Caught red-handed with bluebonnets
July 24, 2003
I promised last month to tell the story of how bluebonnets almost got me in trouble with the Texas law.
You’ve heard the saying, “Don’t Mess With Texas!” Well, them Texans don’t like you messin’ with their state flower either, even if you’re a Nuevo Mejicano only visiting the state for 2 1/2 years, like I was, and even if they don’t have an actual law on the books making it illegal.
No one ever paid any mind when I picked yuccas here in New Mexico. But that’s another story. That’s like comparing Volkswagens to Cadillacs, like comparing Robert Frost to Eminem, like comparing Happy Meals to Super Sizes. I’m getting hungry. You get the idea.
Anyway, I was just minding my own business, happily driving through the Texas hill country when I strolled into the quaint little German town of Fredericksburg. I was already floating on Cloud Nine, ecstatic from my first trip to San Antonio and relishing in my luck being sent by my former newspaper in Abilene to cover the Tejano Music Awards. Then I spotted it — a colorful patch of tall Texas bluebonnets flourishing along the side of the highway. I couldn’t resist them. I pulled the car over and hopped out with camera in hand.
After snapping a few shots, I decided I just had to take a few of the bluebonnets with me. Although I knew they wouldn’t survive the trip home, I wanted to admire them for as long as I could, so I picked a handful and was back on the road.
I drove a few blocks when I spotted a state trooper. He flashed his sirens and made a sharp U-turn. As I pulled over and eyed the weltering evidence next to me, I figured there must be a neighborhood bluebonnet watch.
The officer surprised me when I rolled down the window. He said he stopped me because my vehicle registration was expired. I couldn’t believe it. I was in a company car! But sure enough, the Abilene Reporter-News — “The Big Country’s leading source of information” — had somehow forgotten to renew its car registration. The officer did a vehicle check (ate a couple of donuts, or did whatever police officers do while you nervously fidget in your car, hoping no passers by recognize you).
The officer confirmed it was a company car and decided to let me off with a warning. But as I started the car, he remarked, “You know you’re not supposed to be picking them bluebonnets?” I knew that was the real reason he stopped me.
“Yes sir!” I humbly replied. But when I got back home to Abilene, I got another surprise. I related the story to my friend, who happened to be a master gardener, and she told me there was no law against picking bluebonnets. I called the county horticulturist and he, too, said there was no bluebonnet law. Of course picking them was discouraged, but there was no law. So I called the Fredericksburg police chief, who admitted that if you were picky about it, there was no specific law against picking bluebonnets, unless of course, you deface public property in the process.
For the common good of the Lone Star State, however, I decided to cease and desist from any future bluebonnet gathering activity. After all, The sign over my bed at the time read, “On Earth As It Is In Texas.” Besides, I’m fond of many of Texas’ state symbols, especially its official state song. I believe it’s George Strait’s, “All My Exes Live in Texas.” If it’s not the state song, it should be.