Dear Dr. Boli: I gather that botany is one of your many interests and areas of expertise, so I turn to you with this question. The prophet Amos claimed to be “a dresser of sycamores.” Can you explain this profession? It’s about the most bizarre way of making a living I’ve ever heard of. —Sincerely, Regina Terrae.
Dear Madam: The dressing of sycamores strikes us as odd; yet, in our own country, the trackless suburbs of the Middle West nourish a vast industry devoted to dressing concrete geese. The fashions of bygone ages invariably seem ridiculous, while those of our own era seem quite ordinary and rational. If the ladies of suburban Samaria and Jerusalem liked their sycamore trees with a bit of crinoline and lace, we modern Americans ought not to judge them, lest our concrete geese be judged. We read of vine-dressers in the Bible as well, so the fad for horticultural costuming was evidently quite popular among hobbyists. It was not popular enough, however, for Amos to make a living at it; he had to keep a bunch of grubby sheep around for his primary income.
It should be noted that the sycamore of the Bible is a species of fig (Ficus sycomorus), not the common sycamore tree of our American forests (Platanus occidentalis). The American sycamore, with its chronically flaking bark, would make a poor subject for dress-up games.