Bibles and clover are not usually connected, but in this case they are.
It was 1958 in my hometown of Ashland, Mississippi. Population was all of 300. The Holly Springs movie theater was the closest one to run the re-release of Walt Disney’s 1937 version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. My parents took us to see it, and I became intrigued by all things Walt Disney.
To promote the color animated movie, the Memphis Press Scimitar newspaper sponsored a coloring contest for children. I was nine years old and loved to color. My folks encouraged me to enter. Each week, a black-and-white picture from one of the movie scenes would run in the paper. Cash prizes would be awarded to the best entries mailed back to the newspaper. To my surprise, I won Honorable Mention and a check for $25.
When my mother asked me what I wanted to do with the money, I told her I needed a Bible of my own to carry to Sunday School class at Ashland Methodist Church, where we were members. She promptly took me to the office of the Southern Advocate newspaper, owned by Junior Harrison and his father Granville P. Harrison, Sr. Not only did they publish the local newspaper, they also sold office supplies and printing services. There, on display in a glass case, was a child-sized white Bible. The pages were thin like onion skin. It was not a usual children’s Bible, with lots of colored pictures and only summaries of the Bible stories. This was a real one with mostly print.
I had graduated to the adult world by purchasing my own Bible with the first money I ever earned that was not from my weekly allowance of 50 cents. It accompanied me to church on Sunday mornings and Methodist Youth Fellowship on Sunday afternoons. It lay in my lap at hot revival services in the summers, when our only source of air conditioning was a handheld funeral home fan.
At home, the Bible served another purpose: It became the repository of my collection of clovers. There was a patch of wonderful white clover in our front yard, under a small tree beside our gravel driveway at our house on Walnut Street, near the schools and the Ashland Cemetery. Mama did the yard-mowing, and the patch escaped being sheared each week because of the gnarly tree roots that lay on top of the ground.
The clover hid between these roots. Bored one day, I discovered the patch had quite a collection of four-leaf clovers — a symbol of good luck. For years, I collected those four-leaf clovers and pressed them between the pages of my Bible. Occasionally I would find a five-leaf clover to bring even more good luck, because they were even more rare. By the time I was 16, I had over 500 four-leaf clovers, 200 five-leaf clovers, and even two six-leaf clovers.
The six-leaf clovers came from some red clover planted on the sides of the road right before the bridge over the stream that ran from Snow Lake Shore’s spillway. My dad would take the family there to swim in the shallow stream below the spillway. I still remember the smell of black creosote-coated support poles under the bridge. My dad would often take Ivory soap to bathe in the waters there. It would float, and we children played games of run-and-fetch-the-soap as it floated downstream. Later, we carved bars of soap into shapes of boats with toothpicks holding paper sails and would “sail” them in the water.
When someone was having a tough time, I would present him with a little good luck from one of my clovers. As years passed, only a few remained between the pages, along with a few pressed flowers from my dad’s funeral and one or two roses from my first boyfriend.
I recently discovered my Bible in our family cedar chest. Most of the remaining clovers had dried to brittle, dusty particles.
I did not realize how rare they had been. According to online sources, the chances of finding a four-leaf clover is 1 in 10,000. That is why they are considered good luck. Usually three-leaf clovers, called shamrocks, are the typical clover, but the four-leaf clover is a mutation of those. It occurs as a “recessive” gene. The odds of finding a five-leaf clover is closer to 1 in a million. A six-leaf clover is more like 1 in 312,500 million.
Clover is rich in antioxidants and has been used in many cultures to treat inflammation of joints and as a cough remedy. Most types are edible by humans. According to ancient traditions, Eve took a four-leaf clover with her out of Paradise when God banished her and Adam. The leaves symbolize faith, hope, love, and luck. A fifth leaf represents extra good luck and financial gain. Nothing has been assigned to the sixth and seventh leaves.
As a child living on my grandfather’s farm east of Ashland on the old Faulkner Road, I remember walking on a hillside overlooking a sandy ditch with my cousin. She showed me a patch of clovers she called “chit charts,” a type of low-growing purplish green clover with a sweet and sour taste. My grandmother said that old folks used to gather them to boil for tea or to put into pies. Her grandmother was a full-blooded Chickasaw Indian. Perhaps that was something she passed down to the family.
Most lawn services try to kill clover now because it smothers out the grass. Now, with herbicides and other chemicals, it might be dangerous for humans to eat clover.
Historically, red clover was used for asthma, whooping cough, cancer, and gout. It was considered to be a blood purifier, a fever reducer, and a remedy for colds, flu, and coughs. I remember my grandmother feeding us drops of “coal oil” sprinkled on a teaspoon of sugar if we had coughs, too. I think today that I won’t continue with those traditions. Leave the clover to the rabbits, and I will use my Bible as intended.
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