Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Daring Dandelion Discovery

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Daring Dandelion Discovery

Article excerpt

YOU know how it is. You believe you have discovered something marvelous, something that will change the world, but for some trivial reason you do nothing about it. Perhaps it's laziness, lack of time, or even because of some childhood experience, an unintentional put down by a parent or relative that has left you with a hang-up about sharing secrets.

It was the latter that was responsible for me keeping the dandelion affair to myself, and it was Mr. Cox, my school teacher, who was responsible.

I was in Primary Six, and Mr. Cox was taking us for handcraft. We were decorating the covers of books. I liked Mr. Cox; he had selected me for the school's under-11s football team -- the first time I had been selected for anything -- and I would have followed him to the end of the earth. So when I thought I had hit upon a good way of persuading the marbling coat to lift off the surface of the water onto the cover of my book, my hand shot up with the eagerness of a budding Caxton.

"Yes, Terence?" he said.

"I think I know a good way to do this, sir." I said.

He lifted his hand to quiet the class.

"Everybody listen to what Terence has to say."

I explained my method, and as I went on the class began to titter. I stopped. Mr. Cox was looking at me sternly.

"And now, Master Leigh," he said, "perhaps you would like to explain what you were doing while I was telling the rest of the class exactly what you have just told me?"

I don't blame him for what he did, but for the rest of my school career and beyond, I have been the last to put up my hand for any reason at all. Not that the world has been seriously the poorer, except perhaps in the matter of the dandelion. Which is why, 35 years after the event and at dire risk of the world's ridicule, I am writing this now.

It all started when I was sweeping our farmyard at Craigieburn one day early in the summer of 1960. It was hot, and I was tired and spending more time than I should resting on the broom. It was in this somnolent position that I found myself looking into the face of a lone dandelion growing near the byre door.

Initially, nothing registered with me. Dandelions are a common enough sight. Indeed, when we had moved into Craigieburn two years earlier, there were dozens of them in the yard. It was cobbled then -- age-smoothed stones that glistened like burnished pewter after every shower, a perfect foil for dandelion flowers and better still for their silver seed heads.

But things changed with our arrival. Cobbles were fine for horses and dandelions, but we had a tractor and it didn't like cobbles at all. It's rough-tread tires loosened the stones as if they were old teeth and spat them all over the place, which is why we were obliged to concrete the area.

The concreting of the yard had little significance at the time, but now, as I rested on the broom and stared at the dandelion, something about it bothered me. …

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