SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) – A former Nixa Police Department chief is set to enter the Guinness World Record books for something that has nothing to do with law enforcement but something he picked up as a hobby during the pandemic, collecting clovers.
Yeah, he knows it sounds weird.
“Up to this point, it’s been a family secret,” James Bacon said. “I get text messages all the time calling me a nerd. They make fun of me, but that’s okay. It wasn’t a hobby that I was looking for.”
And at the Library Center in south Springfield on Friday, Bacon took his clover collecting one step further by setting up video equipment and paperwork for the certification of a Guinness World Record he was trying to set for collecting the most amount of six-leaf clovers.
It all started two years ago when Bacon, who now lives in Ozark, was walking his dog.
“During the pandemic, I was trying to stay away from people so we would go to new places where it wasn’t quite as congested,” he said.
Trips to various trails like the Ozark Community Center and Finley River Park have turned up a single nine-leaf clover, a pair of eight-leaf clovers, 11 seven-leaf clovers, and 402 five-leaf clovers, and his world record six-leaf total.
And those four-leaf clovers that are supposed to bring you good luck?
Bacon has 3,483 of those.
“Everybody keeps telling me to play the lottery, but I’m afraid I’ve used up all my luck on the clovers,” he said with a laugh. “I can tell you the exact day I started. April 4, 2020, I found a four-leaf clover and told my son it was going to be my lucky day. I went around the block one day and came back with eight of them, and my wife told me I’d only been gone 15 minutes. So what started as a novelty turned into an obsession, and now when we go out for walks, I’m constantly looking down. When I get home, I’ve got a wad of them up in my hat, and my wife shakes her head and says, ‘You’re crazy!’”
Bacon admits to having an eagle eye when spotting multi-leaf clovers from long distances, crediting that to his 29-year law enforcement career, where he frequently worked with fingerprints.
“Fingerprints have a repetitive pattern,” he explained. “So you’re constantly looking for something that’s unique to focus on. So (when it comes to clover-spotting), the uniqueness for me is a clump that signifies the volume of leaves. As I’m scanning the ground, I’m looking for clumps. My wife gets frustrated because I can literally step out of the truck and spot one that she can’t see. It’s just a matter of knowing what you’re looking for, and just about everywhere I go, I can spot a multi-leaf clover from six-to-eight feet away.”
Considering the odds of finding a four-leaf clover are 1-in-10,000 and the odds of finding a five-leaf are 1-in-100,000, the rarity of finding a six-leaf clover is even higher.
That’s why the world record for collecting six-leaf clovers is only 27, held by a man from Hungary.
But that total is about to change.
Bacon assembled a team of two botanists, and KY3′s own Ashley Reynolds for the verification process at the Library Center and videotaped their role as witnesses since no Guinness representatives were there in-person.
The botanists carefully examined each clover to ensure they were the right species (white clovers), and all three witnesses counted to ensure that each clover had six leaflets.
“The thing to look for is going to be whether it’s hairless,” botanist Justin Thomas explained. “The white clover is what you find in your yard sticking up in-between the mowing areas of your lawn. These are all basal leaves. They don’t have any leaves on a stem. Other species of the clover that we commonly see, like the purple one, have stem leaves, and they’re hairy.”
Bacon brought in 48 six-leaf clovers.
In the end, 43 of them were verified, and that’s a new record obliterating the old mark of 27.
But the record is not official until Bacon sends the results to Guinness for certification, which should take a month or two.
“It’s a lot of paperwork,” Bacon pointed out. “Plus, the whole process had to be videotaped, and we have to photograph all the individual specimens to send off to Guinness to have them certify it.”
Bacon says he has no special celebration planned when Guinness lets him know he officially has the record.
But he does plan on giving a reward to his faithful companion, who’s responsible for making the record possible.
His German Shepherd dog, Draco, keeps him walking those trails.
“If I wasn’t walking him, I wouldn’t have found the first one,” Bacon said. “He’s become very patient, and he’s learned that when I say, ‘Hang on,’ he stops and sits down while I pick up the clovers and put them in my hat. I might get him a good piece of steak or something he can chew on.”
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