MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

April 21, 2013

Construction veteran helps kids build lives

(Continued)

— Gardening is a

sharing experience

VanKirk grew up gardening. And he still pokes around the dirt in several spots around town.

The garden he had as a child was about two acres, he said.

“We had everything, even a little orchard,” he recalled. “We grew grapes, cabbage.”

He now has a garden at his home and a Muskogee Community Garden plot near Spaulding Park. He said he likes the way community gardeners watch out for each others’ plots.

“You get to know the people there and they watch your plot, see if it gets dry and they give it some water,” he said. “Some people don’t want you do water their gardens, so they put up signs.”

VanKirk said he gives away a lot of his produce.

“I’ve even planted brown beans and when I got through, I had enough beans to last through the year. I have beans and cornbread,” he said.

He also has planted sweet potatoes, cantaloupes, strawberries and raspberries. He also grows lettuce, which he said his son feeds to his pet turtle, Reggie.

“I also grow gourds,” he said. “They make bird houses out of them, the neighborhood kids do. The gourds are good for nothing but hobbies. You get one person doing it, then the little kids come along and say, ‘I want to do it.’”

And, yes, he grows tomatoes.

“Everybody’s got to have tomatoes,” he said. “I give away a lot of it, and I can a lot of it.”

He said the best thing about gardening is “just seeing what’s going to happen.”

Q&A

HOW DID YOU BECOME AN OKIE FROM MUSKOGEE?

“My dad came here and went to work for a bus company. My dad was a mechanic. He went to work for a container corporation. He was the one who went in Monday mornings and fired up the boilers.”

WHAT DO YOU LIKE BEST ABOUT MUSKOGEE?

“There’s still history in this town; everything’s not gone. There are some friendly people. Within driving distance, there are a lot of things to do around here.”

WHAT WOULD MAKE MUSKOGEE A BETTER PLACE TO LIVE?

“For everyone to realize we need jobs. We don’t need more low-income housing, we need jobs.”

WHAT DO YOU DO FOR A LIVING IN MUSKOGEE?

Bus driver for Muskogee Public Schools.

WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR SPARE TIME?

“What spare time I’ve got, my wife thinks I’m on the computer too much. The gardening, the computer and reinforcing my opinion about things.”

WHAT OKIE FROM MUSKOGEE DO YOU ADMIRE?

“Anybody who wants to promote kids and enlighten them.”

WHAT IS THE MOST MEMORABLE THING TO HAPPEN TO YOU IN MUSKOGEE?

“I met my wife at St. Paul United Methodist Church. I was working on the St. Paul Building, and she was working at the church and she kept coming out to look at me. I brought her some pink cupcakes and a Mountain Dew. She liked that.”

HOW WOULD YOU SUM UP MUSKOGEE IN 25 WORDS OR LESS?

“Muskogee has potential. It has an employee market for starter jobs. We got to start somewhere.”

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