On the corner of East Washington and Adobe Road is a pumpkin farm. It’s dormant now, the tall golden grasses grow waist high. The old farm equipment rusts in the spring sunlight and the rows of grapevines start to bud as the weather begins to warm.
In the autumn, the pumpkin farm is abuzz with the sound of children, the sound of life. Acres of pumpkins and rows of flowers ready for the picking will fill the landscape and carloads of children will come looking for the perfect jack-o-lantern. They will come with their mothers and fathers, their teachers and their friends and they will run and jump and skip down the orange rows looking for Halloween treasure.
Across town there are greenhouses filled with the most beautiful of roses. Reds and yellows, pinks and lavenders, their fragrance is intoxicating. Early in the morning, a big white delivery truck heads out to the city to bring the blooms to the flower market. Soon they will fill a Mother’s Day bouquet, decorate a prom corsage or serve to remind someone that they are very, very loved.
The church was filled with hundreds of people. Old and young, teachers and ranchers, doctors and lawyers and many, many school children. I sat next to a friend I hadn’t seen in years. We had been close at one time, had spent hours and evenings and weekends together until what usually happens, happened. They moved away and we got busy. Our kids got older and life got in the way. It had been years.
We chatted in a whisper. Catching up. Remembering. We waited for the funeral mass to begin, a mass neither one of us ever expected to be attending. We talked about baseball as I caught the eye of another friend, a former coach of my son’s. Little league teammates filled the pews. High school classmates filed in. It seemed as though the whole town was there.
Two weeks ago today, Robert Neve passed away. He was a man of the earth, a husband, a father to two great boys and a friend to many, many people. We met when our children were playing baseball together and I liked him instantly. He was honest and direct and a hard, hard worker, a salt of the earth kind of guy. Of course it didn’t hurt that he was Italian. He reminded me of the kind of guys I grew up around, guys who got up before the sun and worked into the evening, guys whose calloused hands and dark brown skin were a testimony to a life well lived. Robert was one of those guys.
He resurrected his father’s rose business and bought a plot of land on the corner of Adobe and Washington where he and his wife grew pumpkins and flowers and, as all good Italians do, made their own wine. It was the place to be in October, the place that people traveled to, a destination spot for a fun fall afternoon.
I drove by the pumpkin farm this afternoon and thought of him. It is asleep now but before long the process will begin again. The tractors will prepare the soil and the planting will be underway. Time does not stand still. There are pumpkins and flowers to grow. Soon the children will come and fill the farm with laughter.
At the nursery, there is much work to do. There are plants to feed and roses to prune. In the early morning hours and under the watchful eye of his wife Corinna, the trucks still head to the flower mart in the city. Before long, they too will bring happiness to many. Life continues.
Robert’s legacy lives on.