IT WAS UNCERTAIN WHO was watching out for whom. As we went out the door on this beautiful June day, my maternal grandmother, “Gram,” told my grandfather, “Gramp,” to make sure to be careful so I didn’t get hurt. This was after she had privately told me to make sure I took good care of Gramp. In any case it pretty much worked and we went off for another afternoon’s adventure. I was about 10-12 years old and Gramp was in his 70s. That day we went through his empty dairy barn (the cows were out in the pasture) and we walked about .2 mile through a marshy field to the big new pond to fish.

We often did this, and we dug some worms and had a great time catching some fat rainbow trout. He loved trout and he had stocked this big spring fed pond with this in mind. His cocker spaniel and my favorite cat had followed us too. The dog always went with us, but the cat only arrived if there was a chance to eat fish. His cue was the fishing poles. Sometimes we got a small sunfish and that went to the cat. Some days I fished by myself in another tiny pond and brought home a pail of “sunnies” to feed the many barn cats.

When we finished we headed home with several fish for Gram to cook for supper. This day Gramp said he wanted to show me something, so we took a wetter route back to the house. Gramp was always a walker with lots of stamina and headed to the stretch of hummocks of grass that rose above the areas the cows had trampled to a muddy mess. We stepped or jumped to the drier hummocks to cross this area. If you made a misstep you could go ankle to knee deep into the muck. I had lots of practice doing this, but was unsure how Gramp would fare, but we made it. He was incredibly agile and well balanced for his age. Looking back he had many more years of practice at this than I did, especially since he had grown up on this farm.

Blue flag. Photo by Nancy Jane Kern

A small brook ran through this pasture and was a headwater of the Agawamick Creek. Here was a blue mass of flowers Gramp told me were called blue flag. They only bloomed in June and he took some home for Gram. She had injured her knee in her 20s and now, with her arthritis, couldn’t get to this area anymore. We got home safely with fish and flowers and not too much mud on our shoes. The dog and cat intelligently took the dry route home. Gram was delighted and we all enjoyed both gifts. After dinner she told me they were a wild iris and looked like some of the cultivated iris in her flower bed. I recently found a wet, green pasture with lovely blue masses of this wild iris.

When I got home I did some research to find out more about them. Their scientific name is Iris versicolor, and is a native iris of Eastern North America and is the provincial flower of Quebec, Canada. It is commonly known as harlequin blueflag, larger blue flag, or northern blue flag. It is a perennial herb common in sedge meadows, marshes, and along streams and shores, and grows from about 5” to 30” high. They form large clumps of creeping rhizomes. The leaves are about a half inch wide that form a fan shape, and the flowers are usually light to deep blue, and sometimes purple or violet. Handling the rhizomes may cause dermatitis in susceptible individuals, and they may be poisonous for people and animals. To me they look like the Siberian iris in my flower beds, and have brought back many pleasant memories. Now I understand my grandmother’s smile that day, she must have been remembering good times too.

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