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Mama, A Book for Gardeners and Non

Cover of Book: Her first job, when she'd just turned 15, was delivering mail on a rural route in the Blue Ridge Mountains, riding from before daylight until dusk.

Gardeners who read for relaxation and entertainment get that and more in Barbara Oehlbeck's newest book, Mama, Root, Hog, or Die. As the stories unfold, readers can almost smell Mama's roses at the end of the porch and enjoy Gramma's favorite hollyhocks that stand two feet taller than she does.

Mama climbed right onto the workman's tractor and drove it out of the way to save the hundreds of daffodil bulbs builders were destroying. The workmen took their scolding, then got down on their own hands and knees and helped her fill bushel baskets with every bulb in sight. She immediately closed her account and the bank that was doing the building, but replanted the daffodils and took a bouquet into that bank the next spring for the men who had helped her.

But non-gardeners will love this book, too. It is endorsed by none less than Patrick Smith, author of "A Land Remembered."

In her folksy style, Oehlbeck writes: "Born in a cold back bedroom in mid-December of the coldest winter on record in Grayson County, Virginia, Mama knew what a man's world was like long before the concept became popular. At age 75 she told my father she needed a new chain saw and she got it."

In a time when heroes are too often hellions, when the flavor of rural life is almost forgotten, when too many people are living the exact opposite of the old adage of "waste not, want not", this book is a welcome reminder of generosity and ingenuity, of making do "not only for her family and friends but also for strangers who touched her life."

Both of Oehlbeck's parents, Nancy and Glenn Harding, had the uncanny ability to fix or make anything they needed or wanted. They built their own house. Together they ran a motorcycle repair shop after supper and on Saturday's. She ran it during the days while he worked full time at a furniture factory. Mama learned by lookin'. Since they both could and would fix anything, people brought in small appliances, anything with wheels, and toys by the dozens.

They lived on a corner lot that hobos and hungry youngsters knew as a good place to eat. They also had a farm nearby where his parents lived, but where all of them worked. They raised four children of their own, then later adopted and raised a fifth. While the book is full of wonderful stories, it is also full of mystique. You end up hoping there will be a seqeul.

Mama carried a red gerbera daisy plant home from Florida on the train and years later had a whole row of them on her sunroom porch in the winter.

And while you take the people to your heart, you are relieved to find them human. Mama got awfully tired of her daughter's constant questions and it took her a while to appreciate the carpet of bouqainvillea petals that covered her daughter's porch and steps when she visited Oelhbeck's Florida home. Mama was all for grabbing a broom and sweeping them clear.

Mama took it right in stride when a young woman appeared at her door in tears on a winter morning looking for the greenhouse growing pink violets that she had to have for her wedding bouquet later that day. The florist had seen some in a window on Spring Street. Once she calmed the girl, Mama took her upstairs to the huge plant in the dormer window, got a jar, and picked close to three dozen stems of pink African violets, well over 50 blooms, her gift to the bride.

Each chapter is a story in itself so you can read the book little by little if you don't get too hooked. While Mama is definitely the main character, the author also brings to life the dear man she always calls "my father." But the love between them all comes through strong and clear

The book is hardcover with 335 pages, and you'll wish there were more. It is illustrated with excellent photos, many by Dr. Luther Oehlbeck, but some by Mama herself.

To order the book, send a check or money order for $24.95, plus tax $1.75, plus postage $2.07, total $28.77 to: Barbara Oehlbeck, 25075 Grassy Run, LaBelle, Fl. 33935. For more information call 863-675-2771 or e-mail: doco@strato.net

Daffodils (D & D): Mama climbed right on the workman's tractor and drove it out of the way to save the hundreds of daffodil bulbs builders were destroying.   Pink violets, spotted in an upstairs window by a florist, became a gift for a bride Mama had never met before.