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  It's April, and bluebonnets, the beautiful wildflowers Texas chose as its emblem in 1901, are blooming in many parts of that vast State, to the delight of residents and visitors. Next year they may also decorate the courtyards of Saddam Hussein's former palace in Baghdad.

Texan Michael Loggins took several packets of seeds with him with that in mind, when he returned to Iraq last month. In peacetime, he lives in Paris - that's Paris Texas, not Paris France.

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"I've been given the assignment of landscaping the embassy grounds," Loggins told the Paris News's Mary Madewell, before leaving to return to Baghdad, where he has been stationed in the former dictator's palace since late September. "I plan to leave a little Texas in Iraq."

Paris Texas calls itself "Home to the Second Largest Eiffel Tower in the Second Largest Paris." Roadside America reports:

There are fourteen other American municipalities named Paris, and more than a few have chosen to erect Eiffel Tower replicas to pay homage to their French namesake...

The Eiffel Tower in Paris, TX is 65-ft. tall. In 1998 they added a large red cowboy hat to the tip of the tower. Many decried this as the dumbest idea ever, but to us it seemed in the spirit of other local attractions: a grave monument with Jesus in cowboy boots, and a junior college whose entrance is decorated with a statue of their cartoon dragon mascot.

Turns out the Cowboy Hat idea came just in time. The following year in 1999, Las Vegas almost humiliated all the little Paris's when they erected a 540-ft. tall Eiffel Tower Replica along the Strip. At half the height of the original (which is 984 ft. tall), this replica is nearly ten times taller than the other replicas. But no hat.

Searching the internet for more details about bluebonnets, we found this delightful description in an article by Iron Thunderhorse, originally published in Wild West magazine in October 1996:

Each year the Texas countryside is carpeted with soft, rolling patches of azure-blue wildflowers. Early white settlers who observed this annual phenomenon for the first time compared these beautiful blue flowers to the bonnets worn by the womenfolk to shield their delicate complexions from the blazing Texas sun. That is how the name bluebonnet was given to this variety of the lupine (Lupinus is the genus).

Texas folklore also records several other names given to this flower, such as buffalo clover, wolf flower and el conejo ("the rabbit"), yet the name bluebonnet has endured. Since 1901, the bluebonnet has been Texas' state flower.

There is another story that tells how this wildflower came to be--a tale from the Comanche Nation that once called this land home.
[For that story, click on the Bluebonnet History link below.]

In Texas City, Margaret Mitchell (not the author of Gone With the Wind) has a front yard filled with bluebonnets every year. "I look forward to the flowers blooming," she told Dwight Andrews, of the Texas City Sun. "They last right through Easter every year."




Story first posted April 2004

Copyright 2004

Eric Shackle

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