Memories of my expensive landscaper

I met him two summers ago when he came over to take a look at a flower bed I needed something done with.  He was a landscaper with a glowing recommendation from my dad, for whom he had performed several jobs.  My dad rarely glows about anybody, and soon there was no doubt that this 130-pound hard worker knew his stuff. 

He expanded the flower bed and fed the plants something they obviously liked.  It wasn’t long before the level of color and growth in that circular bed was pretty close to overwhelming.  I guess it shouldn’t have been a surprise – he was beyond meticulous in his work; everything he did was done as if it were the singular most important job a landscaper ever tackled.  He threw passion into every move. 

I loved watching him work.  He was so in tune with the outdoors, so in touch with everything he laid his hands on.  This is a man who’s found his calling, I thought.  He may not be the richest, he may not be the most popular, but he certainly may be the most content and properly placed in his vocation. 

And as far as I knew, he may have been the most expensive.  The day he finished with the flower bed, I did a double-take at his invoice.  But I paid it, recalling my dad’s glow about the guy and the care he put into his work.  I decided to be happy that I got a good job and was able to pay a good price for it.

Not too long after that, I called him back to address what I considered a growth problem with 17 crepe myrtles in my back yard.  There was (and still is) an 18th back there, but it had no problem growing: it towered over the other, younger bushes.  But I needed the little ones to grow up fast, because their job was going to be preventing the sun’s late-afternoon fire from roasting my house like a potato.

“He’s a wise old man,” he said one day as we stood out back, roasting, as we looked at the large crepe myrtle.  “He’s got it all figured out.  He’s doing what he knows to do.”  By this, I assumed he meant blossoming and doing its part to help keep the sun off my house.

The landscaper’s feeding, nurturing and careful trimming paid off: the 17 kids began coming into their own, showing the “wise old man” that they, too, were destined to fulfill their role as summer sun-blockers.  Today the kids are five to ten feet higher and full of robust COLOR blossoms.  They’re still not as big as the old man, though.  Maybe, like some of us, they don’t have it all figured out yet.

We kind of lost touch after that.  I began doing a lot of my own yard work – not because I’m cheap, but because I try to be watchful over my spending.  Truth is, I barely gave him another thought until last week.  That’s when the TV news said he and his 10-month old baby boy were found dead in the Ouachita Mountains.  His wife is suspected of killing them.  She told police that she and her husband were using methamphetamine around the time of the deaths.

I’m glad I didn’t know this about him – assuming he was abusing the substance back when he worked for me.  All I knew about him was that he loved his work, enjoyed being outdoors and had a knack for making things grow and come to life.  I respected the man.

Everybody in Fort Smith reading this surely knows about the tragedy, so I don’t need to comment any further on it.  All I’ll say is how sad it is that some people gladly serve as caring curators of life in the world of Nature only to have their own lives snuffed out far too soon.

RIP Brian Floyd and son Harper.