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  • Writer's pictureJeff Kerr

Spring Has Sprung

What’s on your spring reading list? I’m currently deep into a novel widely regarded as a literary classic. I’ve been meaning to read it for years. I’ve read other works by this author and loved them. This one? Meh.

I won’t give you the title because I’m not interested in triggering a discussion of the book’s merits. I bring it up only to point out that with art, one person’s cake is another person’s poison. Comedy is particularly subjective. I once talked a friend into watching The Gods Must Be Crazy, which I had seen and found hilarious. I don’t think he laughed once.

Has that ever happened to you? You read a book everybody thinks is a masterpiece, only to reach the end and wonder what all the fuss is about? If so, tell us about it in the comments. Given that I chickened out on revealing the title, you may keep yours a secret too.

Spring has sprung.

The grass is riz.

I wonder where the flowers is.

This nonsense poem cracked me up when I first heard Henry Gibson recite it on Laugh-in many years ago. I always figured it was original to the show, but a quick internet search reveals the anonymous work dates back at least to 1936 and is sometimes called “The Brooklyn (or Bronx) National Anthem.”

Here in Texas, the answer to the riddle is easy: the flowers is everywhere (except for my field in Blanco County, but more on that later). Yesterday, on a drive from Houston to Austin along Highway 290, I was treated to the continuous roadside display of wildflowers the state is famous for. Bluebonnets dominate, but brilliant orange Indian paintbrushes aren’t far behind. An occasional cluster of yellow Euryops daisies adds variety.

By Texas law, every parent with a child under the age of 40 must toss said child into a field of bluebonnets and take pictures. Preferably hundreds of pictures. Those without children may substitute a pet, usually a dog, but a cat or even a hamster will do. Lacking any of the above, you can take a selfie, although you should be kissing someone in the photo. It can be a stranger (there will be plenty of them in your roadside flower patch), the important element is the smooch.

Ten years ago, my wife and I were fortunate enough to be able to buy a small patch of land in Blanco County. When we first visited the property, I snapped the photograph displayed here. As you can imagine, the prospect of owning our own sea of bluebonnets proved irresistible, so we made an offer the owner couldn’t refuse.

Three or four years went by. Each spring, we romped in our solid blue pasture, snapping photographs from every conceivable angle and with every conceivable combination of visiting people and animals. One year, though, we noticed fewer flowers. The next year, there were even fewer. We still snapped our photos but wondered if we were witnessing the beginning of the end.

I consulted a biologist, an expert in land restoration who surely would be able to get our bluebonnets back. On his recommendation, I bought a small tiller. I attached this to my utility vehicle and dragged it across the field in late summer to disturb the soil. I then spread 10 pounds of bluebonnet seed.

Alas, the following spring we saw only a few scattered flowers. I waited until summer and used the tiller again. This time, I bought 20 pounds of seed, taking care to drop seeds only in soil that had been disturbed. The results? Nada. Zip. Zero. Oh, a careful search turned up a few solitary flowers tucked into the Indian grass and little bluestem. But what had once been a solid mass of blue each spring had become a disappointing field of green grass. And nobody goes out of their way to take pictures of their kids in a grassy field.

I haven’t given up. The annual bluebonnet display depends on many factors, including the amount and timing of rainfall as well as whether or not I wear my lucky hat when I mow the field each fall. And bluebonnet seeds may not germinate for years. The biologist assures me that there are still thousands of seeds out there just waiting for the right opportunity to sprout and shine. When they do, I’ll be ready with my camera.

Thanks for reading!

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