Majorie Moesel standing in her vegetable garden.
  1. Legacy

The Gift of a Garden Contest

College sweethearts competed in 1958 Noble garden contest before tragedy struck.

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I met my husband, Dick Moesel, in the Horticulture Club at Oklahoma State University in 1950. Dick was from Peekskill, New York, but he had wanted to live west of the Mississippi River — ever since he had seen the kindness of an Oklahoma farmer who offered watermelon to him and his fellow soldiers at a train stop in El Reno, Oklahoma, on their way home from the West Coast after serving in World War II.

We married in August 1952, and that same year he graduated with a horticulture degree. I graduated with a home economics education degree the following year. Dick went on to get his master’s and was working on his doctoral degree, and so we moved across the country first to Ohio then New Jersey while he went to school and our family grew. Our son Rodd was born just a few months before Dick started his master’s, and Eva was born in New Jersey.

In 1956, we learned of an opportunity to return to Oklahoma. An older couple in Pauls Valley was looking for someone to be there to take over when they couldn’t run their operation anymore. Ultimately, we went into business doing horticulture on our own in Pauls Valley. We grew vegetables and herbs as well as flowers, berries, fruits, trees and shrubs.

In 1958, we got involved in a contest that the Noble Foundation (now Noble Research Institute) was sponsoring. Dick was always interested in helping other people learn how to do things better in growing plants, and our extension agent Cleo Stiles Brian thought we would be a good fit for the contest. We planted a number of different varieties of tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and so on that summer. We would also grow the plants in different ways — like staking some of the vining plants or growing them on the ground — and keep production records and different notes on the results. Then we had an open house for people from all over the state to come and see.

One day that fall, Dick was pulling some fence posts. He’d pulled quite a few without any problems, but one was in too hard. It turned the tractor upside down on him, trapping him underneath. The children and I were on our way home from a Bible study at church when Rodd noticed the tractor first. A friend was driving and as soon as she parked I ran toward it. Dick was alive but said to get a wrecker and an ambulance. I ran to the greenhouse to use the phone there.

Word gets around fast in a small town, and people started gathering. The wrecker went to pull the tractor off Dick, but it lurched. Everybody tried to hold it, but we couldn’t. A lady who was a regular customer of ours was a Catholic nurse, and she was giving him the last rites. I didn’t know what that meant at the time, but Dick said later that he did.

He was sent to Oklahoma City, and the children and I went with him in the ambulance. Rodd and Eva, 4 and 3 at the time, rode up front, and I rode in the back as Dick went in and out
of consciousness. Those first couple of days, no one knew whether he would live or die.

When we got to the hospital, we found out Dick had several compound fractures in his arm and a number of broken ribs. We were fortunate. Later, he told us that when he was underneath the tractor, he felt like God spoke to him and said, “Don’t move.” The doctors told us if he had, he probably would have severed his jugular vein and died right there.

We were able to go home 30 days later, with Dick in a cast and unable to do much work for another several weeks. The post office had held our mail while we were in the hospital, so we decided to pick it up on our way home. Amongst the bills and letters, we had a note from the Noble Foundation saying we were the winners of the gardening competition. It was such a blessing! Our extension agent took us to the award ceremony, where we found out we were to receive a $500 bond that our bank proceeded to pay in full so we could use the funds right away. Noble was pretty important in our lives at that time.

We were fortunate that Dick was able to lead a long, productive life after that accident, but it was a very difficult time. However, I’ve often thought that sometimes the low spots in your life can also be the high spots. There are just so many blessings that can come out of bad things. We had wonderful neighbors and community who helped us after the accident, including the Noble organization. They did not know about our problems at the time we were selected as winners of the garden contest, but they made such a huge difference in our lives, and we were able to keep up a friendship after that.

I would like to say congratulations to Noble Research Institute as it celebrates its 75th anniversary. That is something to be very proud of. I would also like to say thank you. Noble is so good to give. They give by their teaching and their research. They’re so important in doing research that helps us improve our practices so that we can do and have better than we’ve done and had before. I know they’ve been a big blessing not only to our family but to many other families as well.

Editor’s Note: This column was written from an interview with Marjorie Moesel, which was recorded in fall 2018. It has been edited for space.

Marjorie Moesel
Guest Author

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