RINER — Muriel Alderman doesn’t need a lot of luck to find four-leaf clovers every month of the year, including January, February and March.
They are waiting in her own backyard, she said. Alderman, 86, can’t seem to walk through a patch of clover without scanning it for four-leaf good-luck charms.
Apparently she has a special skill. Each year she finds more than 1,000 of the special clovers, mostly on her 60-acre farm.
“They say you should get out in the sunshine at least 15 minutes a day, and I do. This is my hobby,” Alderman said.
And while shamrocks and four-leaf clovers are not the same thing — shamrocks have three leaves — Alderman admits she might have some luck of the Irish. Four-leaf clovers are a rare genetic anomaly; there are approximately 10,000 three-leaf clovers for every lucky four-leaf clover, according to University of Georgia scientists.
“Maybe I take more time than most people,” Alderman said. “I look closer. I don’t give up. And then I start seeing ’em — one here, one over there. Anything you do, keep at it and you’ll get better at it.”
Alderman, who will turn 87 soon, doesn’t wear glasses or use a magnifying glass for her searches. She simply bends over and runs her hand through the clover, turning the leaves. In the summer when clover leaves are their largest and most plentiful, she usually finds a four-leaf clover within five minutes.
“I’ve got good eyesight,” she said.
In 2019, which she called her “best year ever,” Alderman’s total was 1,368 four-leaf clovers. In 2018, she found 1,207. Alderman has been collecting clovers since 1965, when she and her husband bought the farm. She started small — she’d find a few clovers and press them between the pages of a heavy cookbook or picture book.
Her hobby gained momentum when her nine grandchildren got old enough to hunt four-leaf clovers with her.
“I’d walk them down the road and we’d look for clovers along the way,” she said. “One day I was walking my grandkids along the road and found 60 four-leaf clovers in a bunch. That was when I started putting them in frames.”
Over the years, Alderman has found an eight-leaf clover, which looks like a rosette. She also has a nine-leaf, a six-leaf, and several five-leaf clovers pressed and framed her in living room. In fact, her living room is full of frames of carefully pressed four-leaf clovers as well as green knickknacks and St. Patrick’s Day memorabilia.
While there are no clover plants that typically produce four leaves, anyone lucky enough to find a four-leaf clover should search the vicinity for more. If a plant produces one, it’s more likely to produce another four-leaf lucky charm than plants that produce only three-leaf clovers.
“I’m a Goad by birth, but I think there’s some Irish somewhere in me,” Alderson said.
Alderman finds most of her clovers on her property. She avoids hayfields, where the ticks are likely to lie in wait. Most of her four-leavers are from the white clover plant, trifolium repens, but she has found a few four-leaf specimens on the larger red clover plants that grow in her pasture.
“But the cows like clover too, so I don’t find much in the pasture,” she said.
Alderman describes herself as a “country girl.” She grew up on a farm in Carroll County and went to work in a furniture company where she met her husband, Arnold. He was the one who threw spitballs at her, she said. Despite this, she eventually went on a date with him at Salem’s Lakeside Amusement Park and married him a few months later. They celebrated 52 years of marriage before he died in 2006.
Alderman said she’s never been one to “sit around.” She worked as an upholsterer for 32 years in various furniture plants, taking a few years off to rear her four children. She and Arnold raised tobacco and cattle on their farm, and she’s always had a garden.
“I don’t do as much as I used to,” she said. “I only canned about 30 quarts of tomato juice this year.”
Alderman enjoys doing lawn work and met her special friend Bob Sculla when he worked on her lawn mower. As he tested the mower, she pointed out the clovers to him, and he was able to find a few with four leaves. But Sculla said he doesn’t have her skill or her luck.
“I don’t look for the clovers to bring me luck,” she said, “but it’s lucky when I find them.”
She said she’ll go on collecting four leaf clovers, trying to beat her last year’s record. In 2018, a 10-year-old girl in Spotsylvania County set a Guinness World Record by finding 166 four-leaf clovers in one hour. Alderman said she has no desire to break that record; she just wants to do better each year.
“I’ll just find as many as I can, that’s all,” she said.