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Garden is inheritance for local man

By Kathy Hanks

The Hutchinson News

There's a yellow house on West 11th Avenue where the tall trees shade the front yard and bushy ferns hang from baskets as an American flag rustles in the breeze.

The scene harkens back to a time long ago when an apple pie might have cooled on the kitchen windowsill, to be eaten later on the front porch. A bonus came when I knocked. While there was no pie to be seen, an unassuming Taylor Harris answered the front door of his two-story house and kindly invited me to sit with him in one of the Adirondack chairs on the front porch. And I began to discover a house with heirlooms indoors and out.

Seems Harris, a retired nurse, is the third generation of his family to live in the house. It was built in 1922 and his grandparents J.W. and Belle Taylor bought it in 1938. During World War II, Harris' mother and aunt lived there. They had their babies in one of the rooms while their husbands were off fighting for their country.

Every few years his grandfather would give the house a coat of paint. It ranged in color from white to pale green, to gray and back to white. Harris has painted it three times since moving in. At one time it was three shades of pink. Now it's yellow -- a new color for the painted lady.

Meanwhile, Harris spent the first 12 years of his life growing up in Cimarron. He has happy memories of taking the Southwest Chief from Dodge City to Hutchinson to spend the summer with his grandparents in the house that would eventually become his home.

"We would take a taxi to the Wiley Building and eat in the tea room," said Harris of one of the summer highlights.

Eventually his grandmother and aunts would die in the same room where the babies were born. But their trees and plants would remain in this family that can trace its horticultural roots back to an orchard in upstate New York. Because Taylor Harris was the only relative living nearby, he inherited the house.

Little did I know I would find a secret garden by knocking on his front door.

It's in the backyard, a sanctuary away from the traffic that flows along 11th Avenue, that one realizes just what a special gift he has in the multigenerational plants that continue to flourish.

There are Belle Taylor's red buds, irises and sanservia plants still growing yet another spring. And he points to the skyward-growing crabapple planted by Harris' mother in memory of her first husband, who died in World War II. Plus there is a devil's backbone, a gift from an aunt more than 50 years ago, still going strong.

In this transient life when so many of us move so far from our roots, it's a special treat to walk through this garden and meet Taylor's past.

(c)2014 The Hutchinson News