The poet John Milton once said that luck is the residue of design. When I was ten years old, the only poet I knew was Dr. Seuss, and design was a picture I made with my Spirograph. Little did I know then, that an unproductive hunt in the backyard for an elusive plant would lead to both a grassroots entrepreneurship and the manifestation of Mr. Milton’s insightful observation. In other words, when I couldn’t find a four-leaf clover, I made my own.
I was a child of vision! I had dreams of wealth and philanthropic endeavors! Just as the conveyor belt profoundly impacted the future of the auto industry, so I would set the business of good fortune spinning on its heels. The three-leaf clover, known in the plant kingdom as Trifolium, has long been a symbol in Irish tradition of faith, hope and love. It is the uncommon fourth leaf, thought to be the product of a recessive gene that is considered to be the luckiest talisman of all. The chances of someone finding a four-leaf clover the first time out is estimated to be 10,000 to one. I had already spent hours scouring the clover patches behind our house and came up empty-handed. If I was going to open a four-leaf clover business, I needed better results and fast! It was time for a different approach.
Enter the milkweed plant. It would become the flower to my bee, the circle to my wheel, the zippity to my doo dah. For generations people have used Milkweed to make rope. It’s been consumed as food and made into medicine. The Cherokee drank an infusion of milkweed root and other natural ingredients as a remedy for backaches. The sap of the milkweed was used by the Rappahannock, the Iroquois and the Cherokee as a laxative and to treat ringworm, remove warts, and ease the pain of bee stings. I was not that clever or industrious in my application. I was after the milky liquid of the milkweed pod. It was white and sticky like glue and left no visible sheen when dried. The plan was simple. Gather up as many ordinary clovers as I could, and separate them into two piles. One pile containing clovers that were still intact, and another made of single leaves that I had plucked. All that was left to do was “glue” an extra leaf onto each three-leaf plant. Viola! A beautiful crop of four-leaf clovers drying in a cardboard box ready to be delivered to throngs of receptive customers. I would be a millionaire and so would everyone who purchased one of my plants.
The first person to receive my “invention” was my mother. She was visibly impressed with my good fortune in finding the lucky charm, insisting that I be the one to keep it. But I persisted, wishing to instead present it to my parents as a humble token of my love and appreciation. Plus, I had a whole boxful of them waiting for me on the porch. My business plan began to unravel when I proffered the same offering to each of my sisters. It didn’t take long for the adult eyebrows in the room to lift in curiosity and amusement. My golden egg had been busted. With the slightest pressure applied, I cracked. The long revered lucky symbol of my ancestors was a counterfeit. A foliage fraud!
Everyone had a hoot over my thwarted brainchild, so all was not wasted. I walked outside and dumped the now withered prototypes onto the grass from which they were so hopefully plucked. Fortune was going to have to wait.