by Don Urbanus
“I just love your nursery,” she said as she gathered up her bag and
took the receipt. “I tell all my friends about this place.”
“Thank you. We appreciate that.” I smiled as I opened
the door for her. It was a busy Saturday. Sales were good. People were friendly.
The sun was shining.
Judy handed me the phone. “It’s for you. Something about the CIA. I don’t know.
It’s probably some crank call.”
“Oh, boy,” I muttered. It was most likely some salesman
or someone wanting money for something. I took the phone. “Hello?”
“Mr. Don Urbanus?” a gravely voice asked.
“Mr. Don Urbanus? Owner of Rising Sun Nursery? You live
at ………….” and he asked many personal questions, questions no regular person
“Who is this?” I demanded.
“CIA. Just doing a background check. Would you consider
yourself an expert on plants growing in tough hard rocky soil?”
His switch in questions caught me off guard. “Well, I
don’t know about an expert, but we certainly have hard rocky soil in Calaveras
County. At the nursery, we call our rocks ‘Burson Potatoes’. We try to carry
plants that grow well here but they have to be real tough to survive in some of
these soils, if you can call them that. I guess, if you can grow them here you
can grow them anywhere.” With that, the phone clicked dead. No goodbye. Nothing.
The crazy people that call a nursery……
A minute later the phone rang again.
I picked it up. "Rising Sun Nursery.”
“Is this Mr. Don Urbanus?’ asked a soft southern
Not another one……... “Yes,” I answered reluctantly.
“Hold on, sir. It’s the President of the United
“What? Who did you……” The phone clicked and another
voice came on.
“Hello, Don? This is the President. Your country needs
you. Can I count on your help?”
“Um, sure. I guess so.” I thought I’d play along with
the joke. This probably had something to do with my friend, Chris, who lives in
“To be blunt, Don, we’re going to colonize Mars. We
need people like you who can advise and supply the government with plants that
will be able to grow in those harsh Martian conditions. What I need from you is
a list of plants that can grow in tough rocky soil. Are you onboard?”
“There is practically no atmosphere on Mars, Mr.
President. Plants need air,” I answered dryly.
“Plants need air? Are you sure? I thought they gave off
oxygen! I’m going to have to look into this. Maybe our intelligence is faulty
“Besides,” I continued, “Why ask me? There’s a whole
list of plants that can grow on Mars. It’s all in the front of the Western
Garden Book under Zones.”
“Really? What zone would they grow in?” asked the
“The Twilight Zone, of course.” With that I hung up the phone. That darn Chris.
I now find that the climate in Guantanemo Bay, Cuba is
really excellent. The food isn’t too bad, considering. I could grow all kinds of
houseplants down here if they would let me have anything like that in this cell.
Oh, well. It could be worse. At least I don’t have to take any more crazy phone