At Bonifay Garden Club last week our program was themed tables decorated by several of the members. I chose to use dinner ware which had belonged to my Mother-in-law. The delicate pink, spring green and violet called for flowers of the same gentle hues, so I was fortunate to have a plentiful supply of wild violets and wild oxalis which had also been planted by my late mother-in-law. I was also blessed to have our daughter, Cindy, visiting from Punta Gorda. One of our “fun” activities was picking the wild violets.
Growing up in the country, that was kind of a rite of spring to go violet picking. My oldest sister, Minnie, had a March birthday. We never had birthday parties like today’s children seem to expect. Instead we and some of our cousins would go violet picking. When we were quite small, Mama would go with us near the house, but the hunting there was very limited as most of the land was used for field and vegetable crops. Homemaking duties and the care of younger siblings occupied all her time so we couldn’t go very far afield. But as we got older, we along with a bunch of Wells cousins, Kathleen, Mary, Wilma or Lenora were allowed to roam as far as we chose.
Our usual route was to go south down what is now Lee Road, past the mill pond (Cook Mill Pond ) branch that crossed our property. Then we would take the three trail road across what is now called Bess Nook. Where the 911 mapping crew came up with that name is beyond me. No one by the name of Bess had lived on that road in my lifetime nor in my dad’s lifetime. But I understand that someone by that name homesteaded the parcel bordering Gum Creek where we had a frequently used swimming hole.
Three trail roads were so called because there were two trails for the wagon wheels and one trail in the middle made by the mules that pulled the wagons. These were made by locals and required no upkeep as their frequent use kept them open. The trail to the best violet picking area led to another branch which we called Jane Branch. It was a sandy stretch through the wiregrass and piney woods and was burned off during the winter months to allow the tender shoots of wire
Grass to spring up and provide grazing for cows that roa animals as well. We had a well- worn pig trail that provided a short-cut to the swimming hole and another one where we could cross the mill pond swamp to go to the Hewitts, our nearby neighbors, when it was dry enough to cross that way.
The violet picking with my daughter last week brought back memories of the excitement of finding the fragile flowers hiding among the clumps of wire grass. Short stemmed white daisies were usually plentiful, especially around the damp branch area. Rarely, we would find a yellow buttercup and we all squealed with delight at that stroke of good fortune. Cindy had similar memories as my younger sisters, Muriel who also had a March birthday and Gail took Cindy and her Russ cousins violet picking.
Things have changed. The woods are all filled with planted pines. Wiregrass is almost extinct. Branches that we knew have disappeared as the water table gets lower. Gum Creek bed is dry or just a trickle and my grandchildren think I could not possibly have had a swimming hole in two places within walking distance of our home. Three trailed roads have been replaced with four wheeler and dirt bike trails No way would we allow young girls to roam unattended from the yard. It is pleasant to remember these simpler times even though we would not trade the luxuries we enjoy today for the idyllic days of long ago. They are idyllic only in retrospect.
This article originally appeared on Washington County News: Violet picking brings back old memories