Maggie, Della, Tallulah, and I went flower-hunting in the mornings. We’d be flower-hunting while breakfast cooked over the campfire. "Honey, mind the time and the thornbushes," Daddy said when he gave me his heavy scuba watch. "Be back by 9:50, alright?" I nodded.
We walked single file away from the campsite, following the skinny dirt path that cut through the tall grass waving in the crisp morning breeze like rippling water. The smell of our campfire breakfast as it cooked wafted down to us on that same breeze. We walked sure-footed on the soft dirt trail. The goal was to gather the prettiest wildflower bouquet and then compare at breakfast, but we weren’t competitive. It wasn’t a race. We helped each other find the flowers we needed and sometimes we traded them too. "And, Honey, don’t touch the Bull Nettle," Daddy had said, and I had nodded. He always told me the plants not to touch. I could spot poison sumac a mile off.
Tallulah was the first the Bull Nettle caught. None of our bouquets had any white flowers. It was taller than other wildflowers. Tallulah picked it and we were halfway back to the campsite when she started crying. She threw down her bouquet, and I saw her hands were red and splotchy, tiny hairlike thorns poked into her fingers and palms. I felt guilt settle in my belly. I hadn’t known Bull Nettle could blossom.
"Everyone listen, please," Daddy said at breakfast. He was always hike-leader. He could spot rattlesnake holes a mile off. "Listen, girls, don’t touch the white flowers. They’re Bull Nettle." Tallulah's daddy sat with her across the campfire, a magnifying glass over her swollen hands. He was using tweezers to pull out the tiny thorns. The next day when we went flower-hunting, Tallulah wore cloth on her hands. The kind they wrap mummies in.
Maggie was next to pick the Nettle, and Della shortly after. Maggie found the tall blossom with the white petals and picked it. It was off the trail, and I didn’t follow because of my bare feet and the thorn bushes that confined me to the soft dirt, so I didn't see it up close. I didn’t see her pick it. I would have stopped her because now I know Bull Nettle has blossoms, but Tallulah with her mummy hands watched Maggie pick it and didn't say a word. Soon Maggie was crying, but not before Della found a white blossom to match. That time, I saw it, and I told Della not to, but she said this one was different. Didn’t I see that the leaves were different and the flower was not at all the same? Didn’t I see how pretty it would look in her bouquet? I told her it was Bull Nettle, but she picked it anyway.
That breakfast, Daddy helped pick the thorns out of Della’s and Maggie’s hands with the tweezers and the magnifying glass. He told me how good I was to listen to him and how smart I was to know better. He said Bull Nettle’s a mean tricky plant. He said Bull Nettle that blossoms is the meanest kind.
The next day, Tallulah, Maggie, and Della all had mummy hands, and I led the way down the path, holding Daddy’s scuba watch. He gave it to me to mind the time. We picked beautiful bouquets. I helped when the flowers were too tough for their mummy hands to pick. Then, we saw a tiny white blossom. We all stood around it, prayerfully watching it sway. I hadn’t gotten so close to a Bull Nettle blossom before, so I didn’t realize how pretty they could be. The others didn’t stop me. "Pretty," Tallulah murmured, and Della and Maggie watched steadily. They wanted me to pick it, and my hands didn’t hurt at first. Halfway back to the campsite the tears started down my cheeks. It still didn’t hurt. We got back, and Daddy saw me crying.
"Honey, why’d you do that?" Daddy asked, seeing the white blossom in my swelling hands.
"I don’t know why I did it," I said, and my hands were on fire. I still clenching the Bull Nettle blossom and Daddy’s heavy scuba watch. Tallulah, Maggie, and Della stood like bridesmaids, their mummy hands gently holding their beautiful bouquets.