Remembering a July Evening

I was adopted when Omer and Lois Sperry were 42 and 39 respectively. They’d been married for many years while they both worked at Sul Ross State Teachers College (now Sul Ross University) in Alpine, but they’d been unable to have children.

I was born in San Antonio and spent my first two years in Alpine, but we three moved to College Station when I was 2. Dad had taken a position to co-found the Range and Forestry Department at Texas A&M. My dad was a PhD botanist/range ecologist.

I learned a love of plants from my father. My first garden was alongside him. He brought the tools and the seeds, and I’m sure that he did most of the hard work, but I got to water and I got to harvest. And I took the credit for that clutch of green beans I ran to the house to take to my mom. It was my garden! My dad stood off to the side smiling.

So as I wondered what story I might write for e-gardens this week I came across this photo of something my dad and I made 64 years ago last week.

Click image for larger view.

The story of Neil’s special stepping stone…
If you look closely you’ll see that I scratched the date July 17, 1954, into the wet concrete along with my handprint and the pawprint of my sweet dog Topsy.

That was a Saturday evening, and Dad and I had worked in our garden most of that day. I was ready to water things, and he asked if I’d like to have a stepping stone to go around the faucet out in my garden. He said he happened to have an extra bag of cement and a few pieces of lumber – that he and I could pour it before supper.

Continued Below


So we framed it and poured it and troweled it. I still have that mason’s trowel. I played with that trowel on many a pile of brick sand as I grew up. But I drift off.

Oh, the inset in the chunk of concrete was for the pipe that supported my faucet. Later we used the framing lumber to build a freeze-protector box for the pipe. Dad wasn’t one to waste anything.

So the story is nostalgic enough were I to end it here, but there is another chapter.

Jump ahead 30 years. I was on the air at KRLD in Dallas. I got a call from College Station. I took the call and answered two or three tree questions before I commented, “You’re calling from my hometown.” The lady at the other end of the line replied, “I know. In fact, I believe we live in the house you grew up in.”

I had been answering questions about the trees I had planted.

And jump ahead another few years. Again it was a Saturday. I was walking into KRLD and stepping up into the studio. I looked at my console and let out a gasp. There on my chair, waiting to greet me, was an 80-pound piece of my life. A piece of concrete with an old handprint and pawprint. And a sweet anonymous note saying, “We were moving from your old home to Plano and we knew you would want this.”

My old stepping stone has a prized spot in the Sperry home gardens. And now that we have seven grandkids, I think we’re going to assemble the troops and do this same thing again. Stones for every one of them. I hope they will remember them as fondly as I do this one. You know – you could do the same.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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