Native Son: October 19, 2017
A Texas Adventure for
Hemlock Holmes & Dodder Watson
It was another dark and stormy night, and I’m sure Neil Sperry thought to himself, “It sure seems to rain a lot in Stevia’s stories.” Nevertheless, even under a covered porch, the Rainlily continued to soak through my Lady’s Slippers, making me Wonder Berry if ol’ Wonder Sperry didn’t have a point. Indeed.
A small puff of Smoketree Rose from Hemlock Holmes’ Dutchman’s Pipe and wafted into the Texas Skyflower as he pronounced, “Watson, it Surprise Lilies me that a Mandrake of your intellect Wood Knot be Smartweed enough to wear boots on a Nightshade like this.”
I bit my Tickle Tongue and tried to ignore the old Prickly Ash, but I didn’t last Longleaf Pine. “Don’t Mockorange me! Yew know very well my Wellingtonias were purloined this Morning Glory.”
Holmes grinned. “Stolon, you say…not lost in a game of Red Hot Poker?”
“Of all the Gallberry! I told you twice already…my wellies were hijacked by an Indian Cherry while I was trying on my Tupelo for the Weeding tomorrow.” I reminded him, “These are the only Shoeflowers they had at the Storax that would fit me.”
“Hmmm…’Robbed by a Rhamnus,’ you say? Perhaps they were…’Pinched by a Pigeonberry’ …’Snitched by a Snakeroot’ …’Acquired by an Aquilegia’ …’Poached by a Possumhaw?’” Holmes could not resist the coup de gras…“Perhaps you’ve been…’Fleeced by a Farkleberry?’”
I buried my face in my hands. “What else Canna tell you?”
Salsified, Holmes moved on. “So…who’s getting Marigold?”
“Anise of mine. And, you know these Perennial Millennials…” My comment was preempted by the sudden appearance of Madame Galen and Miss Ultoe coming out of the front door, dressed in matching Indigo Petticoat Palms, sporting Bluebonnets topped with Gayfeathers, and adorned with Eve’s Necklace and a String of Pearls, respectively.
“Ladies…” I offered, with a tip of my Hat Palm.
“Holly Molly!” stammered Madame Galen, “What in the bloody Hellebore are the Tuberose of you doing on my doorstep in the Millet of the Nightshade?”
Holmes answered her coolly, “We are here…to investigate a Myrrh-der.”
Both ladies stepped back in shock, uttering in unison, “A Myrrh-der!?!”
I chimed in, “Never mind him. There’s no reason to Panic Grass, Ladies …it hasn’t happened yet.”
Miss Ultoe replied, “What hasn’t happened yet?”
“The Myrrh-der,” said Holmes. “But it Willow-cur…as sure as the Sundew will rise.”
Madame Galen pursed her Tulips and said, “What are Yew Sage-ing?”
“Oenothering…” I said through clenched teeth. “Don’t let this old Scuppernog scare you. There’s just been a report of a peeping Tomato about, so best just keep inside until the Dawn Redwood.” I went to take her Armillary Fern and escort her back inside…
“Touch Me Not!” declared Madame Galen, unable to control her Quaking Aspen. “And keep your Butcher’s Fingers off of Melia! We are Ladies of the Night!”
Holmes and I exchanged wide-eyed glances for a quick moment before I apologized. “I beg your pardon. I was simply…” The ringing of the Bells of Ireland at the Baptista church stopped me mid-sentence, and I Peek-A-Booed my Watchchain. “Wait-a-Minute!” I Aster, “May I inquire as to what was your destination at this wee hour of the Morning Glory?”
“Not that it’s any of your Busy Lizzy, but we ARE headed to the Hal O’Ween’s Farewell-to-Summer party,” said Miss Ultoe. And with that, they were off.
As they disappeared into the dark shadows, Holmes calmly asked, “Haven’t Iresine those Jewels of Opar before?”
I replied, “My thoughts exactly. Today’s newspaper… they were taken in a robbery just Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow.”
Holmes looked at his boots and said, “Heisted by a Hydrangea, no doubt…”
Just then, a swaggering figure appeared from the darkness where the ladies had disappeared…it was the famous cowboy, Austin Houston.
“Howdy, boys!” he roared, breaking the stillness of the night.
I said, “Good Evening Primrose,” but Holmes remained tacit.
Houston looked at Holmes and said, “Guess you’re the quiet type. Well, don’t get your Dutchman’s Britches in a Knotgrass over an old Buffalobur like me. Just rode in from Mesquite on my Horseapple…sore from my Hedera to my Aspidistera. Probably smell like a skunkbush, too. Sure could use a Woolly Bucket and some Soapberry.” He paused for a moment, then confessed, “Got a little tangled up on the Cloverleaf over there in Grapevine…almost ended up in Little Elm!”
“I suppose that’s better than hanging a left at Leakey and ending up in Sour Lake,” uttered Holmes.
“Hey! Not bad for an Old Man English Daisy. A Manfreda after my own Dalhart,” said Houston. “Though not quite like having a Great Notley on your Braintree, eh?”
“Good heavens, ol’ chap! You’re familiar with the cities around London!” exclaimed Holmes with a big Smilax.
“I used to be a clown in the Piccadilly Circus!” said Houston with a wink.
“Oh, Bullnettle!” guffawed Holmes, in a manner most unbecoming a sophisticated English Ivy man.
I couldn’t take it any longer. “Gentlemen, we have a Myrrh-der to solve!”
The two became quiet as a Church Mouse Three-Awn, then Houston said, “Aw, don’t get your Dewberries in a jam…”
Holmes howled, and repeated, “…Dewberries in a jam…”
I was not amused. I maintained my Sternbergia countenance until they regained their Composite long enough to focus on the issue.
“Alright, then,” said Houston, “What’s the problem?”
I explained, “I overheard one man tell another, ‘You Cheatgrassed me out of my Moneywort! Achillea tonight!’”
“What’d he look like?” asked Houston.
I tried my best to describe the stranger. “Well, he had a big ol’ Turtlehead covered with Green Sprangletop hair…a giant Texas Snoutbean with Catnip Noseburn…a Woolly Stemodia…or maybe it was a Bushy Bluestem…kind of a Narrow Puccoon…oh, yeah, and a big ol’ Hogwort, right there on his Spiny Aster.”
“Sounds Cereus,” said Houston. “Maybe y’all should call the Texas Rangers…the ones with guns.” His eyes suddenly lit up. “I’ll bet all y’all we’ll all have this here case all solved in less than a Mint.”
All I could manage was, “What?”
Houston raised his eyebrows and said, “Did this person have Drooping Melonettes, a Hairy Grama, and a Clammyweed complexion?”
“Now that you mention it…I think so.” I felt like we were finally getting somewhere.
“That’s my filly!” said Houston with a big smile.
Holmes and I stared at each other in disbelief until we both asked, simultaneously, “Your…girlfriend?”
“Sure…Black-Eyed Susan was getting’ all Wahooed up for the party at Hal O’Ween’s place. I’ll bet she won first prize!” proclaimed Houston.
“But the threat…” I asked.
“Oh, that’s just part of her act…impersonating Wild Baobab Hickok.” Houston grinned, “That girl wouldn’t hurt a Fleabane.”
“Are you sure…?” asked Holmes.
“Absolutely,” said a confident Houston, “She’s got an absence of Malus.”
With that, the old cowboy leaned back and whistled loudly. A Chestnut-colored quarter horse came galloping out of the darkness, slowing as it passed Houston to let him swing on. He yelled, “Later, boys…I’ve got a jewel thief to Catchfly!” He rode off into the night before I could tell him about the Jewelweed snatchers.
It was some moments before I looked at Hemlock Holmes and asked if had ever ridden a horse. He simply smiled warmly.
“Is it difficult?” I asked.
“Equinamentary, my dear Watson, Equinamentary.”
The author acknowledges the index of Michael A. Arnold’s Landscape Plants for TEXAS and Environs and Ricky J. Linex’s Range Plants of North Central Texas as the primary resources for the plant names found in this article.
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