BAY TREE LAKE — It’s the iconic big screen shot — school’s out for the summer, and children race out of the building’s front door, leaping down the steps, heading to eight weeks of freedom, Grease-style. For a Bay Tree Lakes boy, however, school’s last day meant more time to work, and he couldn’t be happier about it.
Lawson Massey, 10, is a gardener. To be more precise, he’s a hunter-gatherer.
“He’s an old soul,” commented his mother, Lori Massey.
“I just like growing things,” Lawson explained. “I just decided one day I wanted to plant a garden, so I did.”
The Massey’s yard became the site of Lawson’s 40×25-foot probe into agriculture. In his garden, which Lori says he planted all by himself, the youngster has the staples like corn, squash, tomatoes, collards, green peppers, red peppers, and radishes, as well as some peanuts, raspberries, blackberries, cabbage, and a host of other fruits and vegetables. A 20-foot tall peach tree stands in one corner of the garden and a compost pile takes up another corner. Chicken wire mounted on wooden posts and electric wiring surround the spread, which Lawson’s dad “helped him” install. Nets cover some of the tomato plants because, according to Lawson, “those black birds really mess them up.”
Fishing poles and nets are propped up against the fence, as are an assortment of garden tools, bags of top soil, and fertilizer. The garden is teeming with healthy produce, and out of the abundance bounds Lawson, disregarding the gate and scaling the four-foot-high fence.
He stands 4 feet, 6 inches tall, and is clad in hunting boots reaching almost to his knees, black gym shorts, and a camo t-shirt. A few sandy blond curls stick up from under his camouflage hat, the bill for which is the resting place of a pair of sport sunglasses kept in place by a brown neck strap. From head to toe, he’s covered in white powder.
“Lime,” he said, staring at his white arm. “It helps the plants grow longer. I’ve also been putting some 10-10-10 on the plants today.”
He walked around his produce, naming each one and describing his farming methods. His dissertation was cut short when he suddenly leaped over some collards and bent down.
“Animals love the garden, and it’s so hard to keep them out,” he said, shaking his head. He produced a small cat, which he promptly released on the other side of the fence.
When asked how long he worked in the garden, he replied, “Usually half a day, but I really enjoy tending it.”
He added, shrugging his shoulders, “I just love watching the plants grow.”
Anything his family doesn’t eat, he loads in the wagon he received for his birthday, attaches it to his bike, and canvasses the neighborhood for anyone who might want to purchase his colorful wares.
“He didn’t even tell me he was going to do that — he just took it upon himself,” Lori explained. “He’s a very enterprising child. When we go to the grocery store, he looks at the cost of the produce and tries to figure out how much money he can net after his supplies.”
As for what he buys with the money he makes?
“I’ll probably buy some more fertilizer for next year and go ahead and stock up on supplies,” he commented.
Far from just being a gardener, however, Lawson’s ultimate goal is more Daniel Boone than Cyrus McCormick.
“He asked me why he even had to go to high school and told me, ‘I’m already living off the land’,” Lori mused.
An avid hunter, Lawson uses his skills to keep his garden free from pests and to provide food. He also taps trees for water, and that, combined with his “fur-trapping,” fishing, and garden, mean a future free from a 9 to 5 job, at least as he — whose favorite show is Little House of the Prairie — sees it.
For now, though, his cultivation is contained in a fence, and his produce for sale in his neighborhood. But even Daniel Boone started somewhere.
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.