Rick's Space: The Big Blow in ’Gansett

Potatoes Of Wrath

I know what it’s like to work the land.

It’s hard work, but it’s honest. Bring the crop home and put food on the table for the family. Maybe hide away a $20 bill behind the stove. Have a little extra for our son, Tiny Tim.

He was always smaller than the others. Come to think of it, that’s why we called him “Tiny.”

Me and the Missus always wanted a kid. I remember the first time we met at the county fair up yonder by the twin forks. I said, “Do you want a kid some day?” and she said “Yeah, a tiny one.” She had me at “tiny” ‘cause I like my kids tiny, so as they don’t eat much at dinner.

I asked her name. “I’m Rose of Shannon,” she said. “Rose. I love that name,” I said.

“No, It’s Rose of Shannon.”

“Hi, I’m Tom of Joad.”

We come to Amagansett, The Promised Land, hear tell they grew taters the size of log cabins and tomatoes as big as pumpkins. We did all right the first couple years, and with the promise of a new crop coming — Mary of Juana — there was cause for real optimism. “Can I get a new cane?” asked the tiniest of Tims. “Maybe after the harvest,” I told the little fellow. “Can I get a new name?” asked Rose of Shannon. I just smiled.

That winter though, Mother Nature reared her ugly head. It was windy, and dry, and the crops reached for a drop of moisture until they could reach no more, then drooped down to the earth like a sinner before the feet of Our Lord.

The potatoes turned ashen. The Big Blow covered everything with dust. Acres of spuds lay there, deader than Alec Baldwin’s career.

It wasn’t only the farmers; all the folks suffered. The pizza store offered two free toppings: dust and top soil. The Talkhouse had two-for-one mudslides. There was talk of a benefit. Tiny Tim was getting so frail he had trouble complaining.

But we weren’t local. We weren’t Bubbies. We weren’t the Finest Kinds. We wasn’t Bonackers. They tried to put a benefit together.

When it came time for the benefit concert, most of the locals didn’t show. The Nancy Atlas cover band, Nancy Atlas Shrugged, played Ayn Rand’s greatest hits.

As soon as the weather breaks, I’m gonna pack up the Nash and head back out to God’s country, trying to keep my head held high, trying to forget the storm of dirt that lashed me until I buckled to the ground and couldn’t get up no more. We hummed a song for better times:

This land is your land
This land is your land
From south of the highway
To the oceanfront mansions
This land is your land
Because our land
has dirt covering all of it.

But there was one empty seat in the old Nash, one hole that will never be filled. You see, Tiny, little Tiny Tim — did I mention we named him Tiny because he was like, really small?

Well, Tiny took a walk out in the dust bowl one morning to look for something to eat, but the cruel powers that be failed to tell the populace that the night before had brought vicious winds, an unrelenting wave of the evil dust that found its way into every crevice, even the ones Preacher Brown don’t talk about during his sermon.

Tiny Tim lost his footing. He just laid there near the curb, hoping the town highway department workers would save him. But they stopped emptying the public garbage bins on Main Street years ago. No one saw him there.

Naw, I’m kidding. We got him on the way out for town and threw him in the back. He was a little wet from the street cleaner, but he’ll thaw out. Hell, there ain’t much of him to dry off.

We had to leave Rose Of Shannon behind, though. I told her she needed to pick one name to go by, ‘cause it confused the hell out of folks here in ’Gansett. I personally like “Of” the best, but that’s just me.

rmurphy@indyeastend.com