Confessions Of A Guerilla Gardener

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic
Or, Flowerbombing For Dummies.

Submitted: September 11, 2015

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Submitted: September 11, 2015

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Guerilla gardening is nothing new, and it is not restricted to any particular continent.  Today, you will find it in Africa, in the form of illegal cocoa farms hidden in the forests.  Much the same in South America with coffee.  The number one cash crop in America is marijuana, grown in national parks and basements everywhere.

Most guerillas are in it for the money.  We are on the wrong side of the law for bees and butterflies. 

We grow Sulfur Cosmos, Pheasant’s Ear, and Marigold.  On other people’s property, without their permission.  Drives creatures with four to six legs crazy.  Insects can’t get enough when the plants are in bloom.  Drives two-legged creatures a different kind of crazy, when we flowerbomb the landscaping on their property.

We are equal opportunity guerillas.  We bomb residences, businesses, churches, strip clubs, and the post office.  If there is bare soil, we will bomb it.

It started off innocently enough, a few years ago, in my backyard.  The assorted wildflower mix turned out real nice.  The flying insects constantly buzzed from one bloom to the next in search of nectar.  I saved seeds and planted all over the yard the next year.  

That was when my bandmates got interested.  John plays lead guitar, Sammy is the drummer, and Cameron plays bass.  I play rhythm guitar and sing.  We practice in my garage.  Our band is called Bangersprayz.  The name has nothing to do with drugs, sex, or rock and roll.  It refers to how we play golf.  Before we were a band, we were a foursome on the golf course.  We banged it and sprayed it everywhere, eighteen holes at a time.

My Bangersprayz mates were mesmerized by the buzzing, flying insects.  Sammy brought over his video equipment and got some awesome footage.  Bees are amazing when viewed in slow motion.  Sammy claims the movement of their wings inspired him to a new understanding of rhythm with his drumming.

I divided the seeds into four packets.  The next year there was a competition between the band members.  My yard kicked their yard’s asses.  But we all had bees and butterflies.  The following year things started to get out of hand.

The combination of Sammy and alcohol always leads to trouble.  When he dared me to plant wildflowers at the McDonalds, without their permission, it was downhill from there.

Making a flower bomb is easy.  It is nothing but soil and seed.  You want good soil that is sticky enough to form a clump.  A little clay is good, and some organic matter.  Always plant in a spot that will get a lot of sun.  And where it will get watered, unless you live somewhere that gets enough rain.

By July, every Mickey D’s in north Alabama had been flowerbombed.  Most sprouted, not all survived.  The landscaping crews pulled out some.  But left many.  Perhaps they liked the flowers, or thought they were supposed to be there.  All summer long, children were able to appreciate the wildlife buzzing around the blooms, as they slid on the PlayPlace slides, and chowed down on their Happy Meals.

From then on, it was a team effort.  Just like the band, everyone played a part.  We became well organized, high tech guerilla gardeners.  I am the planter, the easiest job on the team.  I don’t make any decisions, I only do what I am told, through my earphone.  Either Go or Quit.

Sammy is the technology guy.  He knows how to focus a laser on a video camera so it has a brief whiteout.  It takes a moment for the aperture to narrow.  Then it has to dilate when he turns the laser off.  That only disturbs the image for a moment, but if timed properly it is enough for me to do my thing. 

John is always positioned ahead of where I will be planting, so I can see him as I approach the target.  If the cell phone fails, or someone starts a jackhammer, he can give me hand signals.  John is the decider.  He is the one who tells me to Go or Quit.

Cameron is the lookout and is responsible for seeing everything.  He and John talk constantly while the mission is in progress.  Sammy does the same when he is not jamming cameras.

I do nothing but walk toward the target, and wait for the word from John.  If he says Go, I’ll wrap my fist around the clump of dirt in my pocket and get ready.  Sometimes it is an elevated planter.  We have them all over downtown.  I pause for a moment, rest my hands on the edge of the planter, and unless anyone is looking directly at me, they will not notice my hand pressing the bomb into the planter.

When I am planting something at ground level, my shoe needs to be tied.  No one pays attention to a guy tying his shoe.  It is easy for me.  I trust my mates to have my back.  We are a team.

It doesn’t do any good to flowerbomb if there isn’t enough water. That is why businesses and government buildings are tempting targets.  Most have automated irrigation systems.  We plant, they sprinkle.

We faced a different kind of challenge when we took on the vacant lot downtown.  Some bank was going to build a fancy office building, so they tore down the old structures and began digging the foundation.  Then the financial meltdown of 2007 happened.  The bank went under.  The new owners did nothing but put a chain link fence around the perimeter.  It has sat like that since.  We knew we were the right team to handle that eyesore.

In the war room we ruled out the direct approach.  Scaling an eight foot fence is no big deal.  But it is not possible in the middle of downtown without being noticed.  It is a large lot.  We were thinking about two hundred bombs.

So we went medieval.  We built a miniature trebuchet and mounted it in the back of Sammy’s van. 

In 2015, if you want to punch a hole in your enemy’s castle, you can use a cruise missile or a 2000 pound bomb.  In the old days, you would use a trebuchet.  A type of catapult.  Think of a seesaw on a playground.  If you push down hard enough and fast enough on one side, whatever is on the other side would get launched into the air.A full sized trebuchet can throw heavy projectiles a long way.  No castle wall, no matter how thick, can stand up to repeated blows from 350 pound rocks.  The devices could hurl their deadly payload from well outside the range of any castle’s strongest archer.

We didn’t need a very big trebuchet to toss a clump of dirt over a fence.  The bombs exited Sammy’s white 1996 GMC Savana 3500 through the moonroof we installed.  He had bought the van to haul band equipment.  It had enough room for speakers, amplifiers, the mixer, and his drums.  When we stashed the equipment in my garage, there was plenty of room for me, a bucket of dirt clods, and a trebuchet.

Half of the painters and plumbers in town drove similar vans.  No one would notice Sammy’s when it made a couple of trips each day past the shuttered construction site.  Sammy and I carpooled.  We made runs before and after work.  Similar to our previous strategy, John drove ahead to make sure there were no pedestrians or others close enough to notice what we were doing.  Cameron kept an eye on things on foot.

A trebuchet that can toss a hefty rock hundreds of feet through the air has to be pretty big.  Ours looked more like a quarter scale seesaw.  Instead of attaching the board in the middle, it was attached at the ¾ point.  The short end had a metal post that weights could be hung on.  The long end was attached to a leather sling that held the flowerbomb.  A lever holds the long end down.  When you release the lever, the weight pulls the short end down, the long end flies up.  The sling goes along for the ride.  The flowerbomb sails through the moonroof and over the fence.  The heavier the weight, the farther the toss.

The property is located on a corner, so I could launch the ordnance from two directions.  The speed limit is 25 mph, Sammy took his time going around the turn.  Always used his turn signal.  At first I was launching four bombs per pass, two on each street.  But I had to hurry to do that and wasn’t aiming too carefully.  Not a problem at first, but after a while, I realized I wasn’t getting an even distribution.  I decided to take one, well aimed shot per street.  That got the desired result.  After a week we could see the sprouts germinating.

All the buildings that bordered the lot were two stories tall.  We scouted each to determine if anyone might see us from a second floor window.  In most of the buildings, the second floor was used for storage and was rarely visited.  Others were like the restaurant, with heavy curtains over the windows, or the bar, which had painted the glass.  Nobody wanted to look at an ugly vacant lot. 

We were sure no one, beyond a squirrel in a tree, would see the dark, small clods flying out of the roof of the van.  We were wrong.

We hadn’t counted on the mayor being an astronomy buff.  The city offices were in the tallest building downtown, six blocks away.  To the naked eye, the van would be tiny and the bombs would be invisible.  But not to a man with a telescope in the penthouse office.

He'd already noticed the flowers springing up in various places downtown.  We had pushed our luck too far.  A different mayor would have simply had his secretary call the police after he witnessed one of our bombing raids.  But not Mayor Jody Greenlaw.  We had history.

He was two years older than the Bangersprayz boys, and was more successful when we competed in junior golf.  He got a golf scholarship to the University of Tennessee.  Played his way through undergraduate, went to law school, came home.  Junior law partner, senior partner, city councilman, mayor.  He is successful, good looking, and married to old money.  And when we were young, on the golf course, he was a total asshole.

When he got into politics, he all of a sudden became our best friend.  I can’t count the number of times he’s shook my hand or slapped me on the back at the country club.  But I know for a fact, it really pisses him off that Bangersprayz has won the club’s four man championship the past two years in a row.  His team, The Lawyers, came in second both times.

When we sat in his office and watched the video of us violating several city ordinances, he could hardly contain his joy.  It had been a long time since he was the boss of us.

“Now, you boys know as well as I do, the DA will just dismiss the charges if I file them.  But you’ll get handcuffs and a ride in the back seat of a patrol car.  How long would it take to find someone willing to post bail for you losers?”

“So I’ve got an offer you can’t refuse.  First, I’ll get you the keys to the bank lot and you can garden it like you were actually normal human beings.  Second, you’ve got to stop this silliness.  Third, this is the part where I’m blackmailing you.  I’m breaking up Bangersprayz, for the club team championship next month.  Wlodarski, you and Johnnie Boy are going to be on my team.”

“It’s either that or all four of you spend the afternoon locked up and rubbing elbows with drunks and bad check writers.”

Times change.  More than once, twenty years ago, Jody pissed me off and we ended up on the ground trying to bash in each other’s face.  This felt exactly like one of those situations.  Yet, I just sat there.

When I spoke, all I said was “You’ve got a deal.”

It turned out okay.  For the third year in a row, I received the winner’s bounty.  A dozen brand new Titleist Pro V1 golf balls.  And for the first time ever, I played an entire round of golf with Jody Greenlaw without having to suppress the urge to kill him.

Jody has a fancy house with a bluff lot up on the mountain.  The deck was big enough for Bangersprayz to play a couple of sets at the post-tournament party.  Later, we enjoyed the view of the valley below while we drained the keg.  Sammy noticed the lights from a small town a few miles away.  “I wonder, does the mayor of Hazel Green own a telescope?”

I looked at Jody.  He said, “I don’t like that guy.  I didn’t hear Sammy say anything.”

www.guerrillagardening.org


© Copyright 2017 Serge Wlodarski. All rights reserved.

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