Texas Bluebonnet Blues


Anyone out there in a Bluebonnet state of mind?!!!  Well I am!  Can’t wait to get home to see them first hand.

In the meantime…as the ham cooks, the beef tenderloin cools and the pork loin awaits Big Boss’s magical marinade and smoking…I pine for bluebonnets.  Numerous friends have been posting photos on Facebook…not sure if it helps or makes things worse, but WOW!  looking like a banner bluebonnet year any way you look at it!

So, to refresh all our minds how all of this Blue Madness started, let me remind you of Tomie dePaola and his book and illustrations.

It all began with a “small girl named She-Who-Is-Alone”, an orphan in her Caomanche tribe. She is living on the Texas plains during a time of drought. Before her parent died from the results of the drought, her mother made her a doll and used blue jay feathers, a gift from her father, to decorate the doll’s hair…her sole possession.

Following the Comanche tradition of offering one’s most treasured as a sacrifice, She-Who-Is-Alone, put her beloved doll into the fire. Once the ashes had cooled, she scattered them in all four directions.

The next morning, the hillsides were covered with beautiful blue flower, shaped like a feather and curiously tipped with white, just like a blue jay feather! Her people gathered to sing and dance to rejoice over the acceptance of her gift as the rains fell upon their dry land.

“And every spring, the Great Spirit remembers the sacrifice of a little girl and fills the hills and valleys of the land, now called Texas, with the beautiful blue flowers.

Even to this very day”

I’ve always been just a bit obsessed with bluebonnets.  As a child, I would go in the pastures with my grandma and aunt to see what bluebonnets the new spring had graced the central Texas landscapes.  Every year, I’d insist on digging up one of the plants to take home with me so I could have bluebonnets on Elizabeth Dr.  Every year, my grandma would tell me that you can’t dig them up.  Transplanting them is touchy business.  But I’d try.  And fail. Every year.  That didn’t stop me from picking a nice bouquet tho to take to school the next day.  But that didn’t really work well either.  By morning, they’d be all droopy and sad.

But I still loved bluebonnets in the spring.  And I don’t remember a spring without them….going out to the farm was insurance that I’d get to feast my eyes on oceans of blue along the way.  Later, after I married and moved to West Texas, the bluebonnet treks became sparse…the only time I got to see them was when we’d go home to my parent’s, who by now, lived in the country and had their own bluebonnet stand!  You could smell them early in the mornings when the humidity was high.  Heaven. Pure heaven.

Staley Blubonnets 2012...my photo.
Staley Bluebonnets with Indian Paintbrush (the reddish pink taller flowers) 2012…my photo.

Once we landed in Kansas, I was again determined to grow the stubborn little flowers and discovered that they don’t really take to the rich Kansas soil.  They much prefer rocks.  And sand sprinkled with hornytoads, cactus and rattlesnakes.  I managed to get some seeds to sprout once and they had some puny blooms that spring, but they disappeared the next spring.  Didn’t they know they’re supposed to come up every spring?  I tried buying potted plants at the local farm/fruit stand in my hometown, then haul them 500 miles north,  but they didn’t fare well either.

Years later, I just try to get to Texas in time for the bluebonnet craze to hit central Texas.  I can usually start seeing them about 100 miles north of Brownwood….around Breckenridge.  I always call Mother from there to let her know that the bluebonnets have arrived!!  From there, the blue haze multiplies and if I keep going south on to Austin, it’s like G-d dumped blue paint all over the whole state!  With little sprinkles of Indian Paintbrush and Buttercups.

Staley Cemetery, Early, Texas 2012
Staley Cemetery, Early, Texas 2012

If you’re looking for a good children’s book, try dePaola’s books.  The stories are wonderful and his illustrations are unique!  And you might just be tempted to visit Texas this spring.  There’s a whole culture of bluebonnet seekers/groupies with trails of the best pastures mapped out for visitors.  Texans take their bluebonnets seriously!  Texas A&M has a whole study dedicated to bluebonnets and their breeding. They’ve even come up with, yes, Maroon Bluebonnets. You won’t believe your eyes!

Update: see HERE for more Bluebonnet Stuff!! 🙂

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