Monday, August 20, 2018

Fly Away

Before the use of designer herbicides that target specific weeds or Round-up® Ready soybeans, a genetically modified crop which is resistant to glyphosate, farmers relied on pre-plant herbicides and  tillage to prevent and control unwanted weeds. In 1984 we had an outbreak of cockleburs in a soybean field we rented which was directly across the road from my in-laws' house.

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.

"Don't worry, Mommy. The cocklebirds will grow up and fly away."

Monday, August 13, 2018

Rule 36

My daughter and her fiance decided to get married in Estes Park, Colorado with the famous Stanley Hotel as the venue. Talk about shopping around for a good deal.  Off season discounts rule!  They got married on a Thursday in March. We lucked out, and it didn't snow. The reduced rates spread to cakes, flowers, meals, and lodging. It was cheaper for both families to trek to Colorado than stay home.

The families met in Estes and had a wonderful time exploring the mountain park, shopping, and eating. If you visit, don't miss the glass blowers.

They had a small, intimate ceremony in the Music Room with immediate family and a few close college friends. Their friends were all photography majors and they as well as my husband were bristling with lenses. There was no lack of great pictures. Most couples arrange the room so the bride and groom stand in front of the windows and the audience can look out at the mountains. We turned the furniture sideways and made an altar out of the alcove where the grand piano sits.

Despite the fact friends and family surrounded her, my daughter guarded the key to their room with her life, and only let one trusted gff hold it.

At the supper, the choices were some kind of beef steak and pecan crusted salmon. You must order the salmon if you go to the Stanley.

During the reception, my new son-in-law's brother accompanied himself on the piano and sang a song he wrote. The matron of honor roasted my son, her cousin, instead of toasting the bride and groom. My mom said she felt a little queasy and asked the bartender for some soda crackers to settle her stomach.

We had the room rented until 11:00 P.M.  The management gave us a fifteen minute warning, then kicked us out. The next morning, the newlyweds went around visiting with everyone before taking off on their honeymoon. For a blushing bride, my daughter was in a foul humor.

"Who crackered our bed?"

No one admitted it. Since they had the room next to #217, the ghost room, someone joked it was a supernatural event. I said crackers in the sheets were nothing compared to being in a four-car pileup on your honeymoon. (See my July 30 post.) After they left, my mother confided that she had done it.

Get outta here!

No one told the newlyweds. Months later, a cousin just happened to mention the incident in their hearing.

Rule 36. Sometimes, when you least expect it, when you don't even see it coming, Grandma will prank you.

Mouth-blown glass

Monday, August 6, 2018


Our town has a railroad track which has been blocking the flow of Main Street traffic for decades. For as many years, people have been saying the train is going to prevent someone from getting to the hospital one of these days. The railroad people claim the train can clear the tracks quicker on its regular schedule than they can stop it and separate the cars. So far, I don't think anyone has died while waiting for the train to rumble through town.

One day when the kids were small, we were held up by the train as we were leaving town. Traffic had backed up a couple of blocks with the train just sitting there. 

It was hot, the kids were hungry, and they were fussing at each other in the back seat. One block to the left lies an establishment we've never visited. This might be the day.

"Hey, Daddy. Do you want to spend fifteen minutes in the P-E-T  S-T-O-R-E?" I spelled.

He gave me a horrified look at the same time a particularly loud altercation arose from behind.

"Sure."  He wheeled away from the line of hapless motorists and drove to the pet store.

I had been afraid we'd find kittens and puppies, guppies and gerbils in the shop. We already had plenty of cats and dogs on the farm. I had no intention of letting any beseeching little faces talk me into house pets whose care would fall on me.

Fortunately, the shop, which emitted a distinctly animal aroma, was fresh out of cuddly varieties. There was a python in a glass aquarium. Since Daddy is terrified of snakes, they knew not to ask. We also saw two monkeys. One was in a glass enclosure, and the other was in a wire cage.

I got the impression that the glass was to protect the public from the monkey. I didn't see any warning signs on any of the cages. Little did I know.

We were looking around, with me wondering how lucrative a pet store could be, when I noticed my three-year-old daughter peering at the monkey in the wire cage. Before I could say, "Honey, don't stick your fingers in that cage," she already had.

A remarkably fast monkey leaped across the cage and latched onto her little index finger like it was an appetizer for the mid-day meal. She let out a howl and jerked her hand back. Fortunately, all of it was still attached.

The proprietor assured us the animal had all its vaccines and scolded us for not watching our children. We could hear the train moving and decided we'd seen all we needed at the pet store. On the way home, we discussed whether we should take her to the doctor/emergency room. Instead, we decided to stop at Grandma's house and put some antibiotic and a band-aid on her finger. 

Within a day we learned that monkey had bitten practically everyone in the county who had visited the store. I thought it was reasonable to wonder why the attack monkey wasn't the one behind glass.

She didn't get sick, or lose her finger, or have nightmares about being bitten. However, until she turned nine or ten, she grew a long tail and swung from the light fixtures during a full moon. At least, that's what her daddy told her.