This year, the bluebonnets are rioting. You can't blame them really--after the cruel, cruel drought dwindled their numbers considerably in recent years, its about time Mother Nature cut them some slack. The record cool temperatures and rain of this winter was just what they needed to rebound, and I'm betting I'm not the only fool pulled over on the highway rolling around the hillsides, camera in hand, while traffic zooms by at 70MPH just to experience that "Sound of Music" moment.
Now, once again, I'm going to show my New England (read: Yankee) roots. Leading up to my first Spring in Austin everyone boasted about the beauty of the Bluebonnet. I'd never really heard of them before--which is saying alot, since I'm a floral nerd and all. But after living in Texas for awhile, you come to accept that folks LOVE this place and bragging about it is just the way of life. I took these claims of unparalleled beauty with a grain of salt. But low and behold, what should appear on the roadsides come March? LUPINES. Everywhere, this quirky blue bloom craned its neck up and peered out at the cars passing by. These were smaller than the ones I was familiar with. On a small farm in Vermont, I'd grown Lupines: huge-skyscraper-lupines. These were nothing like that. They were a bit short and shaggy with little grace to them. Being new here, I bit my tongue instead of telling folks, "Well, I guess everything isn't BIGGER in Texas. (and P.s. what's with the cutesy name? Bluebonnets?)
I don't know that I'm ready to call myself a Texan, even after fairing seven summers of unparalleled HEAT. But I am now probably one of the Bluebonnets' most feverish fans. This year, especially--you've got to bow to them just on the basis of numbers. They are a floral army along the roadsides. And as silly as it sounds, I feel it--that Texas pride. I am that person posting photos and singing praises to a shaggy blue flower.
It could have been otherwise. In 1901, when the Bluebonnet was crowned the state flower of Texas, there were other blooms in the running. Cactus--presumably because it was, well, everywhere. And cotton, which at the time was an important crop and symbolic of the state's rise as an economic power. But, could you imagine if it had turned out any other way? If the state flower was a waxy, paraffin cactus bloom? Sure wouldn't have oodles of kids posing for family photos amongst those flowers. Or cotton? Cotton in Texas....I don't know, I can't help but think of bent backs and sweating brows and unfair wages. Kind of a buzz kill for that family photo, don't you think? No, its much better that the Bluebonnet won out. And just think--it's the only time of year this state is in the Blue.