News: From the Desk of
J. Michael Cross
In an earlier column, I wrote about my mom and dad and some of my early memories of childhood. My dad was my primary role model; however, my grandfather was the second most influential person in my life. William (Uncle Bill) Cross, we always called him Poppy, was a farmer, gardener and horticulturist by trade. He, in his early years, was also an adventurer.
Born in 1901, in Pickett County, he left home at the age of twenty and moved to Texas where he worked as a cowboy in some of the last big cattle drives of our country. From there, he moved to California, where his interest in gardening grew. He also played minor league baseball while there. After several years, Poppy moved back to Pickett County where he married my Granny and had two sons, Elza (my dad) and brother Roy. Poppy moved his family to Fentress County in 1941, where he took up gardening as a career.
As a gardener and horticulturist, Poppy’s garden was unique. He continually experimented in cross pollination, producing hybrid strains and grafting. Through grafting, he had trees that had up to six different types of apples. He also experimented with cherries, peaches and plums. His “Normal” garden included five or six varieties of radishes. He grew celery, carrots, asparagus, horse radish, goose berries and several other “Non contemporary” variety of plants. He was probably most famous for his multiple varieties of cantaloupes and water melons (Black Diamond, Carolina Cross, Moon and Stars, Crimson Trio, Yellow Hybrids, Queen of Hearts, etc.).
As first and oldest grandchild, I spent countless hours with him. He always patiently explained what he was doing, his goals, his methods, and always the “Why” for his experiments. I don’t remember the “Why” of it, but I remember when I was about 6 or 7 years old, “The Government” sent him to Arkansas to demonstrate or “Teach” some of his techniques. As a kid, I didn’t understand why the “The Government” needed my Poppy.
Even though afflicted with heart disease, Poppy took me into the creeks and hollows to fish, hunt “sang” (ginseng), gather hickory nuts and walnuts, or just to “Explore” what was around the next bend or over the next hill. His curiosity was boundless.
On July, 31, 1968, Poppy received a letter and certificate from the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Orville Freeman congratulating and recognizing Poppy for his “Pioneering effort, work and contribution to American Agriculture and the National Farm Policy”. I keenly remember the excitement that this created in the Cross family. I still have the framed certificate hanging on my office wall.
Poppy’s pioneering spirit, colorful sense of humor, love of family and “Eclectic” gardening techniques helped form my outlook on life. Thanks, Poppy.
We can be reached at 879-7713. Executive Assistant Amanda Hicks can also be reached at vog.n1529321642Tytnu1529321642oCsse1529321642rtneF1529321642@skci1529321642H.adn1529321642amA1529321642. County Commission Meetings are held every third Monday at 6:00 p.m. following a 5:00 o’clock work session. All meetings are open to the public.