Heavy summer rains meant that the Russian thistle grew big and hardy this year. Then a dry autumn leached the moisture from them. Now they’ve detached from the ground and turned into their more common name, tumbleweeds.
Tumbleweeds don’t offer much, except occasional comic relief, and a convenient shorthand for Hollywood productions to create the impression of lonely western landscapes. They’re full of prickles, and hard to get out of your clothing and gloves and skin after you encounter them. Russian thistle is an invasive weed, but it has become well established here and survives every attempt to get rid of it.
Yesterday, I spent about twenty minutes taking tumbleweeds away from the fence nearest the house, hauling them to the fence that divides the east pasture from the rest of the property and tossing them over. With luck, that fence will keep them from coming back this way—not that there aren’t plenty more out there just waiting for their chance to attack. Fences and tumbleweeds are natural enemies. Fences keep tumbleweeds from doing what they want to do, which is rolling around the landscape causing trouble. But tumbleweeds, when they pile up against fences, rob them of their identities, turning them instead into walls. If we had wanted walls we’d have built walls, but tumbleweeds don’t care. They press themselves together, sometimes many layers deep, forming an impenetrable mass against the fences.
The struggle against tumbleweeds is like so many wars throughout history. There’s no good outcome, nothing that can really be called a victory. The fight goes on. The tumbleweeds are nowhere near surrendering.