The Right Coast

March 13, 2005
Of race and horticulture
By Tom Smith

This post at the Corner reminded me of an incident shortly after we bought a house in San Diego, some years ago. Out here in the sticks lots are large, and we have maybe a hundred trees, large and small, on the property. I have had something of a phobia about lawn care ever since my fledging lawn mowing business cratered after I mowed over a sapling in a customers yard and tried to cover it up by shoving it back into the soil. I hired therefore the gardening service many of my neighbors used, and told them, inter alia, I wanted them to trim the trees. They did so, and made an utter mess of the job. Limbs were hacked off with no apparent reason, with six inch stubs left on the trunks. Even I knew that was bad stuff. So I fired them and hired a gardener from my university, which is famous for its beautiful grounds, among other things, and showed him the trees. Looking at the trees, he sighed in disgust and said,
"What race were they?"
I wasn't sure I understood him, with his heavy Mexican accent.
"What?" I said.
"What race were they?"
That's what I thought he had said. I temporized. "What race, do you say?"
"Were they Mexican or Japanese?" he said.
What could I say? "Mexican," I said.
He sighed again, as if the incompetent tree trimmers had let the whole race down. He, however, proved to be an excellent gardener.