by Lauren Leigh Powell
I don’t know why my father hated dandelions so much. My Aunt Edna told me once that it was a “man thing.” That somehow all men, when they are the steward of their own yard, become convinced that the bright sprinkling of yellow is a punishment from God for some sin.
Our front yard was a little more than an acre in size, and represented my father’s need to prove that he could control something in his life. His house may be under siege by an army of females, the hair on his head was thinning and disappearing at a rapid rate, but by God his grass was going to be green, the trees evenly trimmed and not a dandelion in sight!
He would try to recruit us kids into his campaign, offering one cent bounties on every dandelion head we brought him or a dollar if we went the extra mile and actually dug the plant up, root and all. No reward though if we didn’t fill in the hole. You could expect to earn extra chores if “heaven forbid” you were ever caught blowing dandelion seeds to make a wish, like a normal kid.
I was a smart girl, and worse, a bit of a nature hippie with an herbalist grandmother on my mom’s side who I worshipped, a sassy mouth and a subscription to Ranger Rick. As a matter of principle I would argue with him to leave the dandelions alone; they were pretty and they weren’t hurting him. I was a traitor and he wouldn’t hesitate to tell me so. Then off he would ride on his zero turn steed, to meet his foe like a suburban Don Quixote, tilting at little yellow windmills.
Inevitably, no matter how low the mower deck setting or how many passes he made over the freshly shorn grass, he was never successful. Within minutes, little yellow faces would peek out from between the blades of grass, and then soon, one by one, they would pop their heads up, stretching towards the sun. Adorable, bright yellow hydras, because for every head he took, there were soon two more in its place.
On and on, this bizarre ritual would go, from the cool evenings of spring, through the dog days of summer, and finally end with the falling of the autumn leaves. It was an obsession, unhealthy to the point that it used to drive my mother from the house on days he would fire up the John Deere. She would not return till long after dark and refuse to discuss the matter with him.
Year after year, I would argue with him, cajole him, whine and rage to try and get him to just leave the poor dandelions alone. Nothing ever worked, until the year I turned thirteen. All winter long I had prepared, researched and practiced. I sprung my trap late in March.
That night during our family’s evening hour of the “Wheel” and “Jeopardy,” I casually mentioned, “Did you know the average bee hive needs at least 30 pounds of honey for the colony to survive the winter? I didn’t look at Dad, but I heard him close his newspaper and sit up in his chair. He loved so called useless trivia like that and I had his attention.
“Is that so?”
“Yup, the average worker bee will only produce 1/12 a tablespoon of honey in their lifetime too.”
“Yeah, worker bees are all female and they only live about six weeks but the queen can live as long as five years.”
He didn’t say anything, but he was watching me. I knew he was impressed. He was the kind of dad that if his kids found something fascinating, you could count on him to encourage you to share, and be proud of what you liked, no matter how nerdy or weird. I should have felt bad that he was about to walk into my cleverly laid snare.
“Bees pollenate one third of the world’s crops, and without them whole species of other animals that eat plants they pollenate would die and it could cause world-wide famine.”
He had a slight smile on his face, listening to his second born speak so passionately about something, and I went for the jugular.
“It takes a colony of bees all summer to visit the two million flowers they need to even make 30 pounds of honey. That’s why it’s really important to plant lots of flowers every year, for the bees. Do you know what the number one source of food for bees is, when they first venture out of their hives this time of year, because it’s so cold that nothing else can survive yet?
You could have heard a pin drop, save for the sound of Alex Trebek’s voice droning in the background.
He said nothing, just picked up his newspaper, and went back to reading, but I saw him glance at me over it several times, and I could tell he wanted to say something but was not sure what or maybe was too angry to trust himself to speak.
That spring, our yard was awash in yellow and green, and every year from then on. I overheard him tell his friend Joe, who was ribbing him about it, that the average bee hive needs 30 pounds of honey to survive the winter and without dandelions that wasn’t possible, and without bees, the world would end, so how could he care about a little yellow when it meant he was saving the world.
Category: Fiction, Short Story, SNHU Creative Writing, SNHU online creative writing, SNHU Student