I once had a real job. Mr Putman at a Doylestown company hired me when I had just gotten married many years ago, I think it's about 28 or 29 years back, and while there I must say I learned from him one of the most important lessons in life. Try always to say yes, you can always say no, but you can't always say yes.

Why We Say Yes!

As you might know, I love to barter. Not because it is profitable, but because it is fun and money is really worthless, it goes down in value every day. One day a customer of mine who was about the same age as me, fiftyish, came up to me and offered me a deal. He wanted about ten 6 foot white pine trees and needed us to plant them. He wanted me to hire his father to work off the cost of the trees and the planting for his labor. He really wanted a job to keep his father busy. Without hesitation, thinking of Mr. Putman, I blurted out, "Yes". I had that uncomfortable feeling you get when you suspect that you just succeeded in opening Pandora's Box. His father slowly, and I mean slowly, got out of a car and over a period of 2 minutes set up his walker. He was about 85 years old and had just recovered from breaking his back after climbing up a tree and falling. He could not stand up long and announced that he needed to sit down a lot. Along with the walker, he had a cane and when he talked he kept pointing with the cane and using it as an extension of his hand to help him communicate. He was a little hard of hearing so we had to speak slowing and clearly to him. He had a heavy Hungarian accent. I thought, well, at least he ain't blind, Mr Putman I hope you're proud of me saying Yes.

I asked the old man, Mr. Horvath, what kind of work he used to do. To my surprise he said he had a Ph.D. in horticulture and had been the head of the Horticulture Department at a University in Illinois. I knew immediately that here was a real source of knowledge. Boy, was this something we could use around here. I had an immediate idea on how to use Dr. Horvath. I said to him, "How about teaching my boys a hands on course in plant propagation this summer?" My son Jamie was just 16, and Mike and our neighbor Paul (who has been with us since he was in kindergarten) were 13 and could really benefit from lessons from someone other than me. Besides, Dr. Horvath has far greater and deeper knowledge than I will ever hope to have. So that was the beginning of one of my best trades. The boys set up a school on the farm. They converted a greenhouse into a classroom. Only there were no blackboards. Instead they put in plant propagation tables. Dr Horvath supervised the boys from his chair and told them what he needed in the way of tables and benches. He had them obtain vermiculite, perlite, sand, peat moss and other media for growing plants. His ideas were simple and he proceed to show the boys how to make rooted cuttings. Dr. Horvath had them test growing rooted cuttings in various blends of media using different types of plants. This way, each day, the boys could see how media affected plant growth using the scientific method of comparing one media vs. another in a side by side study. Each day during the summer, for 6 hours a day the boys were at school with Dr. Horvath. When the boys would go to lunch, Dr. Horvath would go with them. A trip to McDonald's can be a lesson in horticulture. As they would slowly go in Dr. Horvath would tell them about the nursery stock at McDonald's. Of course it was not all education, Dr. Horvath knew how to keep up their interest. They would take time to go fishing at our pond and while there Dr. Horvath would tell them about propagation of aquatic plants and wetland plants while fishing. Can you imagine, going fishing is actually a way to teach the kids about plants? I will always remember the crew cab pickup truck going down our farm lane with 3 shotguns and a cane sticking out the windows and Doc Horvath telling them about rabbit and rodent controls in a nursery. By the end of the summer my boys would do anything for Dr. Horvath. He was like a grandfather to them. The course was a success, not just because the boys learned about plants, but because they learned to love learning. They knew that colleges would have more Dr. Horvaths. Wow, thank you Mr. Putman, I am glad I said ...Yes.