What is a bonnet?

Go placidly just a bit east of the noise and haste of Custer Road, and a little north of Spring Creek Parkway. Sit your bizoozy right down amidst the bluebonnets, unless, of course, it has been raining.

It is spring, time for commencement addresses, and other urban legends. I've been feeling my Bohemian prairie girl ancestry lately while listening to Willa Cather's My Antonia on cd. Cather celebrates the grasses, the flatness, and the horizon I love so well.

The preschoolers are learning about Texas plants and animals. The wild bluebonnets hold a magical power in this Lone Star state far surpassing the Nebraskan's appreciation of the Western meadowlark. I will never consider myself a Texan, but I definitely claim the bluebonnet as my inner state flower.

The preschoolers are vague on the concept of bonnets. Bonnets are hats for sun protection, I tell them. Each floret of a bluebonnet stalk resembles a teeny tiny pioneer girl's sunbonnet.

Cather's Antonia is as full of life as Laura in Little House on the Prairie. Antonia and Laura both resist wearing the bonnets that would protect their skin from the sun. Which brings me to that fabulous, fictitious commencement address* never delivered by Kurt Vonnegut at MIT in 1997:

Wear sunscreen.
Pick a bluebonnet. Just don't overdue it. One or two, max. Otherwise Mother Nature will be pissed even if it isn't illegal. That's another urban legend.

The commencement speaker at Texas Tech in 2007 told me to play chess. A month from now I'll be listening to the University of New Mexico commencement address. Willa Cather will be there. I may need to reread Death Comes for the Archbishop.
*Mary Schmich, Chicago Tribune, 6/1/97

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder

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