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ORRIN MORRIS: Fragile Indian pipes live only a few days, and die when touched by humans or animals

Morris artwork for Nov. 11

Morris artwork for Nov. 11

When I was a child back in Nebraska we spent class time reviewing the significance of the Thanksgiving holiday. The first lesson was how the early European settlers were aided in many ways by the natives who taught them how to live from this new land. After the first harvest was completed, a feast was held.Whether fact or embellished lore, the feast was a celebration to give thanks for the abundant crop made possible by mutual support between families, clans, tribes, races and religions.

We studied which tribes were friendly and which were hostile. We studied how to make arrows, teepees, and portage drags. We studied the many hunting techniques and so on.

One of my classmates was of the Omaha tribe who shared many things from his culture. Beside being a source of important insight, Jim was always first to be picked for soccer, softball or basketball because he was so agile.

Settling the West was a struggle, but I was profoundly influenced by the sharing as we prepared for the Thanksgiving celebration.

Our devotional thought for today comes from Psalm 133:1. "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!"

Wouldn't it be wonderful if our society could be as enlightened as our forefathers were? It may be that we are only fooling ourselves into thinking we are more civilized today than our ancestors were three or more centuries ago.INDIAN PIPES

Monotropa unifloraOne does not normally think of this translucent white 3-inch plant as a wildflower, but it is classified in the wintergreen family.

It looks like fungus because it lacks chlorophyll. It gets its nutrients from a symbiotic relationship with a fungus that grows on its roots. The fungus breaks down decaying leaves and other matter for its own food. As it feeds itself, the Indian pipes absorb some of the nutrients for themselves.

Indian pipes are known by at least two other names, ghost flower and ice plant. There seems to have been two medicinal uses for Indian pipes. The American Indians used the juice as an eye wash and during the 19th century doctors used it as a sedative.

Indian pipes bloom from August to November but are rather hard to find. Why?

First, they favor undisturbed pine thickets where the soil is rich and moist. Recent years of drought have reduced their population.

Second, they are very short-lived; that is, once they pop up through the pine needles, they may flourish only two or three days.

Third, when touched by a human or a passing animal they turn black and die. Thus, when you find one, cherish the moment, it may not be there tomorrow.

The common name Indian pipe comes from its likeness to the white clay pipe, the peace pipe, used by American Indians. May the example set at the first Thanksgiving inspire us to reflect the same spirit of cooperation and support in our community, our nation and around the world.

Orrin Morris is a retired Baptist minister, local artist and art teacher. Notecards are available of the wildflowers published in the Citizen. His email is odmsketchingpad@yahoo.com or call him at 770-929-3697.