|Mountain Laurel Bean|
2.5" × 3.5"
Oil on clay ground.
It depicts the seed of the Texas mountain laurel (Dermatophyllum secundiflorum), a large shrub that superficially resembles the bay laurel, though I've never heard of Texans using it to crown their athletes and bullriders. It grows in the Texas Hill Country, just north of the badlands where I live, and in parts of northern Mexico. It can attain a height of ten or fifteen feet, and has a woody trunk, and dark, glossy leaves.
In the spring it produces large bunches of fragrant purple flowers which are said to smell like grape soda. It belongs to the legume family, and its bright red beans are found in woody pods, two or three to each pod. They were once used by the local Indians as a hallucinogen, hence the tree's alternate name, mescalbean (though the beans contain no mescaline). The beans are very hard, and burn the skin on contact after being rubbed on concrete; I have never been able to ascertain whether this is a chemical burn or merely due to the heat of friction. They seem to sting the hands slightly upon being broken out of their pods, so I am inclined toward the former. When I was in the Boy Scouts, we entertained ourselves by burning one another with the beans from the two large trees in front of City Hall, where we had our meetings.
The mountain laurel is often used for landscaping around where I live. We have a sizable specimen growing on a corner of our property, next to a telephone pole, together with a spineless prickly pear. Last spring we were contacted by the phone company, which was going up and down all the streets in our town, savagely butchering any trees deemed too close to the lines, and were told that ours was slated for removal. My wife complained that it posed no danger to the lines and never would. The tree was crossed off the list by a worker, but he assured us that his boss would simply put it back on. I then passive-aggressively parked my truck in front of the tree for a week while they came through our neighborhood. I'm happy to report that the tree is still there, and the company has moved on to another town.
So, the alternate title of my painting is Passed Over.