High In The Valley
by Jeannie Stevens, August 3, 2016
Down in the valley, the Valley so low
Point your buds up, girls, let your buds grow
Let your buds grow, girls, let your buds grow
Down in the valley, let your buds grow.
Jeb was singing to us again — not much of a voice, but sincere — and we liked it. He would come to visit us every morning, sometimes with his partner whose voice was about like his. How we wished for a stereo out there. We would have really enjoyed James Taylor on those hot afternoons.
I grew up in Weed Valley — like my mother and father before me. My dad pulled up and left my mom before I was born. Rumor has it that our family line originally came from Trinity County. Matter of fact, we were rudely known as Trinity skunks. With interbreeding, we are now known as Mendo Blendo. That's a little bit more flattering in my opinion.
Anyway, all of us in this garden got picked out of our nursery by Jeb last May. He gave us a new home in this beautiful valley — nourished and loved us, and gave us each a name. I'm Mary Jane, and I lived right by the fence. Next to me were Betty, then Daisy and Edna. That's as far as I could hear their voices so I didn't know the rest in my row. My best friend was right in front of me — that was Katie. She was a lot smaller than the rest of us — and I overheard Jed telling his partner that they should get rid of her and get a new girl. I think she overheard it too and tried real hard to grow more.
Next to her was Lola. Boy was she stuck up. She got fussed over more than any of us. They put their faces right up to her and breathed heavy and whispered sweet nothings to her. We didn't know what made her more special than the rest of us. She told us that her family line had Royal Hawaiian blood. La di dah. Guess in Hawaii, fat is better, and she was getting pretty fat around her budding parts, if you know what I mean.
Then there were three identical triplets right behind me — Clara, Cora, and Claudia Clooney. They really thought they knew everything — saying such things as "been there, done that," when we were all talking about the new buds we were developing. They claimed that they learned everything by instinct from their mother. I don't think so — they were just babies like the rest of us when we came here.
One day in June, Jeb came into the garden with two buckets of green stuff that he started to spread around us. The Clooney sisters told us that this was a new diet that we had to be on now that we were maturing. They said it was just like Jeb eating his spinach to grow up strong like Popeye the Sailor Man. And Jeb was strong and he worked very hard every day feeding us and giving us water through big plastic straws that he had to connect to another big plastic tube. He hoed around us and kept us neat and pretty.
Around July, we were all wondering what was going on with Edna. In an odd husky voice she asked us to start calling her Ed for short. She secretly showed us her new round little growth in her private parts. We wondered if he was developing faster than the rest of us. One day Jeb noticed it on her and swore at her like a drunken sailor which I'm sure isn't what Popeye the Sailor Man would have done. He called for Hermie, instead of Ed or Edna. And he went crazy and yanked Edna the right out of the ground and took her away. We all kept close watch on ourselves for those little ball-like things — we didn't want to be yanked up so cruelly.
In August Katie got a little growing spurt. I think she sweet talked Jeb into giving her extra kelp, or banana extract, or maybe even some of the spinach. It made me really happy because I was dreading them taking her away. The days were getting real hot and we drank a lot and sort of dozed in the middle of the day. Sometimes we woke up with a start because a very large noisy dragonfly with a stranger whirlybird hat would fly right over us.
That was very upsetting. One flew solo over the garden one day that Jeb got upset at it and started his drunken sailor routine again. He started to talk into a little thing he kept on his belt that had a ring to it every now and then. And then he took off and stayed away for a day and we worried about him. So August wasn't a great month except for Katie and I having great discussions about the purpose of life and all that stuff.
In September we got a diet change and we all started to get fatter, especially in our buds. We were getting a lot more attention — like Lola used to get. Our arms were spread out so that we got more sunshine inside our bodies and the Clooney sisters told us that we needn't worry about not having sunscreen because Jeb would like us to get tan. So far no one else develop the things Edna did, but Jeb poked around a lot just to make sure of that. He kept us spiffed and neat with our pretty green outfits except for Katie who had suddenly donned a beautiful purple get-up and really stood out from the rest of us. Jeb was real happy he had not taken her away last May.
The days started to get cooler, thank goodness. Those big dragonflies didn't let up with their disturbing flyovers though. We were all getting bigger and needed some support here and there to keep us from getting top-heavy. And with our growing up we got some fancy jewelry — blue crystal beads that glistened in the sunshine. Katie and I continued try to figure out the meaning of life and we talked long into the night. Those nights, my goodness — so many stars and the full moon in September was the most gorgeous we had ever seen. We were never left alone much anymore. Maybe Jeb decided to watch the stars at night too because he put up a tent and stayed out there with us. Sometimes he and his partner would sit around and play the guitar which we liked. They walked around us a lot and felt our buds. Lola told us that was just the way men were and to let them get their kicks. They kept saying things like, "It's time," or "Let's wait another day," or, "Gosh, I just don't know." Even the Clooneys didn't know what to make of what they were saying. It was a few weeks after that full moon that Katie and I were to be parted forever. As we were pulled from our girlhood homes we said our fond farewells and reassured each other that this was just a new phase of our life. We knew somehow that we had more purpose in life than to just grow and enjoy the sunshine.
I was hung upside down next to Daisy in a dark building — not what I was hoping for the next chapter of my life. We really couldn't communicate anymore but I'm sure the other girls had feelings just as I did. I was it was a time of quiet reflection and we wondered what would come next. I missed the sun, the stars and especially Katie. We all dozed off into deep sleeps that at least were not interrupted by dragonflies.
What came next was even more disturbing than that dark place. We were separated and each stuck in a large bag and stuffed into a garbage can of all things — what a disgrace! Those were the darkest hours of my life — so lonely, so fearful that this was all that there was left. I got all dried out and flaky. I was thinking how poor Lola must have felt at her circumstances now since all she cared about was her looks. And I wondered if the Clooney triplets had known that this was going to happen.
One day in October I was shaken out of my garbage can on to a table in a cozy little cabin. Music was playing and women were laughing. They picked me up tenderly and snipped away at all the dried needless parts of me. I didn't even mind all the cutting because they were so happy that it kind of rubbed off on me and made me happy too. I know that I must have rubbed off on them some, too, because they said I made them giddy and giggly. They talked with each other a lot like Katie and I used to talk about life and about trips they wanted to take and places they had been.
Sometimes one would comment about one of my largest buds she was trimming. The others would tease her then about high-grading which I took to be something you shouldn't do but like to do it anyway.
At the end of the day I had changed from what I had been as one into thousands of me! It was like a star exploding creating a million other stars. Katie and I never even imagined this in our wonderings of life's pupose. I hoped, after our long dark, period that she was being treated as good as I was with lots of care and fun. I only spent that one day with those women and what followed was more days in bags. But this time they were see-through bags at least. I got passed along to a few different people. Part of me went down to San Francisco which I had heard about from those women in the cabin.
They were right — what a beautiful city. There I was among nicely dressed people who were drinking Pinot Noir and talking about how to decorate their apartments. One of them had a friend with HIV. I guess I helped that guy out a lot and he was very grateful to his friends for sharing me.
Another part of me went to Santa Cruz with a bunch of college kids who surfed and drink beer on the beach.
I was most proud of helping a wonderful lady in Ukiah feel better after her chemotherapy treatment. Cancer must be something that people get kind of like we get mold.
There was also a guy in Fort Bragg who had glaucoma from Agent Orange in Vietnam. I am so there for our vets!
Most of me stayed right in Weed Valley. I came to love those folks. They cared about each other and came together in the evening for fun and fellowship. I was a big part of their happiness which they called getting high. I personally felt like I was getting high too — floating up in a puffy cloud and going beyond the life I had known.