Spring has sprung in Texas. The Texas Bluebonnet is much more than a wildflower. It represents new beginnings, proud heritage, and natural beauty for Texans. We begin to see Bluebonnets in March along roadsides as they explode in color. In a good year, they are like carpets of blue velvet marking our journey. This year rain fall was good, unlike the drought of last year. We collected some wonderful photographs of our backyard chickens in the Bluebonnets.
Bluebonnets became our State Flower in 1901, after a spirited debate in the legislature. Some politicians wanted the Cotton Boll to represent the State Flower. Others strongly lobbied for the Hardy Cactus. It seems there were idiotic politics in those days too. The Bluebonnet and common sense prevailed.
In the 1970′s my father-in-law, Bob Rheudasil, planted Bluebonnets on the property we live on. Every spring we have a beautiful crop. We nurture and protect our wildflower fields for family and friends to enjoy.
I will always think of Bob in Bluebonnet season. Bluebonnets were important to him and a great source of personal pride. He was a “man of the dirt” and grew native prairie grasses, spectacular gardens, and magnificent trees throughout his life. Bluebonnets were his favorite and remained with him until his death in September of 2011. They even named a nearby school Bluebonnet Elementary for his prized wildflowers. Bob helped them start Bluebonnets there for the children to enjoy.
Backyard Chickens don’t bother the Bluebonnets much. The legume roots start to spread in August and September. Backyard chickens scratch for worms and bugs that are feeding on the root system. The chickens create a few small bald patches where worms and grubs are thick. This creates a small standing or sitting area to pose guests for photos. I feel the chickens do Bluebonnets more good than harm.
I enjoy watching our backyard chickens in the Bluebonnets. It’s natural beauty within natural beauty. Chickens create wonderful pictures in the Bluebonnets. Some seem to actually pose for you. Most will not and it takes real patience to get any photo at all.
Goldie is our Boss Chicken. She is a five year old hen and is on semi-
permanent loan to us. A friend had to get rid of her small flock because the ordinances did not allow her to keep them on her smaller lot. We agreed to keep Goldie while we are trying change the ordinance to allow chickens on smaller lots. If so, Goldie may go home to her original backyard and family. Goldie is a natural in Bluebonnets. I swear sometimes that she actually poses for my camera.
Money Penny is named after my wife and the receptionist in the James Bond movies. She is quite independent and vocal, like another Penny around our place. Money Penny is a Black-Copper Maran that we bought as a pullet (teenager). Money Penny is aloof around people, but she is sweet once you catch and calm her down. She lays dark copper to chocolate colored eggs, often with spots.
Rosie Roho is our Rhode Island Red that has a spirited, but standoffish personality. Rosie earned her way to second in the pecking order of our small flock. She sleeps on the high roosting rod with Goldie and positions all the lower chickens in the coop. If one moves around, Rosie reaches down and pecks them back in place. Rosie grew up with Money Penny, so she does not bother her much. Rosie lays a large brown egg for us daily.
Little Sissy is a newer addition to the backyard chicken flock. She is a White Silkie. I got her for ornamental purposes and to be a lap chicken for kids to hold. Sissy is still a teenager and has not started laying eggs. Sissy will only get to 2-1/2 pounds, where most the chickens are six to seven pounds. Tori Spelling has a Silkie like Sissy. She carries around her Silkie like a chihuahua.
Sissy is quite a site running around the yard with the big chickens. It does my heart good to watch her, especially in a child’s lap.
Bobby Gene is our teenage Brahma hen and she started laying at an early age. She will grow to almost ten pounds. My wife named her for my Father-in-Law Bobbye Gene Rheudasil. Bobby Gene is our sweetest and most gentle backyard chicken. Her personality is much like the real Bobby Gene. She is clearly my wife’s favorite and one of mine too. My wife often corrects me from calling Bobby Gene ‘him’ instead of ‘her’. Bobby Gene is very vocal and runs up to me when I go outside. I can’t help having a discussion with him, I mean her, on a daily basis.
Patty Francis is our Americauna hen, named for Penny’s mom. She is our youngest pullet, but growing fast. She will lay blue-green eggs, but has not started yet. Patty Francis is the wild one of the bunch, very flighty, and very illusive. I’m not sure if we will ever tame her. To me, she is much like another Patty Francis that once lived on this place.
Some of our chickens got to meet Bob Rheudasil last summer during his nightly porch sitting. We were honored to keep Bob the last few months of his life. Despite the record heat wave and drought, Bob insisted we sit on the front porch every morning and evening. Our backyard chickens became front yard chickens. I moved my portable chicken tractor around front for Bob’s entertainment, and ours.
Bob would not admit he was attached to the chickens, but I would look over and see a smile on his face as he watched them peck and scratch around the yard. He would poke at them with his cane if they got too close, or point his cane at them and tell us if they were in to something they shouldn’t be.
Sitting on the front porch and watching chickens with Bob was a great joy us. It was like we were back on the ranch with Bob. Instead of managing prized Black Angus cattle, we managed this small flock of chickens. The chickens provided fresh organic eggs for breakfast all summer. The taste of fresh eggs enriched our lives at the breakfast table. Our last months with Bob were some of the best times of our life.
Bob is gone now, but Bob’s Bluebonnets are in full bloom. I enjoy Bob’s Bluebonnets every day they are here. I know we only have Bluebonnets for a short while before they drop their leaves and are gone. I will always think of Bob in the Bluebonnets, when he could stand proud among them. Bluebonnets are just one of many things Bob left for us, and they return to us every spring.
We have a few Pink Bluebonnets scattered among Bob’s Bluebonnets. I have yet to get a picture of a backyard chicken next to a Pink Bluebonnet, but will with patience.
Allow me to share the ‘Legend of the Pink Bluebonnet’, as it was relayed to me.
A few years ago, a grandmother took her two young grandchildren for a walk on a river near San Antonio. Her granddaughter and grandsons marveled at the Bluebonnets and asked many questions about them.
The granddaughter spotted a Pink Bluebonnet and both children ran to it. The children kneeled and admired its beautiful pink color among a sea of blue. The grandmother walked over to kneel with them. The children asked why this one Bluebonnet was pink and all the others were blue. Their Grandmother shared a story of when she was a little girl running in the Bluebonnets.
“When I was a little girl, I found a Pink Bluebonnet like this. I was walking with my grandmother also. I asked her the same question you are asking me now. My grandmother told me that her and her brother once played in these fields as children. There were no Pink Bluebonnets then, but every year they had a few White Bluebonnets scattered among the blue flowers.
In those days, Texas was part of Mexico. The settlers were not treated well by Mexico, but worked hard on their land. Her family wanted to be free from Mexico and its cruel ruler, a man named Santa Anna. Many others wanted freedom and to own the land they worked so hard on.
One day, some men decided to stand up to Santa Anna to gain independence from Mexico. They gathered in a small mission just down the road and pledged to defend it for all our freedom. This mission was called The Alamo.
It was a terrible time and Santa Anna came with thousands of Mexican soldiers to crush these few brave men. After many days of fighting, the brave men were all killed by Santa Anna and their blood ran thick into the soil at the Alamo. These men stopped Santa Anna long enough for others to organize and defeat him. We pledged to never forget these brave men.
The next Spring, we walked free in this field with our grandmother for the first time. The Bluebonnets exploded in color like never before. It was a happy time for us. We came upon a Pink Bluebonnet, then another, and another. There were many scattered among the blue ones. We could not find any of white ones, like the year before.
We ran and told our grandmother that the White Bluebonnets were now Pink! She told us they would be pink from now on, in remembrance of the men that died at the Alamo. The blood these men spilled ran into the dirt, to the creeks, and into all the White Bluebonnets, turning them pink. She told us what I now tell you, ‘When you see a Pink Bluebonnet, remember the brave men that died for us at the Alamo’.
I will leave it to you if you want to believe the ‘Legend of the Pink Bluebonnet’. For me, I will always think of new beginnings,our proud Texas heritage, and natural beauty when walking near Bluebonnets. Most of all, I will think of Bob and how he made this world better for so many of us.