Friday, June 01, 2007

Childhood Songs, The Fate Of Wild Orchids, And Other Life Mysteries

When my brother was a boy, for a year or so he went about constantly (it seemed) singing the ditty "Cement mixer... putty, putty". Where that came from, and why a completely non-musical boy who never before (or since) has sung a tune would inflict this on the world, as far as I knew then was not known to man or beast. It was as big a mystery to me as the circus peanuts; these were sickingly sweet, sponge rubber-like candy in the shape of giant peanuts, that my Mother used to buy at the five and dime. The mystery wasn't so much why my Mother would buy them in the first place, but rather why the candy peanuts were colored yellow and flavored like bananas.

Well, both of these childhood mysteries have been partially solved in recent years. The Wall Street Journal actually had an extensive investigative article on the issue of why circus peanut candies are yellow and banana flavored. They traced the origin of the candy back to its inventor, and interviews showed that he came up with the color and flavor, but the reasoning behind his choices is obscure... he apparently just thought it sounded right. Also, the wonder of the internet has now revealed to me that the mindless little ditty my brother inflicted on us was in fact a line from a real song:

CEMENT MIXER, PUTTY PUTTY(Slim Gaillard / Ricks)Recorded by : Liberace; Jimmie Lunceford; Hal McIntyre; Alvino Rey.Cement mixer, putty puttyCement mixer, putty puttyCement mixer, putty puttyCement mixer, putty puttyCement mixer, putty puttyA puddle o’ vooty, a puddle o’ gooty,A puddle o’ scooby, a puddle o’ veet concrete.First you get some gravel, pour it on the voutTo mix a mess o’ mortarYou add cement and waterSee the mellow roonyCome out slurp slurp slurp.

However, researching this has just substituted one mystery for another... you will note that Liberace apparently recorded this song?? I cannot picture that; further investigation may be needed.

Well, this all may seem to be far afield from flowers, but here's the connection: this time of year is when the putty root orchids bloom, and whenever I think of them, that cursed song that my brother imprinted into my brain, re-surfaces to haunt me. I've been thinking a lot about the putty root orchids, because I'm worried about them. They only occasionally bloom, having to spend years building up enough energy to raise up a huge, waxy flower stalk up to two feet tall covered with brownish flowers. My concern is that in the open woods, almost every one of these flower spikes is promptly bitten off by the deer... perhaps one stalk in a hundred, hidden by brush or other foliage, survives to seed. So, what is to become of the putty roots? It's another mystery, but I'm not optomistic.

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Is this plant something you could propagate in the garden to help the odds?
Lisa... I doubt it would be easy in the garden. I think it needs a fungus host in the soil, like most terrestrial orchids. However, I do have one that popped up in one of my flower beds in the woods.
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