Working for the Queen of Lawns


Randy Riley - Contributing columnist



While mowing my lawn on Sunday, I was reminded of the time in the mid-1970s when I worked at Memorial Hospital of Union County as the assistant director of respiratory therapy. It was a nice little county hospital and a wonderful small city.

Today, Marysville is primarily known as the home of Honda. They started making motorcycles in 1979 and moved into car manufacturing in 1982. Marysville is now the leading manufacturer of the Honda Accord. That all happened after I left and moved to Wilmington.

While I was there, the biggest manufacturer in Union County was O.M. Scott and Sons. They were better known at that time as Scott Seeds or Scotts Lawncare.

Scotts used the grounds around Memorial Hospital as a test-bed for their seeds and lawncare products. They even shot some of their advertising footage on the hospital grounds. Needless to say, the lawn surrounding Memorial Hospital was amazingly lush.

For most of the time, the Scotts company was a family owned and operated business. Just after the Civil War, Orlando McLean Scott opened a hardware store in Marysville. He was the first person to develop and sell seeds to farmers that was certified to be weed-free.

After several innovations, Scott started to specialize in grass seeds. His company was the first in the nation to specialize in lawncare products.

The community is proud of the company and proud to have the Scott family as neighbors. Marysville was so proud to be the home of Scotts that the city’s slogan became “Where the Grass is Greener.”

Shortly after moving to Marysville, I developed an appreciation for their role in the community.

My role as assistant director meant that I worked the evening shift and was on-call for 8 hours after my shift ended. My days were usually open until about 2 p.m.

One evening during dinner, a nursing assistant named Kris was telling us about the lady she was working for as a homecare aide. Kris worked evenings at the hospital but spent the rest of her time at the home of a 90-year-old woman named Jessie Scott. She was the widow of one of the early owners and developers of the Scotts Lawncare company.

Jokingly, I said, “I’ll bet she has the nicest lawn in town.”

A few days later, Kris stopped me in the hallway and asked if I would like to do some part-time work for Mrs. Scott. Jessie had finally realized that she was too old to crawl around in her flower beds and she needed someone to help her. It sounded like a good way to spend some off-time in the summer, so I told Kris I would be happy to help.

Saying that Jessie Scott had the nicest lawn in Marysville was a terrible understatement. Besides having one of the largest lawns in the city, her lawn was also the thickest, greenest and lushest I had ever seen.

The first time I visited Jessie, I wanted to take off my shoes and run barefooted through her grass. I think I even mentioned that to her. That statement might have helped me get the job.

Jessie was very proud of her property. As I recall, someone from the Scotts plant was responsible for bringing in mowers and manpower to keep the lawn and mature trees in tip-top shape.

My job was to do anything that Jessie wanted me to do. She told me that she was very particular about her flowers, and since I didn’t have much gardening experience, she would tell me exactly what to do. She sure did.

On my first day as Jessie’s gardener, she opened her garage door to reveal a huge garage that probably held every gardening tool ever made. She also had every conceivable bag of fertilizer and weed control product that Scotts manufactured.

I told her that I had no idea what I was looking at. She told me not to worry. She would tell me exactly what to do.

She sure did. One day, while planting some roses, Jessie knelt down beside me to show me exactly how to shape the hole, plant the flower and where to place the rose fertilizer.

Over the period of a few summers, Jessie and I became unlikely friends.

I worked a few days a week for Jessie Scott. She always knew exactly what she wanted.

As soon as I got there, she would have my day planned and she told me which tools and gardening products I would need for the day.

She never failed to bring me a nice, tall glass of lemonade on a hot summer day. She rarely laughed out loud, but when I said something that tickled her, her eyes would twinkle, and she would snicker. I loved it.

I’ve been blessed to be able to do a lot of interesting things in my life, but being gardener for Jessie Scott must give me some major bragging rights among people who love to plant, weed, prune, snip and pick flowers around their homes.

Don’t judge our lawn today. Jessie isn’t here to tell me what to do.

Randy Riley is former Mayor of Wilmington and former Clinton County Commissioner.

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Randy Riley

Contributing columnist