I love the way that well known folktales and fables can be retold in a way that highlights age and the relationship between generations. The most common form of the “tomato garden” story reproduced below actually shows how a father teaches the value of diligence to his wastrel sons.
On his death bed he tells his sons that he has buried a treasure in the garden. After the old man dies, the sons immediately set to work digging in the soil searching for their father’s gold. All of this hard work enriched the soil and, though there was no treasure to be found, their labor did lead to a bumper crop. With a new appreciation for the value of hard work, they are saved from a life of poverty.
I found a different version of this story here.
An Old Man and His Garden
An old Italian man lived alone in New Jersey. He wanted to plant his annual tomato garden; but it was very difficult work as the ground was hard.
His only son, Vincent, who used to help him, was in prison. The old man wrote a letter to his son and described his predicament:
I am feeling pretty sad, because it looks like I won’t be able to plant my tomato garden this year. I’m just getting too old to be digging up a garden plot. I know if you were here my troubles would be over. I know you would be happy to dig the plot for me, like in the old days.
A few days later he received this letter from his son:
Don’t dig up that garden. That’s where the bodies are buried.
At 6 am the next morning, FBI agents and local police arrived and dug up the entire area without finding any bodies. They apologized to the old man and left. That same day the old man received another letter from his son.
Go ahead and plant the tomatoes now. That’s the best I could do under the circumstances.