Walking his dog Jacquie to the Observer office, Walt Hardinge found a four-leaf clover. Looking at the collection of foliage in his hand, it’s clear he found more than one.
“Seven actually,” Hardinge said, sorting through the clovers on a bench in Pioneer Park. “I just counted them before I got to the door.”
Most of them were the famed four-leaf clovers, a harbinger of luck and preternatural sight. But a few were five-leaf clovers, which Hardinge likes to call “Rose Clovers.” And others were what the 58-year-old Agassiz resident has nicknamed “Papillon Clovers,” or butterfly clovers.
“They’re usually the ones that have four leaves that are almost the same size and then a tiny one, like this one here,” he said, holding up the clover. “By the time you press them and they dry, they look like a butterfly. I can’t say that’s an official name or anything, but it sounded good at the time.”
In the last month or so, Hardinge has found more than 219 clovers with four leaves or more.
“I find the darn things everywhere,” he said. “I went to the mailbox the other day … and I found one. Not even looking.”
Although Hardinge’s clover boom has only been recent, his history with four-leaf clovers started long ago, when he was an 11-year-old boy growing up in Scarborough, Ont.
One day, he was sitting on the grass in front of a neighbour’s house, brushing his hands through a patch of clover.
“I thought to myself, I wonder if four-leaf clovers actually exist,” he recalled. “And just for the heck of it, I started brushing my hands through the clovers and seeing if I could find one. Sure enough, I actually did.”
Hardinge ran inside to press his lucky find, and over the course of the next few weeks found 10 more. He pressed all his clovers in a copy of the Guinness Book of World Records, and then forgot about finding clovers for a while.
Over the course of the next 47 years, in rough points during Hardinge’s life, he would think back to the 11 four-leaf clovers he had once found — they became lost at some point during childhood — but didn’t expect to find anymore.
Then, in the spring of this year, Hardinge and his fiancé took Jacquie for a walk to the recreation centre. Just like he did 47 years ago, Hardinge brushed his hands through the clovers in the grass. And just like that, Hardinge found another four-leaf clover.
Since then, Hardinge has been finding groups of four-, five- and even six-leaf clovers. (On May 11, Hardinge found his first eight-leaf clover.) But with all that luck, Hardinge decided it was time to give some of it away. He has been handing out groups of three clovers to strangers and friends in an effort to share the good fortune.
“It’s amazing the joy I see in people’s faces when I give them one,” he said.
Hardinge plans to keep 11 four-leaf clovers for himself, to replace the ones he lost, and 11 “exotics,” but the rest he is giving away.
His father had a saying “that life was a little bit like a big pond. And if you’re brave, you will cast a pebble into that pond and see where the ripples go,” he explained.
“I think this is my own way of throwing a pebble into a pond, only now I’ve got about 200 of them that I’m giving way.
“Two hundred pebbles I’m throwing into that gigantic pond. And we’ll see what happens.”