Days that normally would represent a highlight of any year for me have become a painful passage in defeat. Normally, where I live, this is the time of year the home-grown tomatoes first ripen. It has been that way since I was a boy, where around our house the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence took a distant second in importance to the first tomatoes from my parents’ garden. Now, after consecutive seasons of what could be described charitably as “limited success” in my own tomato patch, I have a total flop on my hands. “Wilt” would be a better word. One by one, over the past month, my tomato plants have drooped and died. Water did not help. Fertilizers did not help. Threats did not help. There is a dirty reality that no one in the south likes to voice aloud, but it is muttered among the hardcore gardeners. Tomatoes, once the crop of everyman, are becoming hard to grow. For the first time ever, I am dependent on the tomatoes of strangers.