Guest Columnist

Pondering statues and ditch lilies

Kurt Ullrich lives in rural Jackson County.
Kurt Ullrich lives in rural Jackson County.

Some like it hot. I do not. Heat and humidity are hanging on out here and, if the good-looking young people in the television weather business are correct, it’s gonna be a while before it moves on’ and it is abundantly clear to me that in a couple of generations we’ll no longer need lawn mowers or snowblowers. Thank goodness I’ll be long gone. Enjoy the desert, kids.

Years ago on a hot day I was chatting with an old guy in a shopping mall, about the weather of course, and he said something like, “I remember a summer hotter than this one.” “1936,” I said. He was surprised that someone as young as I (60ish) knew such a thing. Anyone who pays attention to this stuff knows that 1936 was the year to which all others are compared. It was the middle of the Depression, people were out of work, and it was hot. Sound familiar?

I watched our president with some amusement over the Fourth of July weekend; in a couple of speeches he let folks know that in no uncertain terms he’s a racist. He’s all about not allowing statues of Confederate generals to be removed and, honestly, I don’t believe that his stance is about race. No, the president knows full well that after he is out of office some folks who ought to know better will erect statues to honor him, and he doesn’t want the good citizens of the United States to have the power to remove said statues. Trust me on this one.

A few years back I was in London in December and there was a protest going on outside of the United Kingdom’s Supreme Court in Parliament Square. I don’t recall what the protest was about but I hung around to watch. There was a statue of Abraham Lincoln out front. Surely you remember him. Anyway, next to Lincoln was a statue of a guy named George Canning. I asked a policeman standing next to me, “Who is George Canning?” His response was priceless, “I have no idea.” Now that’s my kind of statue.

Out here, despite the heat and humidity, wild plants are doing brilliantly. To me the prettiest flower in the hollow is the wild thistle, a gorgeous purple/pink flower four feet in the air at the top of one of the nastiest plants on earth. Farmers hate it.

In addition there is purple bee balm, purple clover, and blue vervain, (not blue, but purple). In the ditches yellow birdsfoot trefoile are doing well and in ditches everywhere what we call ditch lilies are doing splendidly. The lilies are orange and I picked a few to put in water in a Ball canning jar on a windowsill in my kitchen. The lilies lasted two days. Like many wild things, they don’t do well in polite company. I understand them very well.

If you enjoy wildflowers feel free to stop out in July next year when the world is safer. Be sure to bring a parasol with you. What? You don’t own a parasol? I picked up a couple of them in an umbrella shop just off Madison in NYC a few years ago; I’ll loan you one. We’ll sweat but we’ll have a great time.

In the meantime, be safe, be well and, for you older students, keep your mouth off the bubbler.

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Kurt Ullrich lives in rural Jackson County. His book “The Iowa State Fair” is available from the University of Iowa Press.

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