawed slowly.   Tom and I finished planting the Liriope.   Two more rotting Photinia trunks just below soil surface were discovered.   There must have been three Photinias sometime in the past as well as a succession of other plants that have struggled to survive in this bed.   The one remaining Photinia must be tough as nails. The mulch was raked around the sacrificial grasses and Tom swept off the landscape timbers that surrounded the bed.   The Photinia branches were cut into bagable -sized pieces that were put into two large black plastic sacks and stuffed into the back of Tom's white station wagon.

Welcome Sign, Before

I walked over to admire the nearby red mulberry tree covered in fruit.   It is a small multi-branched tree not eight feet tall.   One bite led to another as the berries practically fell into my cupped palm.   A chirp chirp chirp issued from the middle of the small tree. I looked around and located the young upset mockingbird.   The little guy was just getting its wing and tail feathers.   The fledgling did not know what was going on except I was eating its fruit and standing way too close.

Red mulberries got my housemate and me into great trouble one summer session at OSU. Four of us rented a house off campus and, as luck would have it, everyone had taken summer classes.   Two of us hatched this brilliant idea of making wine.   Here was this enormous red mulberry tree growing right next to our house loaded with fruit soon to be ripe.   Next time June was able to go home (near Honobia in southern LeFlore County), she returned with a stoneware crock.   When the fruit was at its peak, we picked and picked until the crock was fairly full.   Going by the instructions given to her by her grandma, we added the sugar and placed the crock high up in the kitchen cabinet over the white porcelain sink. Yes, white sink.   Purple berries.

Welcome Sign, After

One warm afternoon I walked into the house and my nostrils were hit with the smell of fermenting berries. The entire house smelled like a winery.  Suddenly I heard a shriek from the kitchen.   Get in here quick June yelled.   We both stood side by side and stared at the purple liquid dripping out of the cabinet into the sink that used to be white.   Oh no.   We'll lose our deposit.   It was at that point we heard voices.   Kay, the home economics major who shared the house with us, had just come home with friends.   Even better, it was her preacher and his wife.

We turned to see Kay's head poking through the kitchen door and wildly gestured for her to go back into the front room.   Pulling up a chair, I climbed up and stood level with the cabinet.   The frothy thick ooze was spilling out of the crock.   A huge puddle had formed on the shelf.   It was following the path of least resistance by channeling itself through a small gap.   Drop by drop the deep lavender fluid was landing directly on the side of the sink and sliding down into the drain.  I gingerly handed the slick crock down to my friend who washed off the sides and took it to the back porch.   The shelf was wiped and cleaned.   My hands were vivid purple.   The sink was amazing.  It was scoured with soap and water, alcohol, ammonia, comet and bleach.   The basin was a work of art, with blue, red and purple patches. As the porcelain was scrubbed, the finish came off leaving rough dull gray areas.

While we contemplated our dilemma, Kay burst back into the kitchen demanding an explanation.   She was so embarrassed.   The stench was overwhelming and she just knew her preacher thought she was some kind of bootlegger or alcoholic. He and his wife had hurriedly departed, saying they'd see her in church.   At this point our other housemate Lisa entered the scene.   Is this the part where I say if it wasn't for Lisa, we would have had no television, radio, music system and probably food.   Her family held lovely parties outside Bokoshe and she often brought back leftovers.   Classier than the deer meat with buckshot June would bring from home or the cans of corned beef hash I contributed to be fried and eaten on bread as sandwiches.   Lisa was the only one with a car. After she threw her hissy fit, June and I promised we'd take care of things.

We did.   Just before our rental contract ended, the house and premises were inspected by Mrs. Sid the landlady.   The best idea the two of us came up with was to paint the sink with white acrylic paint then spray it with glossy clear acrylic fixative.   The sink looked so shiny and white. No one was to use it; go to the bathroom sink. We got our deposit back and cashed it as fast as we could.