Greater Love Hath No Man or Woman
Austin C. Kennell, Afton, Va.
What is a seven letter word for one of the most important groups of people in the American Rhododendron Society that paradoxically is also one of the least known and appreciated? Here are some hints that may help you. They come in all ages and both sexes. Every chapter has them. As a matter of fact, they show up at every rhododendron gathering, whether large or small, chapter or national. They usually don't care much about rhododendrons or azaleas (and may even dislike them). They don't propagate or hybridize, or even grow rhododendrons. But their impact on the ARS is substantial. To tell the truth, we couldn't do without them! Give up? Okay, here it is - "Dragees."
If you are not familiar with the euphemism, "dragees" are the wives, or husbands, or anyone else who is not infected with rhodoitis but who is dragged to functions by someone so afflicted. There are exceptions but in most families or couples, only one person, not both, is really into rhododendrons. So at any ARS activity, chances are pretty good that many present are there because of dragnetics.
Now just because a "dragee" (whose lack of interest in rhododendrons is probably due to a vitamin deficiency or being scared by a lepidote as a child) is not your gungho, bonafide, dyed in the wool rhododendron devotee (a fancy word for nut), doesn't mean she or he isn't an important part of our organization. "Dragees" are really something special.
For one thing, they constitute a pretty big chunk of any ARS group. Count them some time (you can usually spot them by their many glances at their watches, snoring, or frequent visits to the restrooms). Secondly, many of us rhododendron buffs (another fancy word for nut) wouldn't be at many activities if it weren't for dragism. And last, but certainly not least, a lot of "dragees" really contribute.
I'm an expert on the subject of dragology. My constant and favorite "dragee" of many, many years is also my longtime and favorite everything, my wife, Betty. With very rare exceptions, she has been dragged to every chapter and national activity I've attended over some twenty plus years. And I can assure you that it was primarily her dragableness that made it possible for me to attend and enjoy these activities.
I would guess that Betty is in many ways a typical "dragee". She has never planted or grown a rhododendron and has, on occasions, been known to confuse a boxwood with an azalea. She has trouble grasping why a rhododendron group shows such interest in a "yak" which she knows is a longhaired wild ox of Asia. Come to think of it, I have a couple of rhododendrons that are about as pretty as a longhaired wild ox. One time (and one time only) Betty did some weeding for me and pulled up a whole bed of small rhododendron seedlings. Now she limits her garden chores to oohing and aahing at the flowers. I'll say this - she's a world class ooher and aaher.
But Betty probably has typed more letters, made more phone calls, addressed as many labels, stuffed as many envelopes, licked as many stamps, folded as much paper, baked as many cakes, cooked as many dishes, registered more people, stuck on as many name tags, hosted as many get togethers, listened to as many speeches, smiled at as many visitors, sat on as many chairs, eaten as many meals, ridden as many miles, made as many tours, and looked at as many slides as just about any plant-oriented member of the ARS.
She has done all these things and more freely and graciously (while I take the bows and enjoy myself). She has never complained about the money I lavish on plants though I'm prone to quibble about money spent on unimportant things like food, clothing and medical care. She has changed her plans, no matter how cherished, many times to accommodate my rhododendron interests.
But I guess, more important than all her other contributions, is that she's always there. Her presence and her companionship make me a better member of the ARS. She encourages, she counsels and she dispels doubt and uncertainty. Dragability takes a lot of understanding and patience. It's sort of like being the only sober person in a room full of drunks.
Dragness is a fact of life in the ARS. In the Middle Atlantic Chapter, we make a conscious effort to include optional activities for those whose interest in rhododendrons is slight. We try to provide some things that are interesting rather than just technically informative.
"Dragees" like Betty make chapters better - the ARS better. Not because they love rhododendrons which they don't - but because they love someone who does.
So this is a tribute to the "dragees" of the American Rhododendron Society, whoever they are and wherever they are. We owe them more than we can ever repay. Thanks to all "dragees" in general and one in particular.