Garden Surprises Lead to Amazing Stories

Dear Reader:

Since Tuesday was a rainy day…with soft drops falling like a heavy mist… settling in around the plants, flowers, and trees…I decided to lug all the mums and fall flowers off the front porch down to the sidewalk so they could drink up and bathe in the natural showers of water from the skies.

Yesterday the sun was back out and the temps climbing again…such is fall in the low country…we bounce back and forth between summer and fall weather. It was much harder lugging the rain-laden pots back up the stairs to be placed again in their rightful spots to be seen by drivers going by and bike riders…including the decorative water pitcher planter.

After catching my breath from all the lugging…I started my morning walk around the yard and garden. I always have to smile at this time of year…the flowers get really confused…regular azaleas (not Encore) start blooming again…and even the lily patches left behind look like they would love to try another bloom…just one more time before fall.

I love it when seasonal flowers decide to bloom in un-seasonal weather. By the time I got to the remains of the lily patches…a story was slowly being retrieved from my memory…a true story about lilies.

I decided right then to plant white lily bulbs this fall (in a few weeks when the cooler weather becomes more constant)…I am going to plant them near the perimeter that runs along  the back woods…how pretty they will be in June. A new project always gets me excited!

And now here is the true story of a WWI hero and the lilies he left behind.

“The Day the Lilies Bloomed”

His name was Frank Luke, Jr. and today his statue stands tall in front of the old capitol building in Phoenix, Arizona. Luke was a fighter pilot during World War I  and in less than a month he downed eighteen enemy aircraft…becoming one of only four fighter pilots awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in WWI.

In the old family Bible an unusual event has been recorded for posterity…far away from the skies above France.

At age 20, Frank enlisted in the army…fascinated by the new flying machines just invented. He was accepted into flight training and commissioned a second lieutenant…Before departing for France he was given a 14 day leave to be with his family… one last time before heading off to war.

One day, Tilly, his mother, asked Frank if he would mind “terribly” planting some lily bulbs for her…the weather was perfect for the job. Frank adored his mother and gladly consented. 

Frank’s tour of duty was fairly uneventful until September of 1918…when he became known as the “Balloon Buster” shooting down three planes and two balloons in less than ten minutes. The press dubbed him America’s “ace of aces.”

Back home his mother carefully cut out every article about her son that was written in the newspapers. Then, one day, on September 29, Tilly walked outside and discovered that all the bulbs Frank had planted were blooming away….but it was not the right season. Even stranger…the lilies formed the cross-like shape of a World War I airplane.

She called all the family together and everyone commented that the lilies should have bloomed in June, not the end of September. Word spread and photographers swarmed the yard taking pictures for the Sunday edition of the paper.

Amid the wonder, Tilly’s heart was heavy…she felt that something was wrong with Frank…but she kept brushing her tears away so no one else suspected.

On November 25, two weeks after the Armistice ended WWI… Tillie’s fears were realized. The Red Cross informed them that Frank was missing in action.

They learned later that Frank was wounded, after shooting down three German observation balloons on his last mission. He managed to land without crashing but his wounds were so severe he died later that day.

Frank Luke, Jr. had made his final heroic flight on September 29…the day the lilies bloomed.

So until tomorrow….

“Consider The lilies of the field whose bloom is brief:– We are as they; Like them we fade away, As doth a leaf.” (Christian Rossetti)

“Today is my favorite day”  Winnie the Pooh

Doodle and I gave Lassie flowering plants for her fall birthday…yesterday she sent us both a picture of the flowers in full bloom… cascading down her steps….love it Lassie! Cozy, cute, and beautiful all in one!


About Becky Dingle

I was born a Tarheel but ended up a Sandlapper. My grandparents were cotton farmers in Laurens, South Carolina and it was in my grandmother’s house that my love of storytelling began beside an old Franklin stove. When I graduated from Laurens High School, I attended Erskine College (Due West of what?) and would later get my Masters Degree in Education/Social Studies from Charleston Southern. I am presently an adjunct professor/clinical supervisor at CSU and have also taught at the College of Charleston. For 28 years I taught Social Studies through storytelling. My philosophy matched Rudyard Kipling’s quote: “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” Today I still spread this message through workshops and presentations throughout the state. The secret of success in teaching social studies is always in the story. I want to keep learning and being surprised by life…it is the greatest teacher. Like Kermit said, “When you’re green you grow, when you’re ripe you rot.”
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2 Responses to Garden Surprises Lead to Amazing Stories

  1. Rachel Edwards says:

    Enjoyed the story of the lilies…love fall…hope the weather gets cooler…


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