Friendly competition between a father and son can be a good thing. Initially, the parent has the advantage of experience and those years of practice that his son is about to enter.At this time of summer's withdrawal, late August, my dad and I competed in so many ways: pitching rubber quoits or beanbags, Scrabble, College rummy, fishing, gardening and much more, such as table tennis. The outside games and hobbies drew us close. He was almost always available on weekends, and he devoted many hours of free time to me.

I think of our grand gardening contests. To pick the first ripe tomato of the summer was our mutual goal. Each of us had his own strategy. I set out my plants in March under Wall 'o Waters, teepees made of plastic tubes filled with water, similar to individual hot houses. I used Hoffman' super manure as fertilizer. In our prime we tried to keep our separate gardens weed free. My desire to pick all weeds bordered on fanaticism.

My gardens moved from Slatington to Cherryville to First Avenue, Hellertown, to Bethlehem Township and finally back to 99 Wilson Avenue, Hellertown. His gardens moved from 99 Wilson to the community garden at the Lutheran Home in Topton.

If he hadn't announced the first tomato, I called him with bragging rights. He did the same, and somehow he usually won due to his very green thumb.

Then we'd laugh and I'd say, "Wait until next year." Until the last summer of his life we carried on the tradition.

It was brought home to me recently upon entering the Heller Homestead's new art display, featuring the oils of Jennifer Adams of the Bethlehem Palette Club. As she has written in a short biography about her fine art, "the purpose of the work is to truthfully capture the splendor of light in a manner that evokes an emotional response from the viewer. (She works) en plein air (in the open air), usually no more than two or three hours at each sitting before the scene is altered by the changing sunlight."

Why would an art admirer want a still life painting of several ripe tomatoes and a couple of scallions? It is simply because of her prowess and my dad. I can yet taste the sweet spring onions having been dipped into a salt cellar. I can yet feel the crunch when taking the first bite. It reminds me of watching my tomato plants weekly for the first one to turn red. I picked it in the hot sun and ate it on the spot. Next, I phoned Dad.

Adams' painting will hang from a hook in my living room soon, and I will visualize Dad in his garden. I'll end now because I am getting emotional.

Lee A. Weidner is a resident of Hellertown. He is a lifetime member of the Hellertown Historical Society, the Lower Saucon Township Historical Society and the Saucon Valley Conservancy. He is also the author of "Images of America: Hellertown." He can be contacted via e-mail at jpopichak@berksmontnews.com

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