You’ve seen them. If you haven’t, you’re in for a treat. Bluebonnets line the highways and byways in Texas in late March to mid-April, their blooms turning fields and the sides of the roads into oceans and rivers of blue. Painters show up to paint them, parents plop their small children into the dense flowers for photographs, traffic jams occur along well-known bluebonnet trails, and small towns hold bluebonnet festivals. It’s a mass celebration of Lupinus Texensis (and other varieties of bluebonnets)—the Texas state flower.
The colors of the blooms of these herbaceous annuals range from blue to maroon. As you can imagine, the maroon ones are especially popular in College Station, home of Texas A&M, where the Aggies’ school colors are maroon and white. The shape of the individual flower petals are said to resemble the sun bonnets worn by early pioneer women. So proud of these flowers and the Springtime beauty they bring, the Texas Department of Transportation plants 30,000 pounds of bluebonnet seeds along state roads.
Depending upon the weather, the best bluebonnet blooming locations will vary year-to-year. For the most spectacular viewing, search online for the “Best places to view bluebonnets this year.”
We Texans love our bluebonnets and one of the most charming things about these beautiful blooms with their green pointed leaves, are the numerous legends of how bluebonnets came to be.
Here is one Native American legend I particularly like . . .Long ago in Texas, the land suffered many disasters: A great flood swept through killing the game, drowning the camp fires and sweeping away the people’s tepees. The great flood was followed by a terrible drought which cracked the earth and dried up the streams. Then a bitter winter brought cold winds and thick ice. Food was scarce and the people were starving. Disease came into the tepees. The Great Spirit had turned away from his children.
Desperate, the medicine men danced, chanted, and beat their drums. Finally a message came from the Great Spirit. “You must sacrifice the most important thing belonging to the tribe in a burnt offering. Then scatter the ashes toward the sunrise, toward the sunset, and to the two directions in between.” The wise men of the tribe argued for a full day and long into the night about what was the tribe’s most valuable possession.
While they argued, a very young girl sat and thought. Clasped in her hand was a tiny doll made of soft fawn skin with horse-hair braids, and features painted with berry juice. The child had made clothing for her doll with the feathers of a beautiful blue bird with a black feather collar. She loved this doll with all her heart and believed it to be it the most valuable thing the tribe possessed. With a heavy heart, while her family slept, she took her doll and a smoldering stick from the fire and crept outside. Gathering twigs and dried grass, she made a small fire and praying that her offering would be accepted, she carefully laid her most valuable possession on the fire and watched the blue feathers burst into flame and the prized doll reduced to ashes. When the small fire had died and the ashes cooled, she prayed again to the Great Spirit and tossed the ashes into the wind, north, south, east and west. She smoothed the earth where the fire had been and crept back into her tepee.
In the morning she returned to where she had made her offering, and in four directions as far as the ashes had blown, the ground was covered with a blanket of flowers like she’d never seen before. They were the color of the beautiful blue bird whose feathers had dressed her tiny doll. When the medicine men saw the flowers and heard her story, they told the tribe her offering had been accepted and the curse removed. As they predicted, the land became green and fertile, the animals returned, sweet water flowed again and the tribe prospered. The small girl was given a new name, “she who dearly loves her people.”
So, when you see the first bluebonnets spring from the Texas soil in all their glory, remember the small girl who gave up her most valuable possession—the doll—from which the flowers grow.
This has been Laurie Moore-Moore with the Texas Brave and Strong podcast —tidbits of Texas history you never learned in school. It’s the best little podcast in Texas. Thanks for listening and be sure to check out my new novel, GONE TO DALLAS, The Storekeeper, 1856-1861. Available on Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, and Ingram Sparks. Ya’ll come back.