I remember when I was a kid that one of the biggest events of late winter was searching for the first dandelion. Granny always told us that they were a promise of spring and once one was found, it wouldn’t be too much longer before warm weather would return to the mountain.
I’m sure the search was originally initiated to get the kids from underfoot during the dead of winter, and to give us a purpose. After the anticipation of Christmastime had worn off, but before the egg hiding of Eastertime, there is a long stretch of cold, hum-drum, and did I mention cold weather. Nothing to do but chores and hunkering down and waiting for better. For us kids, that meant go to school, come home and carry in the night’s wood, feed the stock, have supper, do homework, and get ready for bed. Day after day. After day.
The Mouth of Burns Holler. This is where the first dandelions would always appear. Granny's old house is visit on the right, the old stone cow barn, long since lost in a flood, stood on the left side of the road.
Then sometime in late February, Granny would holler at us kids as we were walking up the holler road from school and tell us it was getting to be about time for the dandelions to come up. She always picked an unseasonably warm day to tell us this (which I might add were uncommon in those days). Now she knew it was still too early for dandelions on the mountain, but she also knew it would give us a sense of purpose just when we needed it most. Once the word was given, the hunt was on. We would run to the house and throw down our books and bags, and head out the door. The chores would have to wait. In hindsight, granddad and Uncle Wood usually did the chores on the first day of the search. It was almost as if there was a vast conspiracy to get us kids out of the house. We knew the first blooms would appear on the hillside between Granny’s house and the old stone cow barn, and she would watch us search in vain for the first bloom. She’d come out on the porch and talk to us as we searched, “now when you all find a good mess of the greens, I’ll cook us all up a good meal. Good for the blood, they are.”
Day after day, after school, we would look for it. On Saturday mornings we would look for it. On Sunday afternoons we would look for it. We paid attention to the other signs of spring that would give us a clue as to when and where it might be. I devised a method that when the hog pen started smelling pretty ripe, it was a sign that dandelions were up. Somewhere, anyway. My methodology never really panned out but I swore that it would someday.
Springtime on the Mountain. Clothesline, dogwoods, lilacs and a chickenhouse. We all think of different things when we think of springtime. This says it to me.
Then one day when we least expected it, there it would be. The first bloom. It would be small, gnarled, half-frozen and unopened, but it was the first. Whoever found it would let out a whoop and everyone would come running. Sure enough, there it was. The finder would pick it and we’d all take off for Granny’s house. Of course, she’d hear us coming long before she could see us, and she would have us some treat made up. Like molasses candy, or tater candy or something of the like. It was almost as if Granny knew what day we’d find the first dandelion. Looking back, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Granny used to look for the first bloom while all of us kids were away at school. Granny always did love her dandelions.
A good place to find dandelions. At the right time of year, you can pick a mess in just a few minutes.
Grandmaw's Dandelion Gravy recipe. You put it over dandelion greens. Put about 1 1/2 cups milk in skillet with 1 tsp butter or bacon grease (bacon grease preferred). Then make thickening in another bowl by combining: 2 Tbsp. flour, 1 egg, about 1/4-1/2 cup milk, stir until smooth. Add about 1 Tbsp. vinegar. Add to the milk in skillet. Salt and pepper to taste. Cook until it thickens. If not sour enough add little more vinegar to your taste.