Many people are defined as much by their passion as by their profession. Bob Crutcher (LLB 59) is one such person. Though he has enjoyed a long and distinguished legal career, and still maintains a home office where he conducts pro bono work, at heart he may well be defined more by his passion — gardening.
Crutcher’s enthusiasm was instilled at an early age in his childhood home of Frankfort, Ky., when he joined in the nationwide “victory garden” effort during World War II.
“I was 10 years old when the war broke out,” Crutcher explained. “For patriotism reasons and otherwise, everybody had a victory garden. My great aunt Laura’s home was right next to ours and she had great soil — beautiful limestone soil. So I had a victory garden too, and I’ve been hooked ever since.”
When it comes to gardening, Crutcher has a way of speaking in reverential tones of the quality of soil, the importance of sunlight, the sturdiness of certain crops and the subtle differences in different strains. He’s picked up his knowledge through trial and error, seed catalogs and magazines and knowledge gleaned from people who he said, self-deprecatingly, “know more than I do, which includes a lot of people!”
But perhaps it’s just in his blood. In addition to growing that first victory garden with his aunt, he grew up in a home that always maintained a vegetable garden. His father grew up on a farm and though the elder Mr. Crutcher left the farm to go into business and politics after serving in World War I, he always kept a garden in the backyard, and young Bob always helped him with it.
The bounty from Crutcher’s backyard garden would put to shame the produce sections of some small town grocery stores. In all, he has 18 raised beds strategically placed in the spots on his property most likely to receive full sunlight, which he precisely defines as “six hours.” In those beds and in the ground surrounding them, he harvests a wide array of tomatoes, potatoes, onions, broccoli, carrots, spinach, kale, cucumbers, bell peppers, strawberries, eggplant, three kinds of squash, lettuce, blackberries, blueberries and more. That doesn’t even include the herb garden where he grows basil, rosemary and other herbs.
He has learned which crops work best with others. Recently, his kale plot has grown because he learned that it helps keep insects away from his other plants. He said his garden will soon be 100 percent organic by using such methods.
The garden, of course, produces too much food for him and his wife, Harter Williams Crutcher (BA 58), the daughter of former UM Chancellor JD Williams, to consume. So he generously shares much of it with friends and family, delivering large boxes of lettuce or blueberries. “Sometimes, they hate to see me coming,” he laughed.
His enthusiasm for gardening is so ardent that Harter has made efforts to curtail his activities to keep their property from morphing completely into a full-scale nursery.
“We have a couple of pear trees that block off the western sun,” said Crutcher. “I’d like to cut ‘em down but my wife out-voted me one to one.”
When he installed his 18th raised bed on the edge of their driveway, Harter agreed, but on the condition that she could name the bed. The name she chose? “Finis!” So now, the garden entrance includes a specially made sign bearing that inscription. Crutcher will have to squeeze his crops in the already existing space. This year, he tried to sneak in a corn crop, telling his wife it was just “Egyptian asparagus.” She didn’t fall for the subterfuge, but smilingly obliged her husband’s enthusiasm.
So most days, Bob Crutcher spends his time tending to this garden, keeping his family tradition alive, providing food for his family and friends, learning more and more along the way.
During baseball season, he spends many afternoons at O-U Stadium watching his beloved Ole Miss Rebels play baseball. And on the occasions when he does take on a legal case, perhaps for his church where he volunteers his legal acumen, he retreats to the upstairs alcove of his house where he has created his home office. The office is spartan. All he needs is a computer and a phone, he said. There is a desk and a chair, a few mementos. The room gets pretty good sunlight thanks to the window on the west end, which just so happens to overlook his garden.