The Country Iris Lives On

by John C. Westervelt

On a Friday afternoon in early April, my brother Wallace called to tell me he was taking his wife Barbara to Springer Clinic. Following tests at the clinic, Barbara was admitted to Saint Francis Hospital. After further tests on Saturday, she learned that she would get a heart pacemaker on Monday morning.

When I visited Barbara on Monday afternoon, I was impressed with a dozen roses from the florist and a single purple iris from Barbaraís garden sitting on the windowsill. Both were gifts from Wallace. Barbaraís need let me discover a side of my tough brother I donít normally see. Even the tough ones have a hidden soft side.

Wallace had been with Barbara most of her waking hours since going to the clinic Friday afternoon. This afternoon he left for a couple of hours to go by the former Asbury church to check on the folks that depend on him for help with their income tax.

As Barbara and I visited, she shared that the irisís predecessor had come from her grandfatherís farm near Deer Creek in north central Oklahoma, thirteen miles from the Kansas border. Her grandfather made the Cherokee Strip Run in 1893 to claim a 160 acre homestead. Barbaraís dad was born on this farm in 1898.

When Barbara was a girl, her dad visited the homestead. Time had taken its toll. The house was gone but the hearty irises had survived in a row that once was the edge of the porch. Barbaraís dad dug up some irises and planted them at his house on Tenth Street in Oklahoma City. Barbaraís dad died while she was in college, but the short, purple, country irises lived on. When Barbaraís mother moved in with Barbaraís grandmother, she took some of the irises with her to the house on 27th street.

After Barbara married Wallace, her mother gave her some of the irises, but they didnít survive in the sand and dry heat of west Texas. Years later, Barbaraís mother gave some of the country irises to Barbaraís daughter-in-law Sherri. These flourished, and in time Sherri gave some bulbs to Barbara for her present garden in Tulsa.

If you visit Barbaraís garden in the early spring, you will see some short sturdy irises with an orchid like purple blossom. A little later, the taller, statelier irises bred for the city put on blooms. Donít criticize the short stature of the country iris. Remember they have the stamina to survive and multiply to share their beauty for over a hundred years. You might even talk Barbara into giving you a few bulbs.

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