(Scroll to the bottom for today's story in honor of Black History Month. It's not a happy one, but it matters. I've removed the video clip at the end of that section as it downloaded too slowly for some computers.)
WARNING: This post contains graphic photographs of pests on leaves.
Our December report on the aphids infesting the Manic Gardener’s indoor tomatoes has continued to fascinate viewers everywhere, so we recently sent a crew for a follow-up story. The unfortunate events surrounding this interview have been vastly exaggerated, leading to the promulgation of false information across the web. (The Manic did not lift up our camera-man bodily and throw him out of the house, though she may have tried.)
We are happy to inform you that our EFG (Exposing False Gardeners) personnel sustained only minor injuries. The camera, we regret to report, was destroyed and all visual footage lost save these few photographs. (Final results from the lab indicate that it was the bricks, not the orange juice, that did the damage.) Fortunately, the audio survived, so we are able to offer you the transcript below. We hope that this clears up all misunderstandings.
EFG has no plans to return to the home of the Manic Gardener in the foreseeable future.
At last report, the woman known as the "Manic Gardener" was holding off a SWAT team with a combination of unripe tomatoes and pure invective. As one team member was heard to say, "The mouth on that woman!"
Here is part of that fateful interview:
EFG: So, I hear you have aphids on your tomatoes.
Ms Manic: A few, though you can see that the plants are pretty darned healthy looking.
EFG: Yes, very handsome.
Ms Manic: Not that. That's A. plumosus!
EFG: It's a what?
Ms Manic: An Emerald "fern." Actually a lily, but–
George, the cameraman: That's a lily?
Ms Manic: Okay, it's a plant. The tomatoes are over here.
EFG: Oh. Right. (George, I guess you'd better get a shot of these. No, one's enough.) And now–
Ms. Manic: You can see the tomatoes on the one in back.
EFG: Yes indeed. (With a magnifying glass.)
Ms. Manic: And look at this one–flowers!
George: Give me a lily any day. A real one, I mean. Gonna be hard to make these look like something, Bob.
Ms Manic: Morons. I am dealing with morons.
EFG: Just do your best, George. Now about those aphids. How did this happen?
Ms Manic: I’m not sure—I guess they came in with the plants in October, though I tried to prevent that.
EFG: What steps did you take? (George, have you got my notes?)
Ms Manic: Well, I went over them very carefully, squashing everything I saw and following up with a thorough dose of insecticidal soap.
EFG: (Thanks.) Just–let's see here–just one dose?
Ms Manic: Er—yes.
EFG: You didn’t do two to four doses before bringing the plants inside, as is recommended on several easily found websites?
Ms Manic: (mumble)
EFG: You didn’t KNOW that’s what was recommended? Hmm. No wonder you've got aphids.
Ms. Manic: It's not nearly as bad as it was last year. Here, look.
EFG: Eeeww. That's disgusting. They should take your gardening license away. What are those ones with wings?
Ms Manic: Males. The females just produce more females until they get a yen to mate, and then they lay eggs that hatch as males.
EFG: Huh. An all-female society, huh? D'ja hear that, George? How not to get things done, huh?
Ms Manic: It's kind of like the Amazons, you know, the female tribe that kidnapped men for mates but otherwise had no use for them. Or so goes the legend.
EFG: Right. And what happened to the males after they–after the women were done with them?
Ms Manic: Accounts vary. Some say they killed them. Some say they kept them as pets.
George: That doesn't sound so bad–the pet part, I mean.
EFG: Shut up, George. So–what is going to make this year's indoor tomato production different from last year's horror?
Ms Manic: This year I'm taking care of them.
EFG: Of course you are. How?
Ms Manic: I'm using insecticidal soaps, and Neem, and I'm going over them by hand.
EFG: Yet–they're already infested.
Ms Manic: A little bit.
EFG: I assume you spray on a regular schedule.
Ms Manic: Not so much.
EFG: Has it occurred to you that that might be WHY they're infested?
Ms Manic: Well, there's only so much you can do.
EFG: Indeed, but in the case of these scrawny specimens–
Ms Manic: Take it back.
Ms Manic: Take – it – back about my tomatoes being scrawny.
George: I’d take it back, Bob; that’s a whole quart of orange juice there.
EFG: Shut up, George.
Ms Manic: That’s right, boys; I have orange juice and I am prepared to use it.
EFG: Are you threatening us?
Ms Manic: You bet I am, you bald-pated male-chauvinistic orangutan—you think you can come into my house and INSULT MY TOMATOES? You lily-livered, lack-luster louse, you–
EFG: You’re calling us monkeys?
Ms Manic: Apes, actually.
George: She called us apes?
Ms Manic: Well—that part I take back.
Ms Manic: It’s an insult to orangutans everywhere. I’m sure they can tell a tomato from an asparagus fern. Whereas you, you ferny fool, you foolish fraud, you galumphing goat, GET OUT!
(sudden loud clatters, bangs, and shouts; "Get back, get back!" "Get the camera out, quick!" Then silence.)
EFG (breathing heavily): You got the camera? Good. What? You mean you didn't get the camera?
George: Look out! Duck!
EFG: Holy mother of–
George: Well, now we've got the camera.
EFG: What the hell happened to it?
George: You mean before she drop-kicked it?
EFG: Yes, of course before she drop-kicked it!
George: She went at it with a brick.
EFG: So why’s it dripping? It bleeds?
George: That would be the orange juice.
EFG: And there was nothing you could do, you poor defenceless man? She's maybe five feet tall and she weighs what, a hundred and ten pounds?
George: Yeah, man, but she's mean.
EFG: Well, come on, let's get out of here. At least she kicked us out instead of kidnapping us. Talk about nightmares.
George: Oh, I don’t know.
This is not a happy story, but it’s one I feel compelled to tell.
The outlines are all too familiar. A young black man, accused of raping a white woman in the south, is convicted by an all-white jury despite the absence of any physical evidence linking him to the crime, and despite the testimony of several people that he was in the next room during the entire evening that the rape was committed. After all, those witnesses included the accused man’s brother and friends. They were young, and at least some were black. Why believe them?
The man, convicted largely on the victim’s identification, spent thirteen years in prison. He died there of an asthma attack. When another man eventually confessed to the crime, no one would listen. It took the family, the victim, and an organization dedicated to reversing false convictions to gain belated justice.
This did not happen back in the thirties, or the fifties; it happened in 1985, in Lubbock Texas, and the last chapters to the story are being written now. The accused, Timothy Cole, was exonerated on February 6th, just a few weeks ago, after DNA tests proved him innocent.
Another man waited until the statue of limitations ran out in 1995 before confessing to the rape. (Since he was already in jail for 99 years for other rapes, it’s not clear why he waited.) Texas officials and prosecutors ignored his letters. Truly. He wrote the court that had convicted an innocent man, he wrote again, requesting a lawyer, and he wrote to the prosecuting district attorney. He got no replies. Then, in 2007, he finally wrote Cole himself, not knowing that Cole had died twelve years earlier.
That letter, however, reached Cole’s family, and they went into action.
With the help of the Innocence Project of Texas, the family obtained DNA tests, but even then they could not obtain a hearing in Lubbock. Think about that. No judge in Lubbock would grant them a hearing.
They got in touch with the victim, who was shocked to learn that she had sent an innocent man to prison, and who started working actively with them to obtain a reversal. If it seems nearly impossible to believe that a woman could be mistaken about who raped her, listen to Michele Mallin tell her story. In September NPR did an interview with Cole’s mother, Ruby Session, together with Mallin. It’s a pretty extraordinary piece.
An Austin judge eventually agreed to hear the case, and twenty-four years after the conviction, Timothy Cole was exonerated. He had maintained his innocence, even refusing parole if it came only on condition that he admit to a crime he hadn’t committed.
The prosecuting attorney has apologized to the family.
The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal’s website, Lubbock On-line, has a very moving video of an interview with Cole’s mother and brothers from June 30, 2008, when the results of the DNA evidence became available.