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Richard R Radtke

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Lady Luck and Lightning Bugs
By Richard R Radtke
Sunday, June 01, 2008

Rated "G" by the Author.

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Have you ever found a four leaf clover?

Lady luck and Lightning bugs
     Have you ever found a four-leaf clover?  Not the every day, garden-variety kind of four-leaf clover.  No, I am talking about the bonafide lucky kind.  The kind you find only after patiently searching on your hands and knees for an hour or so through the fragrant grass of a newly mown lawn.  I emphasize the idea of a newly mown lawn, as it is my experience that four leaf clovers like to hide down at the bottom of the lawn, either because they know people like me are looking for them and its a survival thing or they are just anti-social.    
     There are those out there who would add to this formula, "The way to make sure the four-leaf clover is truly a lucky one is to look for it with your children."  Although personally I think this is simply because those people who add this extra line to the formula, do so because, once they find a four leaf-clover after crawling around in the grass with the kids for an hour or two they can finally get up off the grass and get back to doing, (in their mind at least) what are considered to be more dignified adult things. (Nor will I even mention the parents hope that now that they are in the upright mode once more and not crawling around on all fours in the middle of the yard the neighbors that have been secretly watching from behind their venetian blinds will go back to their televisions, since the show is over.  And yes, if you were in this parents position you too would know that the neighbors are watching you.  You could feel the neighbors eyes staring at you from between the slates of the blinds, giving you a feeling somewhat akin to the feeling a monkey trapped in the zoo must have when watched by the public.  The parent can even picture in their mind's eye their neighbor's watching their odd behavior in the yard and slowly shaking their heads in pity for the parent and his or her family, and knowing who is going to be the topic of discussion over the neighborhood gossip vine for the next few days. )                  
     Other people say the only time a four-leaf clover is lucky is if you find one simply by accident, patient searching doesn't count, in their mind luck is something you fall into, not something to be looked for.  My niece, Courtney, finds four-leaf clovers this way.  She has this strange ability to see or sense them from what seems like a football field away.  You can be out walking with her and suddenly she will bend over with a shout of glee and pluck a four-leaf clover up out of the ground.  In an ideal world this locating ability of hers would not bother me, in fact I would cheer her on but, she is starting to close in on my own family record, so I guess I'll just have to keep on searching to stay ahead.  In all my years of four-leaf clover hunting, I've still not really come up with any clear-cut theories regarding the does and don'ts of four-leaf clover hunting.  I have bounced back and forth on the "patient searching does not count theory", and when I was young and unmarried discounted the "children" theory.  Now that I am married and a father I do pay a little more attention to the "children" theory, not so much because I believe its the only way to find a lucky four leaf clover, but rather because it is fun to do things with the kids.          
     Last week my sons, Willis and Ethan spent an hour or so out in the yard with me hunting for four-leaf clovers, actually Willis and I did the hunting, Ethan spent most of his time rolling down the hill and then making his way in a dizzy fashion back up to the top to start the rolling process all over. (I guess when you are four years old some things are more important than others.)  Willis spent at least fifteen minutes trying to convince me, (and himself I believe) that a three-leaf clover with a ripped leaf he had picked was in fact a cleverly disguised four-leaf clover.  He finally decided that his prize was just an ordinary three leaf-clover after all. (Although it did end up in a glass half filled with water on the kitchen widow sill.)  Willis and I did eventually gave up the hunt empty handed, more so due to the fact that Ethan had now decided that the clover patch we were searching was a good place to roll through on his journey down the hill than by lack of interest, and besides that he was making Willis and I both dizzy just watching him.  I stood up and wandered back to the house, stopping here and there on the way as I glanced at other patches of clover, (I don't have to worry about the neighbors watching as we live out in the country) and Willis joined Ethan in play.
     I still find myself looking for four-leaf clovers without really trying, even without the kids.  When I am sitting on the riding mower mowing the lawn, I'll find myself looking on the ground beside the mower or behind it, (in some cases with unfortunate results, as certain lopsided bushes or scarred trees around the house can testify), as I pass by a patch of clover.  Over the years I've found quite a few.  (If you don't believe me, stop by sometime and I'll show them to you.  I save them all, by squashing them flat in books.  Yes, I use the term "squash", I don't dry them or press them, I squash-em flat, usually in this 4000 page dictionary that I received as a gift long ago, but that is another story.)  I might add here that some individuals have told me this is the incorrect way to save them, their theory being; if you squash-em flat, (the four-leaf clovers, that is), their luck runs out, but I guess my theory is; "Hey, they are already picked, I really think that perhaps from the clovers perspective their luck has already run out."
     But the honest truth is I can't say for sure that any of them are lucky... I haven't won the lottery, of course maybe if I bought a ticket or two it would help, and I'm still waiting for the Publisher's Clearing House Van to pull up into the driveway.  But on the lucky side I should add that I was among a select few Iowans to make it through the Reader's Digest Sweepstakes computer verification pick-a-thon, of course so did every one else in my family, even my little sister who lives in Germany where her husband is stationed.  More to the point and in support of the theory that at least one of my many squashed four leaf clovers is indeed a lucky one is the inescapable fact that I have a beautiful wife and two very healthy, handsome young boys.  Perhaps the most compelling proof in the support of my four-leaf clover's claim to luck is simply, I am lucky enough to have the time and the imagination to look for more four-leaf clovers with my children, and if that isn't lucky I don't know what is...
      There are many other non-adult things that I like to when playing with my children, flying kites, building sandcastles, and when the mood is right catching lightning bugs.  When I was a youngster, my little sister, Lisa and I did this often; today I do it with my children.  Its not hard to do, and in fact brings back memories that for some of us are to long forgotten.  But perhaps forgetting is a problem we as parents sometimes overlook, our job is not only to teach our children about life, but it is to live life with them too.  To do this we need to open up and let the child that lives within us all come out and play with our own children.  With lightning bugs the formula is simple, sometime, anytime, pick a day and in the coolness of the evening, that follows a hot summer day, with the children play. As evening recedes and the dark of night approaches, run, not as a parent but as a child too, chasing flashing lightning bugs across the yard, and with shouts of glee; break the still of the night.  With my family, a large jar with a lid punched full of holes becomes a temporary home for our captured glowing friends, serving as a glowing beacon in the night.  When in time the little ones slowly tire, Dad becomes Dad and Mom becomes Mom again.  Bedtime arrives, and the children march off to their beds clutching a glowing jar full of lightning bugs, which they place with care by their bedsides before they fall asleep.  When they are finally in the firm grasp of dreamland, Mom or Dad will steal silently, into their room and retrieve the jar of liquid light and carefully carry it back outside to release its captives into the night sky.  Perhaps tomorrow night, they may find themselves once more in the strange jar, by the bedside.
     As the lightning bugs take flight blinking out into the night, a little bit of the childhood that was full and alive just moments ago goes with them too and you stare with wonder and know that is all right.  You say good-bye to childhood for the night.

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