Henderson ‘mayor’ Locklar grows something unusual

Published 10:39 pm Friday, May 7, 2010

The car slowed and then did a quick turn in the road that runs through sleepy Henderson in rural Pike County.

Rex Locklar stirred from where he was stretched out on a bench on the porch of the store that is closed for business but opened for loafing.

“Don’t get up,” the man called as he jumped from the car. “Want to get a picture of you just like that.”

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“Reckon what he’s gonna do with that?” Locklar said, a little disappointed that the man didn’t even ask about the upside down tomatoes hanging all across the front of his store, slash, hang out.

But he’s probably the only passerby who hasn’t noticed the tomatoes – at least since Locklar planted flowers in the top of the hanging pot.

“I thought folks would be real interested in the upside-down tomatoes,” he said. “And, they’ll get real interested once they’re ready to pick.”

Locklar saw on television where tomatoes will grow profusely when placed upside-down in a pot and hung “topsy turvy.”

“What you do is punch a hole in the bottom of the pot, stick the tomato plant down through it and put the dirt in on top of the roots,” Locklar said.

“I put in a little horse manure for fertilizer and keep ’em watered and they’ll grow upside down like that. It’s something to see.”

Levin Hughes sat reading a newspaper in the barbershop chair that is a favorite loafing place for those who visit Locklar’s hangout.

“Rex’s is gonna put up a tomato stand right out by the road to sell all the tomatoes he’s gonna grow upside-down,” Hughes said, without looking up from the newspaper.

“He thinks he’ll gather bushels of tomatoes like they show on TV. Ha.”

Undaunted Locklar speculated that his tomatoes will start being ready to pick in about three weeks.

“Fifty days,” he said.

“I planted them about three weeks ago. Three more weeks. Is that fifty days? Dog, if I know.”

And, “dog,” Locklar has caused a lot of folks in and around Henderson to think that he’s either pulling their legs or gone off his rocker, with his latest “claim.”

While stretched out on the bench, just like his daddy used to do, he kept looking at the upside-down tomatoes and thought the pots looked empty and rather plain just hanging there with a baby tomato plant sticking out of the bottom.

So he had an idea.

“My friends that own the store next door have kind of a novelty shop back of where they have the groceries and all,” Locklar said.

“They give me all kinds of artificial flowers — made out of feathers — and, when we have the bluegrass festivals, I take the flowers down to the music park and give ’em to folks to stick around their RVs and I stick some around the old schoolhouse to kind of brighten up the place during the festival. When the festival’s over, I bring the artificial flowers back up here and stick ’em back in the pots to brighten up this place.”

While stretched out on the bench like his daddy used to do, the idea occurred to Locklar to stick artificial flowers in the hanging tomato pots and “kinda brighten them up.”

“I water the tomatoes just about every day and the stems on those artificial flowers are hollow like so, I reckon the water seeped down in those stems and watered the flowers,” Locklar said with a smile.

“But whatever happened, those artificial flowers just busted out and bloomed. Fanned out like everything. Blossomed. Artificial flowers. Blossomed out as pretty as you’ve ever seen. Folks are stopping all along to see tomatoes growing upside down in the pot and artificial flowers blooming in the top. Never seen anything like it.”

Best and Hughes glanced up at the hanging upside-down tomatoes slash blooming feather flowers baskets and without looking at “ol’ Rex,” Best asked, “You see anybody in the paper we know that’s dead?”

Hughes shook his head, no.

A car horn honked.

Locklar stretched back out on the bench to watch the tomatoes grow and the artificial flowers to bloom.

“Not much else to do on a hot day in Henderson,” he said.

“Hughes nodded in agreement.