he most beautiful flowers grew in the meadow where Old Man McConnell kept his bull. The only way into the meadow was to caterpillar crawl on your stomach under the barbed wire fence. This process rendered you socially unacceptable for the rest of the day, or until you next took a bath, whichever came first. Since we didn’t have running water, it was sometimes a really long time.
Did I try to get into the meadow to get those flowers? You bet I did! Did the bull object? You bet he did!
It was May 1, the day all 17 students of our one-room school made fragile paper baskets to hold flowers – not easy in those days before Scotch tape. The baskets were placed anonymously on doorsteps or doorknobs. The recipient was not supposed to guess who left it.
That brings me back to the meadow and the bull, and some really bad advice from our school royalty, the seventh- and eighth-grade boys. At least they looked that way to me. I was just 7 and constituted the whole first and second grade, and these boys seemed incredibly cool. Darrell Royster even had his own mule! In a few years, they would be off to high school in Libby and May Day would be an occasion for reciting off-color couplets. But these were innocent times. These cool big fellows pointed out to me that I was the only person in the whole school small enough to get under the barbed wire and into the pasture. Ergo, I would be the only one to have those gorgeous flowers for my May basket.
Looking back, I do not believe that those boys truly had my best interests at heart. In fact, I actually believe this may have been their retribution for my report to the teacher that they had drawn pictures of an unsuitable nature on the back wall of the school. Who knew they’d hold a grudge?
It would be worth going to a little trouble to make those baskets special, I reasoned as I ducked under the barbed wire fence and stuck fast on one of the barbs. Old Man McConnell immediately ran up from some unsuspected hiding place and yelled “Don’t you hurt Old Rusty now!”
I think “Old” was a family name. Old Rusty was roughly 27 times as big as I was and in no particular danger from me, but now that I had his attention, he was heading my way. He snorted and stomped and the ground shook. Quite a lot.
So there I was, stuck half way into the pasture, and coming to suspect that I would not be putting any of those beautiful flowers in my baskets. And I thought to myself, “In the future, I’m going to be more careful whose advice I follow.”
I opened my mouth, spat out the dirt and screamed until finally the boys grabbed my feet and pulled me back under the fence, clutching only a single bedraggled shooting star flower in my little hand. I don’t like bulls much any more.
It’s that time of the year again and I’m thinking It might be nice to make a May basket or two. I can think of lots of folks who’d never suspect me. For instance, just the other day I met Florence and Kurt Bargmeyer of Tacoma. He’s 95 and she’s 94 and they’ve been married 71 years. I met them at a Laugh Lunch. They didn’t seem to need extra laughter. They deserve a basket.
And how about David Ottey, redesigning his life after his many successful years of wizardry for the Emergency Food Network? David’s always been the sort of fellow who will drop everything to help others, but now he says he’s trying to become a Value Added Product. What? That means doing extra projects and unexpected tasks so his wife will be glad he’s home. He deserves a May basket and so does she.
That’s a start. There are a lot of special people who deserve baskets. You might want to try it too. Just don’t let anyone see you – and watch out for the bull.