Thursday, October 6, 2011


You’ll never see it recorded in world history alongside the Trojan war, the Crimean war, the French revolution or the wars fought by the Crusaders to “liberate” the Holy City Jerusalem from the pagan Muslims. You won’t even find it in American history where the Revolutionary war, the French and Indian wars, the war between the States, the “war to end all wars,” the “war to make the world safe for democracy,” the VietNam war, and the “War on Poverty,” are described. The Republicans vs. Democrats war taking place currently in the U.S. Congress will, no doubt, be discussed in future history books. The “Great Sand Burr War,” will never be recorded by historians, however, so I myself must insure that it is not forgotten!

I like to think of myself as a tolerant and accepting person (whether or not that’s true!). I believe in the “live and let live” philosophy of life. But my tolerance and acceptance has limits. It ends when I encounter a sand burr! In the midst of my flower beds, in the grass of our side yard, or imbedded in a carpet in our living room, I hate sand burrs!

Now, for you Northerners who have never encountered those prickly little south Texas pests, I’ll try to explain. Sand burrs are bead-sized stickers, shaped like a curled up porcupine ready to strike. They grow in clusters on a certain type of vine that masquerades as grass and loves to infest lawns and grassy areas. The vines are nearly indestructible and flourish in drought-like conditions when other (respectable) vegetation is dying of thirst. Sand burr vines are resistant to weed sprays which kill the surrounding plants. Rabbits, and other small animals, give them a wide berth and eat decorative plants instead.

The vines, with their Velcro-like burrs attached, can grow to a length of 6 or 8 feet, or longer if left undisturbed. Then, when a bare foot, a pant leg, a finger, or anything, happens to touch one of those invisible little spiny clusters, the burrs attach themselves painfully to the exposed part. Shoes sometimes carry the spiny little burrs into the house where they embed themselves in rugs and carpets, only to be discovered by a bare foot on the way to the bathroom in the middle of the night. So, now you know why I hate sand burrs!

I’d show you a picture of the prickly pest if I had one, but I don’t. We’ve never found anything photogenic about sand burrs!

Year after year, when we return to the Valley, I have to spend hours waging war against them. They especially love one of our flower beds. There, the vines hide in the soil and grow silently, poking an occasional green frond up above the flowers. But, beneath the thick leaves of the ground cover, the sand burr vines invade the entire patch. They twine themselves around the stems of the flowers and slowly choke or starve them to death. I cannot sit idly by and let my sworn enemy destroy the flowers I’ve worked so hard to nurture.

So, again this year, I declared war on the sand burrs in my flower bed! I donned my palm protected canvas garden gloves and grabbed my weed bucket. I waded out into the center of the patch, and began pulling. My bucket was filling up fast with yard after yard of green and brown vines. I discovered, however, that the spiky little burrs love canvas and will cling to it stubbornly. They quickly covered my gloves and had to be painfully removed with bare fingers!
The next day I tried leather gloves and found them far more suitable armor for sand burr warfare.

Early that second morning of conflict, I learned just how desperate my vegetative enemy had become. The sand burrs and vines had enlisted mosquitoes or other biting insects in support of their cause! My arms, legs and neck were covered with itchy, red blotches. I was getting desperate but becoming ever more determined.

By day three I had a strategy. The evening before I had enlisted the help of a powerful ally: the water hose. The one thing sand burrs don’t like is water, so my strategy was to drown them out. I pulled what I could see, and then flooded them again.

After three days, the battlefield was quiet. No healthy green fronds of the sand burr vines were visible above the flowers. But it was just a stalemate, not a victory. My sneaky enemy vines were quietly growing new and stronger roots under the ground. They were just waiting for the showers to cease so they could again attack in force.

Sure enough, after a week-long cease fire, I attacked again and discovered an even thicker maze of enemy vines hidden beneath my healthy green plants! I pulled and I yanked; I yanked and I pulled. I filled up another weed bucket with vine casualties, but they were everywhere. They had even curled themselves around the roots of the healthy plants so that when I pulled them up, they brought up innocent bystanders with them. I had to admit defeat when the “body count” in my week bucket included more flowers than sand burrs! I know that, in the end, I’m going to lose this Great Sand Burr War. But I would at least like to win the battle for my flower beds!

10/6/2011 - mshr