Monday, April 30, 2012

`They Creep Right Up to Your Door'

My boss and her husband own an eighty-two-acre farm outside Bellville, about seventy-five miles west and north of Houston. To allay the burden of property taxes, they keep twenty-five cows to sell periodically at auction. Their land is mostly rolling pasture with a serpentine creek, three ponds and patchy groves of oak. A willow beside the creek leaned over some years ago and never righted itself, and now grows horizontally across the pasture for eighty feet. One bur oak grows on their land, bearing acorns the size of Bosc pears. When the rains come, portions of the pasture flood, and even now in the dry months the ground is spotted with crawfish mounds.

I had never seen so dense a growth of wildflowers as in the pasture closest to the house, where the cows don’t graze. I counted twenty-seven species, including white prickly poppy, Texas vervain, winecup, Drummond phlox, coreopsis, two kinds of coneflower, Indian paintbrush, fleabane daisy, chickweed, Texas bull nettle, blue-eyed grass and Texas, Scotch and Mexican thistle. Among them flitted hundreds of butterflies, most commonly dogfaces, monarchs and black swallowtails, but I also saw an exquisite little soapberry hairstreak. Overhead, swallows swooped, harvesting insects. Farther off, hawks patrolled on thermals.

I remembered the scene in Roy Bedichek’s Adventures with a Texas Naturalist (1947) I wrote about here, and also his anecdote about an elderly botanist he met in an Austin nursing home who wanted help identifying the bird calling outside his window. Bedichek told him it was an Inca dove and they became friends. Later, they took trips together in the country. Once the botanist expressed sadness when he saw someone had cut down a patch of Mexican evening primrose. Bedichek reports the man saying: “They’re such friendly flowers—they creep right up to your door.”

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