The old orange grove had seen its last bearing days years ago. The trees were ancient gnarled and unattended. Everyone knew there was to be no citrus coming from there. It was the 1920s in south Florida, then a backwater swamp populated by vacationers who spent all their cash and never could save bus fare back to civilization on the prevailing wage of the territory.
Gustus had a master's degree in horticulture, and a PhD in political science. He had been mustard-gassed while serving in the OSS, a reconnaissance branch of the Army which later metastasized into the CIA. Gambling with the guys was so important to him that he had refused to be promoted to non commissioned officer - a rank that would have disallowed that activity. He was the out-of-town fool who bought the orange grove for nothing. He told everyone the trees would bear so much fruit that the weight of the oranges would break the branches; and he proceeded to put strong boards under the limbs to prop them against the burden.
Everyone is having a belly laugh about this assertion of his.
Gustus fertilized the trees heavily.
In front of the grove, there was a strip of white sand that went almost the entire length of the lot. Gustus sank tiny marigold plants in standard-sized pots below the white sand, so the flowers â one of the few nursery plants available in south Florida at that time â would grow ostensibly out of sterile soil.
The marigolds matured, the same color as the profuse fruit on those old trees that, yes, weighed the branches down. They sagged for all to see.
And, after the fruit was sold, Gustus put the grove up for sale for three times the pittance he had paid for it. There was no lack of bidders, because that price was still very cheap for a grove. A grove that bore.
Now he was the out-of-town fool who was selling the goose that lays golden eggs. Those neighbors are laughing again.
Heavily fertilizing trees that have not borne for years will produce one last hurrah crop of fruit. A concept you learn in horticulture that you can apply to real life if you choose.
Especially if you are a gambling man.
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