On the Saturday before Easter, the grown up children, their own children and grandkids, cousins from San Antonio and Austin, and a few welcome stragglers converge on the Ideus farm near Meyersville, Texas. Merton and Marjorie Ideus, who milked cattle for 46 years, don’t believe in leaving things to chance. The Easter bunny needs and deserves—coaxing. So if you’re expecting chocolates and pink eggs, it’s time to get busy and make an Easter nest.
Especially when Easter comes late, DeWitt County is lush this time of year. The land is a living kaleidescope, sparkling with coreopsis, Indian paintbrush, poppies and bluebonnets.
“De Witt County is known for having the best wildflowers in the state,” says Bob Orr, Marjorie’s cousin. In fact he says that several times. And having seen what we saw in the spring of 2003, we wouldn’t contradict him. That year, Marjorie and Merton generously invited us to come on down from Austin and take part in their family Easter tradition, a world class human flower project. Along with about 20 Ideuses and Orr cousins, we loaded into the back of a couple of pickups and bumped along through cool grassy pastures to the back to the farm. What a banner year for wildflowers! Piling out, we fanned apart and began to pick our fill, engrossed in the life beneath our feet. Airy purple Texas vervrain, winecups, and Indian blanket … for once, to have an Easter-bunny’s-eye-view of the world.
With baskets, hats, pails, and coffee cans full of blooms, we rumbled back to the house, where Marjorie set out paper plates on picnic tables in the breezeway. The fresh wildflowers were strewn in the center, as young, old, and middling began fashioning the ultimate Easter bunny come-on. All kinds—geometric designs like gemstones, tufts of color, weaves, and heavenly pile-ons in the spirit of banana splits.
Marjorie and Merton explained that this was an old world custom their German ancestors had brought with them to Central Texas. Their Duderstadt, Diebel, Schewitz, and Egg—yes, truly!—forebears are buried in the cemetery of St. John Lutheran Church close by. Marjorie recalls that in her youth the Easter nests were laid on the ground, made of Spanish moss decorated with wildflowers. But in recent years moss hasn’t been so plentiful as it once was in DeWitt County. For several years she’s opted for paper plates and thus far the Easter bunny hasn’t turned up his nose.
With stalks and crushed flowers swept away, each finished nest was beautiful; all together they were magic, enough to lure distant cousins and the more elusive genie of spring, hopping or otherwise. Marjorie called us inside for a delicious supper, featuring sausage made with Merton’s time-honored recipe (“40 pounds of meat, 1 pound of salt, ½ pound of black pepper”). Scalloped potatoes, jello with oranges, pineapple and cottage cheese, sweet potatoes with marshmallows, lettuce and tomato salad…and a 7-up cake with coconut. As everyone, almost, settled in to this wonderful meal, who noticed that Marjorie and Merton had vanished from the scene?
After dessert we trailed outside and found that, silently, the Easter bunny had arrived. On top of our nests of flowers there were colored eggs and homemade cookies, pinwheels, stuffed rabbits, and chocolates!
“We’re trying to build memories,” Marjorie remarked, as her great granddaughters, with wildflowers over both ears, spun their green and silver pinwheels.