Mr. Peterman’s Garden

Matt. 13:24-43

Mr. Peterman had the most lush garden I have ever seen. His corn was always “knee high by the fourth of July,” and his tomatoes were “Big Boys.” Often he sent over corn or squash by way of his son, Donald, with whom I sometimes played. There were other boys in the neighborhood. Freddy Johnson lived down on Elm Street with his cousin, Willie, and the Lawson boys lived across from Freddy. I didn’t like to play with Freddy too much, because he argued and was always up to mischief. Still, when things got dull during the summer of l949, Freddy was better than no one. One day Freddy asked me if I knew of any gardens where he and his friends could look around. I told him my father had one, but the best one was Mr. Peterman’s. Then I went off to scout camp and forgot about our conversation.

When I returned, there was Donald, dejected and forlorn, at my back door. He told me that one night some boys had trashed his father’s garden. They had trampled the corn and beans, smashed the squash, and tossed the tomatoes. Did I have any idea who did it? I didn’t, and I wondered what Mr. Peterman would do. Donald said that his father was going to leave most of the stuff alone until the harvest and then clear out the waste. Mr. Peterman had decided not to spend time trying to find out who the vandals were. He thought that bad kids eventually ended up getting caught for some misdeed. Later I discovered that Freddy and his friends were the culprits. I did not report them to Mr. Peterman, for I figured there would be too many denials and evasions. So I simply stayed away from Freddy. Occasionally people would say that Freddy had a bit of the old Nick in him. I thought he was just plain destructive. In the fall my family moved to Connecticut. I never heard any more about Freddy and Willie. I didn’t miss them, either.

Today some would probably call Freddy misunderstood, the child of a dysfunctional family, or morally challenged. Others might ask why Mr. Peterman needed so large a garden. Why didn’t he put up a fence to protect his investment of money, time, and labor? Some others might argue that the town had failed to provide adequate police patrols or a teenage drop-in center. Jesus told a similar story in His parable of the wheat and tares (weeds). There was a field where good seed was sown. One night the enemy came and sowed weeds. Among other things the parable makes these points: l) Sometimes there is good and bad. All things are not relative. 2) Evil really exists. 3) Final judgment belongs to God. There is ultimate truth and a purposeful reckoning. Amen.