JASPER, Ala. (BP)–There’s a big yard around her little white house, and each spring it’s dotted with little yellow cups — buttercups, that is.
Allie Hudson, of Jasper, Ala., may be the only person around who uses nature to make money for God. There’s a little homemade sign by the road that reads: “Flowers for sale and all you give goes to New Prospect Baptist Church for missions.”
She operates her flowers-for-God business on the honor system, something her preacher father would have liked. A small bucket placed under the sign catches quarters or dollars or whatever else anyone wants to give.
“I’ve gotten $20 bills before,” she said, “sometimes 5s and 10s.” Most people are too cautious to leave more than change in the bucket. They prefer to knock on the door and hand the bills to her.
Last year she took in $219 and happily gave it to her church for the Annie
Armstrong Easter Offering for North American missions.
“I don’t know how much I’ve given over these many years,” she said.
She’s been doing this about 35 years, not quite as long as she has lived in the buttercup house. It was 52 years ago she moved here with her husband, Lester.
“My husband used to help me with the flowers,” she said, until his death 15 years ago.
When they built the house, she planted some of her mama’s buttercups. And then one day her neighbor across the street, “Aunt Mandy,” brought her a little red wagon full of plants.
“I kept moving them around, separating and dividing,” she said. “They can spread on their own, you know.”
She adds with a chuckle, “They’ll bloom where they’re planted.”
She estimated there are about 12 varieties but no telling how many plants are now strewn across her three-and-a-half-acre yard.
“I quit dividing them, just too much work.”
This year saw an early crop. About the end of January, a few yellow heads popped open.
When her most devoted customer arrived in early February to pick a bouquet, bringing his grandchildren, she hadn’t even realized they were ready for picking.
“Ken Key is about the first one to come see me every year,” she said. “A lot of people bring their children or grandchildren. They like to make the kids’ pictures in the flowers.”
Neighborhood children often ride their bicycles over to gather a few to take home to mom, tossing a few coins in the bucket before they leave. She empties it every day.
This year’s crop was more prolific than ever. Luckily, freezing springtime temperatures didn’t seem to hurt.
“A hard freeze makes them a little droopy, but they’ll come back,” she said.
Her children, Jan Williams of Dora, Ala., and Kermit Hudson of Pascagoula, Miss., are among her regular flower pickers. As well as her four grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Now she’s looking forward to the first great-great-grandchild, the next generation of buttercup pickers.
One of her fondest memories of flower-pickin’ fun was the time her 3-year-old great-granddaughter, Elizabeth, was carried away with gathering all she could when her father sought to distract her.
“He kept telling her she had picked enough and ought to quit,” Hudson recalled. “Finally she said, ‘Daddy, go on back in the house now, it’s too cold for you out here,’ and kept on picking.”
An understandable dilemma, actually. Once you get started picking, it’s hard to know when to quit.
Brooks is a writer with the Jasper (Ala.) Daily Mountain Eagle. Reprinted with permission.