As our weather alternates between spring and winter, I look forward to bluebonnet season which lies just ahead – a season that triggers a lot of memories and nostalgia for all love-my-state Texans like me!
Memories like picking bluebonnets in our pasture and taking them to my first grade teacher in Dime Box Rural School – when you brought flowers to the classroom, you got your name written on the blackboard in colored chalk! What an honor that was!
I have memories of being in grad school in Michigan, walking to church on Easter Sunday in the snow. “The bluebonnets are blooming at home,” I complained to my wife who was probably as homesick for Texas as I was.
I have a hunch that most dyed-in-the-wool Texans like me have a similar fervent affinity for “buffalo clover,” as it was known in frontier days. In those early days, it was also called “wolf flower” and “el coneJo” (the rabbit).
According to a quick Google seach, the State of Texas has declared all species of bluebonnets as the state flower, but only one species has the name of Texas bluebonnet – the Lupinus texensis.
As a lifetime artist, I have always found it a little disconcerting to suffer from the inability to draw or paint bluebonnets and horses. I long ago gave up on bluebonnets, but I am still working at sketching and painting horses.
I have never been able to understand why I cannot capture the beauty of bluebonnets with ink, watercolor, or oils. A cynical friend of mine told me once, “Why try? You can create excellent bluebonnet pictures with a camera.” Yes, but ...
The next best thing I decided was to acquire really good bluebonnet paintings from artists whose love for the flower produced splendid images of the real thing, a love that could capture the soul of the bluebonnet.
The late Esther Dusek, who lived halfway between East Bernard and Wallis, was well known for her bluebonnet paintings, selling many of them at B&K Furniture Store. Esther, who grew wonderful flower gardens, had such a love for flowering plants that her bluebonnets on canvas or wood appeared to be touched with love.
The late Louise Volz, a long-time Wharton resident, painted exquisite miniatures of bluebonnets. I can testify how difficult these wolf flowers are to paint, so to do them on a 3-inch by 4-inch canvas board takes an incredible eye and steady hand, not to mention talent.
My wife bought me one of Esther’s bluebonnet on wood pieces, and we inherited one of Louise’s miniatures when my wife’s aunt died. We also inherited two superb bluebonnet oil paintings from my wife’s parents – I don’t know the artist’s name. While paintings of bluebonnets, and even poems about our state flower, are beautiful, nothing beats the real thing. I’m ready to see some real bluebonnets!
Ray Spitzenberger is a retired WCJC teacher and a retired LCMS pastor, and author of three books, It Must Be the Noodles, Open Prairies, and Tanka Schoen.
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