the true stories
My paternal grandmother was a mix of two different tribes of Celts. Her father, Mr. Poole was a Welshman or Brythonic Celt, who married a woman from the Emerald Isle, a Gael. They had a daughter, Elsie who was born and raised in Cardiff. I only met her twice. Once she came to Louisiana and we sat up in the kitchen late one night, drinking hot tea and listening to the crickets. She sounded like Mary Poppins to me and I sounded like Tom Sawyer to her.
The other occasion was when my family visited her for an hour in California on our way North. She gave me a bag of pennies and called them “coppers.” Her husband was a German man and just sat in a chair and said nothing. They had two daughters and a son, my father. His name was Alfons Heinrich Haus and he used to be the yardmaster for the railroad in Toronto. Later, he was the groundskeeper for a large golf course in the States. His people had come from Alsace-Lorraine.
My Celtic grandma used to send me books in the mail. All my childhood, I looked forward to getting the brown cardboard boxes of new reading material. Mostly, she sent Jack London's books. At Christmas she always sent a little box of French cakes called Petites Fours. Over my life, I came to realize that it was the Welsh in me that needed to read and the Irish in me that needed to write. It was said by a Scotsmen, that although the English gave books and writing to the Irish, the Irish gave literature to the world.
I have always loved shamrocks and clovers and I scan the ground for four leaf clovers when ever I'm standing about. Until, I was married to my third wife, I never found one. As a child, I bought several at roadside tourists traps and fair grounds. The ones encased in Lucite and made into key-chains.
When I was delivering mail in Vancouver and my second son was old enough to walk with me, I took him to work during the days when his school was closed. The little fellow did the whole route many times and was satisfied with a root beer at days end. I was proud to show him off to all my customers. There was a big Ukrainian Orthodox Church at the halfway point of the route I had during these days.
This became our resting place. There was an extensive green and a small house also owned by the church set off in the back of the property. In a rock wall, was a clear glass tube built into the mortar containing a piece of stone from a famous wall somewhere in the Holy Land. We generally walked onto the green and stretched out on the grass to take our sandwiches.
There was a good undergrowth of clover and the second time we looked among them my son found a four-leafer! I began to look in earnest and soon I had several. Miguelito found over a half dozen more and by the end of lunch we had fourteen. We pressed them between some junk mail and brought them home to show my wife. She arranged them in a frame and we hung it on the wall.
Within a week, my wife found over a dozen more on her own and my son and I found more at our churchyard site. It got so that none of us could take a simple walk without stubbing our toes on the beautiful things. We put them in plastic business card cases and old CD Rom cases. We still have some of those to this day. After a while, the phenomenon tapered off and it became harder to find them. We bought a trailer in Lillooet, B.C., five years before I retired from Canada Post.
The idea came to me one day while painting and fixing up the place prior to moving in, that it would be lovely to have a nice carpet of white clover for the yard. It would serve to replenish the nitrogen, keep the grass greener and give the honey bees something to eat. If we have any grandchildren, we could look for four-leaf clovers with them, I reckoned.
I went to the feed and seed store to buy some seed. A tall high-school age gal led me back into a shed where metal garbage bins were warehoused. She started lifting lids and hauling out the heavy bags with one arm to read the labels stitched to the bottoms. Some of those bags I had a hard time lifting with two arms. The colleen tossed them around like they were full of dry moss. God bless country gals. I'm glad I married one.
The lass wasn't sure of the commercial name of the type of clover I sought and neither was I. We finally settled on several pounds of some variety of white clover. I wasn't aware that there was more than one variety of the white. I knew there was a red variety, however. I didn't want red. It was too big. On the wall above the cash register while I was paying, I spied a little sign that read, “All little girls are born angels. If you break our wings, we can still fly. We just use our broom-sticks.”
I took the bag home and hand scattered the yellowish-brown grains over my entire trailer pad. I couldn't wait to see the emerald carpet appear. That night I dreamed of clover. The following morning my wife and I went for a nice walk along a hydro canal. It was early Spring and the plants were all coming green and getting tall. I happened to ask a fellow we passed the name of a particularly prolific plant that had a blossom similar to a clover but much, much bigger. It grew in dry gravel and was past knee-high.
“That's clover, eh.” he said in a friendly tone. I thanked him and took a piece for my pocket. I told my wife that I was sure he was mistaken, that it had to be alfalfa. I asked a few more people at random and they all said it was clover. A seed of doubt sprouted in my imagination. I began to wonder what I had just planted. When I got home, I went to the gas station where they had a book rack with a book about local plants. There I found an article on the sample in my hand. It was alfalfa and was commonly referred to in many parts of the West as clover.
I returned to the feed store. The ladies were unable to determine exactly what my seed would look like when it sprouted. We all gathered around the dusty computer and pored over page after page until they became as confused as I. One lady present, who seemed to know, assured me that most farmers referred to alfalfa as clover. Slightly worse for the experience, I returned to the trailer. I cursed Linnaeus, colloquial speech, genetics, bar-codes, ambiguity, packaging without pictures, my own ignorance and especially my lack of research..
We returned to the city next day and when I got home, I googled alfalfa. A most amazing plant. Capable of withstanding fire, drought and probably nuclear attack. Some varieties send tap-roots down as far as fifty feet. It is ancient, indestructible and full of nourishment for man and beast. I read articles listing all the genetic mutations that scientist have made to this plant to make it even more formidable. Clover had been tampered with as well and now came in dwarf and giant commercial varieties.
Then I looked at dozens of mug-shots of seeds that all looked alike. I placed several calls to farms where they grow alfalfa commercially for ranches. I was told not to worry, I could have the entire property tilled up and removed, if I did it soon enough. I could move to Brazil. That night, I had nightmares of fast-growing green tendrils entangling the entire trailer park. The Green Man had been awakened.
I had to do something. I found the old case with the four-leafers and said a wee prayer. When I came next to the scene of the sowing, I couldn't find a single seed on the ground. No purple flowers. No foot-tall fibrous spears. Only small white blossoms and growing circlets of emerald between the grasses. Perhaps the birds, I thought. Perhaps a Pooka. Or maybe it was just the luck of the Irish.
Copyright © 2019 by Michael A. Hawes. All Rights Reserved.
Michael Hawes was born in Texas, raised in Louisiana and lives in British Columbia.