Those yellow flowers blooming in waves along the roadsides of Kentucky this time of year are known by several names—March flowers, March lilies, Easter flowers, jonquils, daffodils, narcissus, and even buttercups.
Some of the names are technically incorrect, I know, including buttercups, which is what my family always called them. But so far there is no law against calling them whatever we like.
On a lonesome green knoll in a grove of black locusts near the heart of Kentucky, a multitude of yellow blossoms will soon begin their gentle dance into spring with no one there to see them. These flowers are all that remain to mark the spot my family once called home. We moved to another location on the farm, a half-mile away, when I was a toddler, and the old homeplace on the creek road is now barely a wisp of memory.
Virtually nothing is left there save the March flowers, which have bloomed in profusion every year despite repeated assaults by bulldozers, late freezes, droughts, and flooding.
The house, barn, and outbuildings, the orchard and its old-fashioned speckled apples that we once shook from the trees, and remnants of the historic gristmill that stood along the nearby creek, are all gone without a trace.
Yet these fragile yellow flowers greet the first breath of spring each year as though my family is still there, waiting to pick them for Sunday bouquets, or hide Easter eggs among them for small hands to gather.
I have always regarded the newspapers owned by me as a public trust and have endeavored so to conduct them as to render the greatest public service.
Robert Worth Bingham, who bought The Courier-Journal newspaper in 1918 and whose family owned it until 1986. The words are set permanently above the elevators that lead to the news operations in The Courier-Journal building in Louisville, Ky.
Many of you know that my dad, former Courier-Journal Kentucky columnist Byron Crawford, writes a monthly column for Kentucky Living magazine. This month, his column takes up a topic of special significance to our family, a tomcat who befriended my grandfather in the final stages of his life. “Dog” the cat is pictured below with my son, Henry. And I offer the first bit of my dad’s January column here, with a link for more …
Had my father Delbert Crawford lived until the 20th of this month he’d have been 103 years old. We lost him to pneumonia last April.
Thinking of him just now, I am remembering how he continued to savor life during his last months, even as age stole most of his eyesight, his hearing, and his mind.
When he no longer could see to work crossword puzzles or giant word jumbles, he shifted his interest to moon phases and what time the moon came up each night, waiting at certain windows to watch. “Did you see how pretty the moon was tonight?” he’d ask on the phone. He even made a study of what time each evening the mercury vapor streetlights came on.
His last summer with us—as his senses dimmed to a flicker—he often spent hours sitting in the swing on the patio, but rarely had much to say.
Then one afternoon, out of nowhere, a disheveled tomcat wandered straight up to the swing, jumped into Dad’s lap, began purring, and curled up to be petted.
My mother, Lucille, was amazed at the transformation that suddenly came over Dad. He began laughing and talking again, to the big gray cat with white feet.
No one around the neighborhood had ever seen the cat, which had been declawed and neutered, and its owner could not be found.
My mother called it a miracle. Dad called it a dog.
New Year’s Day dawned in my living room with a suspicious sun taking occasional peeks at the new year. The wind has not been so shy. It is unclear whether its rush is to blow in the new year or out the old.
After holding out till midnight, two sons got up at the customary hour, but now have fallen back asleep on couch and floor. One wears a batting helmet he got for Christmas — hope of a new season.
I, too, think about swings, hits and misses.