Kansas Tumbleweed along Country Road
Driving toward the farm I spotted a magnificent tumbleweed. Seeing tumbleweeds caught in fences or trapped along roadsides is common in Kansas this time of year, and I drove past this one quite a ways before putting on the brakes. Cautiously I looked for other cars--not only because I was concerned that someone might hit me as I began backing up but also because I wanted to spare myself the embarrassment of anyone catching me photographing a common weed. As I moved around the tumbleweed taking pictures, I saw an approaching pickup in the distance, but it turned at the intersection to the east, and I was saved from explaining my reasons for photographing ditch trash.
Isaac's nemesis was not tumbleweeds but rather sunflowers and sandburrs, which he spent hours hoeing around the base of his young trees. Yet, surely he too saw tumbleweeds rolling across the prairie.
|Bottom showing break from root|
Interestingly, a tumbleweed is not a particular plant. The name can be applied to any number of mature, dried plants that pull away from the root to roll and tumble in the wind. Scientifically these tumbleweeds are diaspora, whose tumbling and rolling habit disperses seeds as they roll. As anyone who has seen ditches filled with growing tumbleweeds knows, the seeds take root in a wet location, whether dropped as the dry parent weed tumbled or still attached to a plant caught in the ditch. Among some of the plants called tumbleweeds are Russian thistles, baby's-breath, and plants in the aster family, the legume family, and the mustard family.
The brown fields and trees in the distance in the photograph to the left are Isaac's homestead and timber claim.
|Tumbleweeds--growing and caught in fence|
As I continued driving, I photographed this iconic image of two tumbleweeds--one still attached to its root in the sandy soil and the other caught in a barbed wire pasture fence. In the background is a thicket of sandhill plums.
For many of us, we can't think of tumbleweeds without the melody of a cowboy song running through our minds. "See them tumbling down, Pledging their love to the ground; Lonely but free I'll be found, Drifting along with the tumbling tumbleweeds..."
You can hear Marty Robbins sing those words at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lbPPnCbEXJE or enjoy the singing of the Sons of the Pioneers at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UiSMyyi-Ac in a clip from an old Roy Rogers movie. If these links do not open, go to google.com and enter Marty Robbins + Tumbling Tumbleweeds to hear Marty, and enter Sons of the Pioneers + Tumbling Tumbleweeds to hear the Roy Rogers movie clip. I'm sorry the links are not working.