By Jim Davis
In my years as a Master Gardener I’ve taken on a few jobs, all of which were not only satisfying but also a real pleasure. There remains a task, however, that I’ve never had, never wanted and would not accept—that of finding teachers or speakers for our meetings or other events. That one is the only one I would decline if asked to serve.
There is more than one reason for my reluctance. Most compelling is my great incompetence at choosing topics. For instance, I have a fascination for wishing wells, those mock wells that folks put in their front yards. I don’t claim that they are pretty, and their relevance to gardening is at best marginal. But there are so many and so many different shapes and sizes, both hand made and store-bought (what store, I wonder). Surely, I tell myself, Master Gardeners would relish a show of my slide collection.
In this same category, I put those front yards covered with do-dads: statuettes, flags, toys (such as wagons or tricycles), perhaps signs (personal or religious), junk sculpture. The list could be much longer. As with wishing wells, please don’t ask me to explain my fascination. Yet—even while knowing better—I’m convinced a room full of Master Gardeners could immediately share my addiction.
But an even more serious problem arises if I were forced to find a speaker. Naturally, the chosen person must be one who would do the job right, who would beforehand have checked out her or his electronic equipment, carefully testing all for focus and good sound. This person must also speak like Demosthenes, or at least have eliminated all “uhs” from the delivery and must use an appropriate transition for each change of direction, not using the word “so,” for instance, between all steps or subjects. Other universal standards of public speaking would also apply. Oh, and sound knowledge of the subject is also somewhat desirable. But where is this person, and how would I find her or him?
An apparently easy solution would be to attend as many gardening talks or classes as one possibly could. That would require frequent trips, far and wide—to Richmond, perhaps, or at best, Roanoke. I’ve attended Master Gardener College a number of times and can’t remember any poor classes or speakers. Ah! You say. A solution! Only, however, if our unit can afford published authors or experts from large universities.
Rely, then, on members of our own unit or persuade faculty from VMI or Washington and Lee. Well, Ok. But who are these talented and willing speakers? And how would I know of their speaking ability? No, I’d be forced to show my fascinating slides of wells or junk. Therefore, look for somebody else—not me—to plan a convenient means of fulfilling our educational requirement.