Monday, February 09, 2009

January Book Drawing Winner: Mary Ellen C.
As usual, send an email to or comment at for your name to be entered into a drawing for a book The Stained Glass Pickup or A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts.


I know the folk in West Texas thought we were fools. And we resembled the remark.
On a pleasure trip in our pickup truck to the mostly flat side of Texas, I became fascinated with tumbleweeds. Sort of like the first time you see a rare bird. And some of the tumbleweeds did flit close to the earth.
Intrigued, I asked my husband, David, if we could take a load of tumbleweeds home. Earlier, a friend mentioned that they decorated a scrawny tumbleweed for Christmas. That sounded whimsical, like fun.
If I remember correctly, Dave balked just a little about my suggested cargo. After all, he would be driving the load through miles of curious, guffawing onlookers, who surely deemed the weeds debris.
If course tumbleweeds cross the road in front of a low slung sports car, they can scratch paint, damage the undercarriage or grate over hoods. They can even get tangled in moving parts and break air hoses underneath trucks.
On that day when I made my bizarre request, Dave said yes. He kindly caved to my insane want. We stopped along a roadside where a fence had corralled a good number of the cumbersome bushes. A few ranchers and locals did slow their vehicles to gawk as we harvested tumbleweeds.
The Seattle Times, in 2001, reported on weeds whose taproots absorbed radiation on the Hanover Nuclear Reservation, contaminating the plant before they became separated and roving. On a search and destroy mission, crews were sent out to test for “glowing” tumbleweeds.
A variety of plants have the “habit” of breaking away from their roots and traveling. In fact “tumbleweed” doesn’t describe a specific plant but a habit of such plants that separate from their root system and then roll about. When plants separate from their root system, they lose their source of nourishment, air currents have their way with them, and they are blown about by every sort of wind.
I couldn’t think of a creative way to use all my tumbleweeds, so most of them were burned with the fall leaves on a tranquil day. But other folk have found ways to profit from these weeds. The Prairie Tumbleweed Farm in Kansas has turned the Russian thistle, which arrived here in imported grain years ago, into a booming business. Some of their tumbleweeds are four times as big as a person, and they sell them around the world to enhance western movies, theme parks, businesses, and homes. Wedding planners know where to go to authenticate settings for a cowboy to marry a cowgirl.
Asaph the psalmist made a complaint about those who formed an “alliance against you, O God” (83:5), and he further asked, “Make them like tumbleweed, O my God” (vs. 13). Asaph knew that when people move away from their source of goodness that they dry up, that they can do much damage, and that they will be consumed by the harsh elements they’re exposed to as they wander here and there.
For most audiences, the consensus is that tumbleweeds are up to no good. They’ve lost their mooring, their grounding. When they break away from their place of sprouting, that’s when they become wobbly and unstable – that’s when the winds from the north, south, west or east shove them around.
Old western song lyrics describe how a lot of folks live, “Drifting along with a tumbling tumbleweed.” But, I prefer the words and freedom from other psalm lyrics, “I hold fast to your statutes, O LORD . . .. I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.” (119:31-32).

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