FORTIFIED AND TRUE: The true tale of Gillis’ fortified garden

Published 3:00 am Saturday, August 29, 2015

Gillis Hutchinson, center, stands with his granddaughter, Emily, and grandson, Trevor Bryan, in the ‘fortified’ garden that Gillis concocted to stop four-legged thieves from ravaging his fields. MESSENGER PHOTO/JAINE TREADWELL

Gillis Hutchinson, center, stands with his granddaughter, Emily, and grandson, Trevor Bryan, in the ‘fortified’ garden that Gillis concocted to stop four-legged thieves from ravaging his fields.

Gillis Hutchinson had worked too long and too hard planting and tending his garden to let a bunch of four-legged thieves come in the night and rob him blind.

Never mind that the summer harvest season is coming to an end. Hutchinson still has several varieties of tomatoes that are proudly producing and enough cherry tomatoes to fill a 50-gallon drum many times over. The purple hull peas are coming on.

Folks are locking their car doors at church to keep Hutchinson from loading their vehicles with squash. The eggplants glisten a royal purple and the beans are green and growing. There are enough watermelons in the patch to sink a battleship so, no, Hutchinson was not about to let the thieves raid his garden.

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But no matter how high the fence or how much human hair was scattered around, the thieves were not deterred.

But, Hutchinson recently retired from Wiley Sanders Truck Lines where he drove for 36 years. He logged more than three million miles on one truck. He drove it for 18 years and would have no part of a new truck. “Ol’ Number 67 was all right with me.”

Being on the roads all those long years, Hutchinson knew how to sit and mull over situations. And, being an octogenarian, he had rich life experiences to tap into.

That’s how Hutchinson came up with a way to keep four-legged thieves out of his garden.

He’s not sure if the deer stay away from his garden because they are scared away or, if they just stand there and gawk like some who have visited his fortified garden.

Hutchinson, laughed, as he led the way into the fortified garden. It was near dusk and the cloud cover made the afternoon seem later than it was.

“It took a lot of doing to keep the deer away and we still see one every now and then but I got the best of them,” he said. “Watch out for snakes. We can’t keep the snakes out.”

At first glance the garden looks like the remnants of an auto junk yard. A aging tractor over here and a multi-colored truck over there, another rusty, trusty back there and a bent and dented trailer around the bend.

Down around the tomato patch, a patio umbrella flaps and flops in the breeze from atop a lop-sided table. The racket alone would be unnerving in the night.

All around the perimeter of the huge vegetable garden are scarecrows that billow in the breeze.

“Don’t look too scary do they?” Hutchinson said. “Just wait. They will.”

He gave directions to his grandson, Trevor Bryan to, first, bring him the matches and then go pick the watermelons that were ready for harvest. “You can’t walk though the patch without stepping on one. “And check your camera while you’re out there.”

Trevor’s camera is set to catch on film any thieves that attempt to raid the watermelon patch and, so far, the images are of deer caught in the “headlights.”

Hutchinson walked through the garden like a man on the mission he was.

“The scarecrows will keep the deer away during the day but at night, the deer don’t even notice them, not even with the white shirts on them. So, we put the Tiki lights on the scarecrows thinking the flames would keep the deer away and it worked.”

Hutchinson struck a match and the Tiki light caught fire – one and then another. Torches in the night.

Trevor said he and his granddad use diesel fuel rather than lamp oil because the smell of the burning diesel fuel keeps the deer away – “and it’s cheaper than lamp oil.”

Dark caught Hutchinson and his grandson in the garden and the atmosphere was eerie. The Tiki lights flickered and illuminated the scarecrows. The smell of diesel fuel permeated the air. The patio umbrella flapped as the summer wind began to blow. The sage grass scratched against the old rusty truck.

And, one last thing. Hutchinson had forgotten to turn on the radio in the old pickup truck. “Deer don’t like country music when it blares in their ears.’

Hutchinson and his grandchildren, Trevor and Emily who had come up, walked down the dusty road home. But before they called it a night, Hutchinson checked his orange and lemon trees.

“We can pick them in about two weeks,” he said. “You won’t ever eat any better oranges and lemons. I can grow just about anything – as long as I can keep the thieves away.”

Up in the fortified garden, the Tiki lights burned; an owl hooted; and a radio played. The deer were nowhere around.

Hutchinson could rest assured knowing his garden was well fortified.

Editor’s Note: If you’ve eaten the squash casserole, fried eggplant, fried green tomatoes or fresh peas or bought a $2 watermelon at Sisters Restaurant, read on. There’s a better than good chance it all came from Gillis’ Fortified Garden.