Crab Orchard woman is in the clover

December 14, 2004|BOBBIE CURD

CRAB ORCHARD - Elizabeth Fletcher is 63 years old and has some reoccurring health problems, but that doesn't keep her from maintaining her lifestyle as an avid hunter.

In fact, she doesn't miss a day.

"I still get excited when I see one. Especially the bigger ones. Most are four, but some as big as seven," she says proudly.

Fletcher isn't referring to the size of a rack on a deer; what she hunts may be alive, but probably feels no pain when she makes her final pluck.

She hunts clover. Four-leafed, five-leafed, six and seven.

So far, Fletcher has collected 4,893 clovers, most of which are four-leafed, and she's kept them all.

"Well, at first I would do it just as something to pass the time away, when Newtie was at the Farmer's Market in Lexington."


James Newton Fletcher, "Newtie," would've been her husband of 43 years this June. He was diagnosed with colon cancer in February and died in March.

He was a vendor at the Farmer's Market since 1978, Fletcher says, and was well known in the market community. "He sold everything from hickory nuts to England and cantaloupes to Michigan," she says.

Since her husband's passing, Fletcher's clover expeditions have become more of a passion.

"I miss him so bad sometimes, I just can't stand it. Sometimes I don't want to sit here by myself."

She doesn't feel alone in the fields

Fletcher can't put her finger on it, but she doesn't feel alone in the fields of her neighborhood when she's hunting.

Her neighbors all allow her to hunt clover on their property, so she has quite a terrain she can "meander about."

Fletcher soon realized that there really wasn't a reason to hunt and keep the clover if she was "just letting them dry up and crumble. That's when I started putting them in this notebook."

Holding up the plain brown notebook, Fletcher begins turning the pages; the seams are busting, and some of the older pages have turned brown.

She's actually logged them.

"Let's see, page 69, there's a seven-leaf clover, I believe it's number, well, let's just look here," she goes on, opening the notebook to the page where the large clover is taped down with the number in sequence written above it.

"Number 4297; there's a five-leafed one."

Although she started collecting them in 2000, she's done the majority of gathering since March.

"I don't know, I can't see where they've actually brought me any luck yet," she jokes, then adds that maybe she's lucky enough; she can eat and pay her bills.

But "If they were to give me some luck, I'd want to be lucky enough to have my health back again."

"Degenerative nerve disease" diagnosed

With more than 40 years of factory work under her belt, she has developed what her doctor diagnosed as "degenerative nerve disease," a condition common in people who have used their upper bodies in repetitive line work over the course of several years.

"Some days are harder than others. But looking for clovers brings me some peace, I guess."

Although Fletcher may have recently lost her husband and is forced to deal with physical pain during her golden years, her personality appears considerably young and able at heart.

"I heard one of my neighbors say, 'Anytime you see Mrs. Fletcher out there with that crazy hat on, you'll see her with her head straight down, looking for clovers,' and that made me laugh," Fletcher said.

The she put on her white clover-hunting hat that has the look of a bonnet with a wide brim. Sitting up straight, she asks, "What's so different from me wearing this than farmers wearing their 'ole crazy hats all day?"

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