Of May-apples and Sweet-heart Leaf

As the hills start to green up around the old home place, we’d often walk the pasture fence.  It wasn’t a lot of fun, as you had to go through briar patches and rocky places, but the job had to be done because we were a-fixing to turn the cows back from the meadow to the pasture.  We had to get them off the meadow so the hay could grow.

We’d stretch barbed-wire and nail steeples over it into locust fence posts.  Some of these posts were ancient.  Sometimes it was hard to find a place to drive the steeples.   If we could get the tractor and wagon near the fence, we would take some new posts and a coil of new wire with us and some post-hole diggers and a tamping pole, and put in brand-new posts.  I’d get off the school bus and find the tractor and go to work.  We’d always pull nettle clumps and mullein plants to keep them from taking over the pasture.  Sometimes we’d work a little bit on the pasture road too.

But there was a place on the back river-bluff, the westernmost part of the pasture, furthest from the house.  This place was among tall trees, poplars and white and red oaks, and a few hemlocks.  The ground beneath these trees was covered in rich soil.  Often the herd would use this area as a place to lounge during sunny days, using the shade as their cover and air-conditioner.  We came across them often on our pasture walks, finding them lounging around, chewing their cud.

Among the trees in May there would be a plant that grew, which I was told was called a “May-apple.”  This little plant comes up early in Spring, near the end of the frost time, around the 10th of May.  They’d bear a little white flower under a large roof-like leaf, and later a fruit would form on their stems.  They grew about 15 to twenty inches high, and then went away before too long.

Another plant that grew up on the bluff was one that Pappaw called “Sweet-heart leaf.”  This plant had the sweetest smell you ever smelled.  It reminded me of the aroma of Juicy Fruit gum, a little, though it was somewhat different.  It only grew in the spring, then it disappeared.  It’s dark, green and white speckled leaves were a prize souvenir on our walks, and they were heart-shaped, hence the name.  I don’t have a clue what this plant is supposed to be called, but that’s what we called it.  By the time we would get back to the house, it would have lost its aroma due to over-wallowing it in my hand and pockets.

The beautiful thing about these plants are that they became signs that spring was pretty much here, and soon would follow summer.  Then we’d spend some time down at the creek when it was time to salt the cattle.  But that’s another story.


About Brad Scott

An Appalachian CrossFitter who loves Jesus and is happily married to Tammie. I have a son and a fine little grandson. In the peak of middle age, trying to figure out the rest of this journey.
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