Better Boys

Harvesting memories with the men of Wheat Ridge.

June 28, 1988: "Talked about Christmas party. Applewood Inn is out of business. Bernard's, they pack you in too tight. Ramada?"

August 23, 1988: "The squash and cukes are doing fine. The zucchinis are disappearing. Someone else is getting them. Our next meeting will be at Guy Carr's. An ice-cream social if you please."


The plot thickens: Jim Teliha and Don Neithercut oversee the Happiness Garden;


Joe Scherber and his pumpkin.
The plot thickens: Jim Teliha and Don Neithercut oversee the Happiness Garden;

Joe Scherber and his pumpkin.

The plot thickens: Jim Teliha and Don Neithercut oversee the Happiness Garden.
John Johnston
The plot thickens: Jim Teliha and Don Neithercut oversee the Happiness Garden.

"We generally did have ice cream," Elwyn Kiplinger remembers. "Ice cream and cake, served by the wife of the host."

At the very first Wheat Ridge Men's Garden Club meeting, Elwyn saw his father, Rete Kiplinger, elected president. After that, Elwyn continued to attend meetings, becoming the first member to worry publicly about DDT and other pesticides. His father continued as a member until 1981, when he died at 91, pruning roses from a chair until the end.

"My father lived for gardening and farming," he recalls, "and that club started right at our home. It started with men who got to saying, 'Well, we garden, too.' I had a natural interest, the same interest Dad had. He moved here in 1921 and started a truck garden. Prior to World War II it was all agriculture here, and then people started moving in and we had this big influx, and we sold our land and went to raising children instead of vegetables. So when it got to my kids -- they didn't get the same interest in gardens that I had. And then, they just didn't have the same kind of area to live in, either."

Today Kiplinger cultivates two residential lots, each 100 by 155 feet -- huge by suburban garden standards, but he considers it cutting back. "We don't eat what we used to," he explains. "I'm just celebrating my eightieth birthday, and Don [Neithercut] says the same thing: We find that we would love to go out and work in the yard all day, but we can't do what we used to."

Before long, he realizes, he may have to choose just what he can still do. At that point, he'll probably let the corn, beans, cucumber and chard go to seed and concentrate on roses -- the old Peace, Dainty Bess and Chrysler Imperials his father left behind. "I'd still raise tomatoes, though," he adds. "One or two Early Girls. And Better Boy. Eight or ten."


Snowed one half-inch last night. Tomatoes bent but not froze. Salvage? Talk to Kiplinger? Neithercut? What of pumpkin? Still growing? Call pumpkin champion Scherber, too.

Good idea. Conversation will be fine.

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