By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
If you have seen a lady on the side of the road or in a field bending over looking at the ground, she isn’t looking for her contacts. It is probably Arlene “Sarge” Samford, and she is searching for the ever-elusive four-leaf clover.
Samford, 81, started her quest for multi-leaf clovers six years ago and has, as of this week, collected 7,353 four-leafs; 545 five-leafs; 50 six-leafs; and three 7-leafs. She keeps them in mounted cases which currently fill 28 cardboard boxes.
“I’ve got certain patches that I look in,” said Samford who related she searches all over Cherokee for them.
“My church (Cherokee Pentecostal Holiness Church) has a very productive four-leaf clover patch. Almost every time I go to church, I go to the patch. I have found as many as 40 or 45 there at a time.”
Samford was raised on a farm in Illinois. “My dad had a ten-acre field, and we’d go out with him and he would come back with a whole pocket full of four-leaf clovers. We would come back with nothing. We just couldn’t see them.”
“So, six years ago I looked in my yard and said ‘oh, I’ve got some four-leaf clovers.’”
And, the search began. She found 300 that first year.
Samford said that her challenge to herself was to find 2,000 four-leaf clovers this year. She met that goal in a clover patch she searched on July 4 while visiting her sister in Illinois.
Her friends have been very supportive, and she said that Tsali Manor has been very interested in her project and some of her friends from there challenged her to up her number to finding 2,500 this year. “On Sept. 10, I found my 2,500th one.”
“And, then they changed it to 3,000. Well, I have found 2,841 this year so I’m not making it to 3,000.”
In 2011, she found her last clover on Dec. 23 and this year she found her first one at the Cherokee Post Office on Jan. 1.
“Some people are really excited about my project,” said Samford.
“It’s my exercise program, and I’ve lost weight.”
In addition to searching for clovers, Samford is an avid beekeeper and is a member of the North Carolina State Beekeepers Association, Tennessee State Beekeepers Association, Alabama Beekeepers Association, Smoky Mountain Beekeepers, Eastern Apicultural Society, and the American Beekeepers Federation. She has been named Person of the Year by the North Carolina association.
Samford travels to beekeeping conventions and meetings all over the country and the world. So far, she has attended events in 16 states and four foreign countries including Canada, Austria, Switzerland and Belgium.
Most remember Samford as a nurse at Cherokee Indian Hospital where she retired from after 13 years at that facility, 33 years with Indian Health Service and 45 years of nursing in all. She worked on seven different American Indian reservations and prides herself as being the last nurse at Cherokee Indian Hospital to still wear the nurses’ hat.
Samford definitely keeps busy, and her search for multi-leaf clovers continues with new goals. “There’s a fellow up in Alaska that has 160,000 four-leaf clovers in his collection. But, he’s had a lot of people helping him.”