April showers bring May flowers.
Or so the beloved children’s rhyme goes.
But here in Texas, April’s not often so showery, and by May the flowers have withered under the already-scorching summer sun.
Instead, what April brings is bluebonnets, the Texas state flower, and lots of ’em. Especially in the famed “Hill Country”, whose northern boundary lies about 30 miles south of downtown Dallas. It’s commonly said to be illegal to pick bluebonnets in Texas, but it’s perfectly legal – and apparently required if you’re going to call yourself a true Texan – to plop your children down in the middle of a patch of smelly, scratchy, bee-infested wildflowers and snap picture after picture of them reveling in nature’s beauty.
I’ve seen those pictures – the ones with landscapes so covered in bluebonnets that the grass looks purple. Where pastures littered with ancient farm equipment stand in stark contrast to the vibrant, living blue-and-white lupines laid out like a carpet beneath. Where horses graze serenely behind white picket fences, framed by gently rolling hills painted in brilliant blue-and-purple hues. But those images have always existed in only two dimensions, and for the past three springs, I’ve been on a quest to view them in all three.
A few years ago, we made our first quest to Ennis, my mom, Crisana, and me, while the boys were away on a Boy Scout campout. We had a great time, and actually stumbled upon a pretty lake which made a picturesque picnic spot. But our only reward was a small patch of bluebonnets behind our pavilion, and so I vowed to try again next year.
The next year, we tried a different strategy: we drove NORTH. Technically northeast. Contrary to popular opinion – and probably common sense as well – we headed out to a state park in Bonham. Optimism was running high as we navigated two-lane country highways with patches of bluebonnets dotting the shoulders. But as we turned into the state park, a sobering realization hit us: there was not a single bluebonnet in sight. We spent the afternoon enjoying fishing, beach volleyball, and a picnic lunch, and absolutely zero bluebonnets.
Last year, we drove north again, but this time almost due north. We took a day to hang out at Eisenhower State Park off Lake Texoma with some dear friends. While we experienced a relaxing afternoon of cloud-watching, a rousing game of bocce ball, a ridiculously difficult game of croquet, and an epic cliff dive by our very own Trey (leaving him battered and bruised from head to toe), our memories exist without the colorful addition of bluebonnets.
This year we decided to go back to the drawing board…in a manner of speaking. We drove back to Ennis…SOUTH Ennis. We stopped at a local convenience store to ask for assistance. We got directions to a local reservoir – probably the same one we had visited three years ago. We drove to it and found this:
It wasn’t exactly a field covered in bluebonnets, but it was better than nothing.
We discovered the grass wasn’t especially soft, the bluebonnets were prickly, and yes, there were bugs. Ew.
We took the requisite family photos, but it never got very comfortable. Or very bluebonett-y.
We tried to make it look like there were lots and lots of bluebonnets, but we need to do more photoshopping.
If you squint real hard, it looks like there are lots of bluebonnets covering this hill. And that I’m skinny.
Right next to where we were was a marina. A marina perched at the top of a hill a good 100 yards from the water’s edge. To me, that’s not a “marina”, that’s “boat trailer parking”, but what do I know? I can’t even figure out how to find bluebonnets in springtime in Texas. But the trailers seemed like a good substitute for ancient farm equipment, so it was photo op time. For the boys. Because if you’re going to make your teenage boy sit in flowers for pictures, you need to manly it up a bit.
Oh, yeah, and there were no boats on the boat trailers either. But there were bluebonnets. At least 10 of them.
So we left the reservoir state park, and thanked the nice man who let us in for free to see the bluebonnets. On our way out, we passed by an embankment off the highway that literally took our breath away. We had to stop…because it was the closest thing I’d seen to my visions of bluebonnet-covered hills in all my days.
I took a picture to prove it really existed. And then came the family photo ops.
First the kids, who were not especially thrilled with getting back down into the scratchy dirty flower patch.
But they gamely smiled and pretended they were enjoying themselves.
The barbed wire fence and scraggly trees made a nice contrast to the lush blue field of flowers.
And then it was my turn…my first real opportunity to sit in the bluebonnets. And I didn’t even sit.
Even Matt got his own photo op…and then we noticed: WHAT?
A RED bluebonnet? Isn’t that kind of an oxymoron?
And yes, I know that technically it’s an Indian Paintbrush, but it was funnier when I didn’t admit that.
We consoled ourselves with some local Bar-b-que on the way home, and made it back in time for Trey’s rehearsal for the Saturday evening Easter service. We felt encouraged by what we’d seen…until our neighbors posted what they’d seen on their trek a few days later. *sigh*
Oh well, there’s always next year. Maybe.