A weed is any unwanted plant. It might have an economic benefit in some other setting, but in a field of corn, beans, wheat, flax, canola, or milo, for example, they are destructive. (See my 7-16-18 post about pigweeds.) Besides growing in the wrong place at the wrong time, the weed will drop seeds at the end of the growing season creating a worse problem in subsequent years. In our soybean field the cockleburs were stealing valuable nutrients and moisture.
What are cockleburs and what do they look like? Click this link to see what mature seed pods look like. I believe George de Mestral, the inventor of Velcro®, had similar burrs in mind when he decided to create his hook and loop fastener. The burs are famous for fastening onto animal fur and will catch a ride on most fuzzy fabric as well. I didn't know it at the time, but all parts of the plant are poisonous to mammals. Although they are picky about where they grow, the plants are self-pollinating and like most weeds take advantage of favorable conditions.
The conditions were very favorable in our irrigated soybean field, and a large area where seeds had lain dormant in the ground had sprouted. The weeds could not be cultivated out. Too much damage would be inflicted on the leafy soybean plants. Since cockleburs have shallow roots making them easy to pull and I was young and enthusiastic, I decided to rogue the field myself.
The trouble lay with my two-year-old son. He was at that age when he didn't want to let Mommy out of his sight. He didn't want to stay in the house with Grandma either. He sure didn't want to take a nap. He wanted to help.
I had numerous conversations trying to make a toddler understand why he couldn't help and why it was important for him to stay with Grandma while I worked. I gave up on the project the day I looked up to see my mother-in-law chasing him down the road.
"How am I going to get the cockleburs out of this field?" I asked him.
He had the perfect solution.