The Quest of the Blue Dandelion

FIRST, let me state that there really are such things as blue dandelions. It came to pass in the following manner:

In the summer of 1913, a certain country gentleman, living in a certain Massachusetts town, and actuated by the commendable New England urge to buy everything that ‘jined’ him, purchased an adjoining estate, which happened to be a nursery garden. Instead of merely ploughing under such plants as he did not need for his own garden, he very public-spiritedly threw the grounds open to his friends and neighbors, to take what they chose; and I, inter alios, availed myself of the opportunity.

Among the items which I took was one peculiar small plant with lily-like leaves. There were no others like it in the garden, and it could not be identified by any of the botanists to whom I showed it.

Transplanted into my own garden, it received the most tender daily care, in spite of which (or, perhaps, because of which) it very nearly perished. Finally it bore a single flower, large and blue, closely resembling that of an aster. In due time this lone flower went to seed, producing to my surprise a dandelion-blow as large as a tennis-ball. Then the truth dawned upon me that I had actually discovered the fabulous blue dandelion!

Of course, the thing to do was to wrap the blow in a piece of gauze and save the seeds. But, alas, procrastination is the thief of blue dandelions! By the time that I got around to doing it, the blow had fallen (that is, the blow had blown), and only one small seed remained. This I saved and planted.

The next summer neither the seed nor the original plant came up, and the blue dandelion was lost to the world.

The following year, while touring in the Berkshires, I came upon a field of dandelions in seed. There were no flowers, it was true, but there could be no mistaking the lily-like leaves and the tennis-ball blows. Stopping the car, I eagerly crammed my pockets full of the precious seeds. On my return home, I planted a whole bed of them, and was overjoyed to have them all come up.

But this plant is a biennial. I should have to wait until the following June for the flowers. All summer I tenderly tended the bed. In the fall I matted it well with straw. In the spring the plants were still alive. Oh, joy! Tiny buds appeared. They grew and grew, and finally the longed-for day arrived. They burst into flower — bright yellow!

Nothing further occurred in my quest until June, 1918, when I was stationed at Fortress Monroe, Virginia. Walking along the Buckroe trolley-line one day, near Old Point Comfort College, I found a small clump of blue dandelions in full bloom. I was not to be cheated this time, for these really were blue; I saw them in the flower. In a few days they would be in seed, and then I would return and my quest would be at an end.

In a few days I did return. But, alas, the trolley company had mowed the right of way, and my blue dandelions were no more.

The next spring found me still stationed at Fortress Monroe, in spite of frantic efforts to get to go overseas. But, just before dandelion time, I was transferred to another post, and in the haste of packing forgot to arrange for someone else to get the seeds for me.

In June, 1920, and again in 1921, I wrote to brother officers at Fortress Monroe, beseeching them to walk out toward Buckroe and get me some blue dandelion seeds; but my appeals produced merely ribald inquiries from some as to whether blue dandelions would be any more useful in violating the Volstead Act than dandelions of any other color. One friend did finally have the decency to take the trip, only to report that the trolley company had filled in its right of way with binders, thus covering up the spot where the precious flowers had used to grow.

Nothing daunted, I again appealed in 1922, this time including the Reverend Father Superior of Old Point Comfort College. He succeeded in finding a clump of blue dandelions which had not been buried by the unintentional vandalism of the trolley company; but he also succeeded in losing my letter of inquiry.

Nevertheless, realizing the seriousness of the situation, he made a frantic effort to reach me. The letter which he wrote me had my name wrong, the name of my company wrong, and it was addressed to the wrong city. Yet through one of those strokes of genius of the Post Office Department, which one reads about, but seldom sees, the letter reached me; and I at once ordered a shipment of the seeds.

But apparently there was more than one divinity shaping my ends. The very next morning, as I was walking along the railroad tracks in South Milwaukee, on my way to breakfast at the Bucyrus Steam-Shovel cafeteria, I spied a clump of blue dandelions in full bloom.

Now, if I had not just heard from the reverend father, this sight would have filled me with supreme joy. But, as it was, it came as a sort of anticlimax. It was as if Sir Galahad, after nine weary years of search for the Holy Grail, had returned home successful, only to find all the five-and-ten-cent stores displaying hundreds of Grails in their windows.

But there was this consolation: these C. & N. W. dandelions were n’t exactly blue — they were more of a purple. Then a horrible thought struck me! Perhaps my memory was at fault after all these years, and the original blue dandelions had n’t been a true blue!

Anyhow, I have collected the seeds and destroyed the plants. With these seeds and the ones received from the reverend father, I may be able to establish a monopoly, after all.

My quest is at an end? Perhaps. And yet I cannot help feeling that there’s many a slip between the seed and the blue dandelion. Something may yet happen to my crop. I may yet be sorry that I have burned my dandelion plants behind me; that I have killed the plants that bore the golden seeds.