News Item 5/5/15: At Rancho High School in Las Vegas, during an immigration roundtable, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said “believe it or not, when I was growing up in the Chicago area, it was farm fields as far as the eye could see.”
Scene: The sidewalk outside the old Pickwick Movie Theater (“Come In, We Have Air-Conditioning”) in bucolic Park Ridge, Illinois, on a warm summer afternoon in 1964. An old man in bib overalls wearing a farmer’s hat with a piece of straw in his mouth, sits in a rocking chair next to a cracker barrel. The wind whips the tumbleweed down nearby Touhy Avenue as a young man approaches the farmer.
“What can I do for you, sonny?” He spits tobacco juice uncomfortably close to the young man’s shoes.
“I’m thinking about buying some farmland here in Park Ridge.”
“You’ve come to the right place. We got farms out here in Park Ridge as far as the eye could see. Got a special name for them, too. We call them lawns. And our farmhouses - most of them are split-levels.” Old man spits again.
“What do you grow out here?” the young man asked.
“Well, in the high country past Touhy out there, they grow crabgrass.
“Crabgrass?” asks the young man with a puzzled look.
“Yep, lots of it. Yield is better on the front lawns than in the backyards. Front lawns get more sun. Not really sure what crabgrass is good for, but we get bumper crops out there, near Niles,” he said with a measure of pride.
“Anything else grow out here?” the young man queried, showing a disinclination for crabgrass farming.
“Well, south of Touhy, that’s river land, we grow dandelions. Some of the best in the Midwest. Big, yellow ones, good eatin’, when you put them in a soup. Got to keep away from those lawn mushrooms, though.”
The young man shot a skeptical look as the geezer continued. “In fact, I hear there might be some land available near old Hugh Rodham’s place, corner of Elm and Wismer.”
“Who’s this Hugh Rodham?”
“Hugh and his wife Dorothy, one of the wealthier families in Park Ridge. Live near the country club. Some good dandelions growing on the country club golf course this time of year. But if you ask me, ole’ Hugh don’t know spit about farming. Never seen a dandelion on his lawn, front or back. Hugh moved here from the big city, made his money in drapery. Good Republican, Goldwater man. And he’s got a pretty daughter. If I recall, her name is Hillary.”
The young man saw no advantage in farming dandelions over crabgrass, but the news of a young lady piqued a renewed interest.
“The farmer’s daughter, eh?” He grinned at the old man and gave him a lascivious wink.
The old man put him in his place quickly and disabused him of any romantic intent.
“Now don’t go getting ideas any ideas, sonny. She’s a book learner over at that fancy new Maine South High School. Hugh has notions about sending her to some fancy college back East. I hear the girl has ideas about becoming president of the United States. Imagine that, a woman president. Crazy, if you ask me. But I’ll tell you one thing - old Hugh definitely doesn’t cotton to any philanderers sidling up to her.”
With that, the young man saw that his prospects of farming in Park Ridge were not good and his prospects of courting young Hillary Rodham were worse, so he decided to take leave.
“Just one more question for you, old man. Where can I get something to eat around here?”
“I got just the place for you. Go across the river and go north into Des Plaines about a mile and a half. Some guy opened up a new-fangled hamburger place. And you don’t have to sit down and eat. You can just take your hamburger and eat it in your car or at home. Crazy if you ask me, but the folks seem to like it.”
“What’s the name of the place?”
The young man thanked him, looked back and thought, with a name like that, probably just another restaurant for the farmers around here.
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