“I used to hate it,” he laughed during an interview at his home. “Then, after my injury, it grew on me. When I’m outside I feel at peace.”
Stewart was an ATC Track Commander during the Vietnam War when in July of 1968 his life changed forever.
“I was in charge of four guys who were riding with me that day,” he recalled. “Then an RPG (Rocket Propelled Grenade) struck my shoulder from behind and hit my left arm too, removing my right arm at the shoulder and my left from the elbow on down. I spent one year in the hospital and was the only one who had legs and they wanted to put me to work.”
He admitted that when he came home “he turned to drinking” but the children in his family helped him to leave his habit for some hobbies.
“They took me fishing, hunting and trapping and eventually I began gardening,” said Stewart.
To say that he took to his new hobby is quite an understatement.
Marianna Morgan, Stewart’s companion, listed all the fruits and vegetables that he grows throughout the year.
“Oh Lord he grows so many things,” said Morgan. “He grows figs, plums, lemons, oranges, zucchini, squash...both yellow and purple, eggplant,grapes, bell peppers, jalapenos, tomatoes, cucumbers (about five buckets every other day) and pears.”
“Now (in a cooler climate) he’s working on his cabbage, broccoli (one stalk he measured was nearly a foot in length), carrots, beets, cauliflower, beets, carrots, mustard greens, jalapenos and tomatoes.”
Stewart has one helper that he wanted to be sure to mention. His ‘grandbaby’ Christian Alexander Thibodeaux frequently helps his grandfather.
“He loves it,” said Stewart. “He will call me some days and ask if there is anything he can help with. He will drag the hose around and pick vegetables for me.”
Many of Stewart’s vegetables are downright huge. Aside from the stalk of broccoli, he has rows of cabbages that are some of the largest one could imagine.
What’s his secret?
“I use no poisons,” he said. “Just Miracle Grow and water. My vegetables can be eaten as soon as they have been picked.”
All though Stewart’s vegetables are so impressive, when asked if he ever sold any he responded with a surprised look.
“No I give them to my neighbors and friends as gifts,” he said. “I also bring some to Southwind Nursing Home for them to use. I’ve been doing that for about ten years.”
Aside from gardening, Stewart pointed out that there are many things he does that some would think a man with no arms would be unable to do.
“I used to play Nintendo against the children in my family with just my feet and I would win every time,” he smiled. “I’d whup em every time.”
“I’m truly blessed for the children in our family,” he added. “You’d be surprised what a person with no arms can accomplish.”
Morgan said she warns him each year but that Stewart keeps adding on to his garden selection.
“It started out small,” she said. “I keep telling him he needs to slow down but he doesn’t listen and it just keeps getting bigger and everyone want his vegetables, especially the tomatoes..”
“I just love working outdoors all day like this,” said Stewart with a big smile.”I love working like a dog like I do.”