A plant,a person & a place

After a few weeks overseas, I spent the last week catching up in the yard. Cutting back shrubs, dividing perennials, and killing weeds. Along the back edge of the property I have four large spruce trees. Having been planted a bit close together, they are a bit sparse in the area between each. When the wind blows, these open spots create wind tunnels .  I tried a clump of ferns in one of  the spots last year and being happy with the result decided to fill the other two gaps with them this year. This was one of my transplanting projects this past week.

The ferns, I do not know the species or the cultivar were a gift from a friend. His name was Chuck, but everyone in the old neighborhood called him “Squeaker”. A ne-er do well and drunkard, he sold insurance by day and frequented the bars along St.Clair Ave. and East 185th St. by night. Short and chubby, Squeaker was soft spoken, but had a well considered and intelligent opinion on just about every subject. This made him an excellent drinking companion.

We spent many hours together solving the world’s problems and discussing whatever subject came up. Once, when I mentioned that I had a shady,clay filled area under an old apple tree that I was having a hard time filling, he suggested some ferns that grew rampant around his trailer. Never one to turn down a free plant I agreed to try them. The next time I saw him he called me to his car and there in his trunk was a bucket full of ferns. I planted them beneath the apple tree and in a few years a large colony was established.

Each summer, at least once or twice he would ask me how his ferns were doing. “Great” I would reply.

“I told you they would grow anywhere.” he would remind me as a satisfied smile crept across his face. Squeaker died in 1998 at the age of  55.  He had a heart attack while drinking a beer at the Chatterbox Tavern.

The trailer park where he lived sits on the shore of Lake Erie just east of what was one of the last great old time amusement parks,Euclid Beach Park. From the picnic area of the park you could look through the dense underbrush and see the trailer park. As a kid I thought what a great place to live,right next to an amusement park. I am sure that the ferns were there also, colonizing the shadier and wilder sections of the park,but I wasn’t all that interested in plants back then. They would have had a hard time competing for my attention when there were roller coasters,tilt a whirls and Ferris wheels around. I spent many fun summer days at the park, on company picnics and family outings. It closed in the late sixties, only a stone arch and the trailer park are left, and the ferns.

I transplanted some from under the apple tree to the north side of my garage when I moved here and they have done well there. All of this came back to me as I was transplanting them under the spruces this week.

As I said earlier I am not sure what kind they are. I made a half-hearted attempt to identify them when I first received them, but never followed through with it. My wife and I have always referred to them as “Squeaker’s Ferns”


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