Wild Onions.

The wild onions are popping up all over the yard, one of the first signs that spring is here. I once heard that wild onions are a sign that there will be no more frost, but unlike some other folk wisdom that doesn’t seem to be true, at least not around here. I’ve even seen them make a full recovery from a hard freeze. Right now they’re mostly fine as hair but once summer gets into full swing they’ll be thick and tall. The lawnmower will leave stands of white-rimmed tubes that look like they should sing like pan pipes when the wind blows over them. The ones that don’t get cut down will send up big clusters of purple seeds. I’m a little surprised to find out that they really are onions—closer to scallions, I guess, than the big Vidalia and Walla Walla varieties.

Whenever I see wild onions I think about a kid I knew named Tommy who lived in my neighborhood. He was a good guy, funny, and we were friends though we only played together occasionally, and I think he only wandered up to my house when none of the kids who lived closer to him were around. Maybe that’s why he came into my yard one spring afternoon when, for reasons that made perfect sense at the time even though I probably couldn’t have articulated them then, I was pulling up wild onions and stacking them below the rain gutter at the corner of the house.

“I love onions,” said Tommy, and he took one, put the dirt-covered bulb in his mouth, bit it off, and crunched.

It’s a lucky thing we weren’t west of the Mississippi where a plant that looks like wild onions but is aptly named “death camas” poses a risk to amateur foragers. Tommy wouldn’t suffer any ill effects even after stretching out on one of the lawn chairs on the deck and eating several more wild onions. He even took a big bunch of them home, telling me he was going to give them to his mother “for supper”. By comparison me pulling up the wild onions doesn’t seem so weird.

That was the last time I’d see Tommy, or at least spend any time with him, for a few years. I don’t think the onions had anything to do with it. While I wouldn’t be completely surprised if he did suffer some side effects of taking home a bunch of wild onions even if it was just being yelled at by his parents for eating weeds, maybe even for going so far from home to eat weeds. I don’t think I even enabled his onion-eating since he could have pulled them up in his own yard. I think it was just the way our lives went that kept us apart. We were in different sections of the same school, and in sixth grade when we were in the same section we were both older and had developed different circles of friends. Tommy had gotten tall and athletic and I hung out with more nerdy kids.

Junior high separated us even further, and I wouldn’t see him again until my sophomore year of high school when he stomped into my English class wearing ripped jeans and a leather jacket. He threw a slip of paper at the teacher who picked it up, looked at it, and said, “So you’re dropping out of this class.”

“Man, I’m droppin’ out of school,” said Tommy. And he grabbed the piece of paper and stomped out.

That would be the last time I’d see him. Wild onions, on the other hand, are everywhere. I don’t pull them up anymore, and I’m really not even tempted even now to eat them. After all look what they did to Tommy.

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    Your writing sings like pan pipes, Chris, and thanks for sharing wild onions and wild Tommy with us here.
    ANN J KOPLOW recently posted…Day 4084: Being heardMy Profile

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Tommy would go on to get even wilder so you can also be glad that I stopped with him when I did.


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