One homeowner's battle with the dreaded Spur.
Our first home was nestled upon a corner lot resembling a desert, complete with sand, cacti, weeds, tufts of Bahiagrass and a healthy crop of sandspurs. Ah, yes the dreaded spur, Cenchrus echinatus, which is Greek for “prickly thing that gets under your skin and remains for life.”
As we settled into our new home our daughter would regularly come limping into the house calling for me, spur embedded deep in a toe. I’d remove the spur with my bare hands, invariably spearing myself in the process. With every attempt to extract the barb I would succeed only in relocating the cursed spine ball from one finger to another, my shrieks of agony amusing my daughter to no end.
The spurs had to go!
So Dad gave me an old blue lawnmower, cleverly called Old Blue. It was an admirable machine and dispensed with the weeds and grass in short order. I adjusted it to the lowest possible height and pushed it up and back over the patches of spurs until a fog of sandy dust blew out the shoot. I felt like Pigpen from the Peanuts comics, as I walked along behind the mower, enshrouded within a cloud of dirt.
Well, apparently sandspurs are actually seeds, a trick used by the diabolical spur to spread itself to and fro. Unbeknownst to me, with each pass of the mower I was re-seeding my sand pit – I mean yard. By the following season I had successfully cultivated an entire crop of wicked weed.
Dad, ever helpful, had several suggestions. One was for me to walk around the yard in my socks. Another was to attach our young son to a piece of carpet and have our Dalmatian drag him about the yard. Dad didn’t realize that our dog wouldn’t set foot in that minefield.
I went to the Feed Store and bought some herbicide and asked the clerk the best method for eradicating the weed. A fellow in line was quick to answer.
“Fertilize ‘em!” he told me with great confidence. “Fertilize the bejesus out of them and they’ll all die.” The clerk behind him mouthed ‘no’ and shook his head with wide-eyed, silent disagreement.
With chemical warfare in hand I returned home and began my second assault. After mowing, I went back and sprayed the remaining shaved patches with weed killer. I had become an expert at sandspur recognition and could spot at 100 paces the distinctive spider-like formation of the ghastly burs. I mowed and sprayed and plucked the weeds from the soil – and from my fingers.
I decommissioned Old Blue and bought a new mower equipped with a grass-catcher, because merely mowing the spurs was just – uh – not cutting it. They are like spiders. Kill one and 10 million spring to life. And hidden amongst the thatch were zillions of spurs that would consistently stick into the paws of our dog, the feet of our kids and the mouth of our cat, Princess.
Feline Spur-ectomies became common practice in our home. Whenever Princess drooled excessively and was unwilling to eat or drink I would fetch the hemostats. We’d wrap the uncooperative cat in a towel and when she opened her mouth to complain, I’d snatch out that malodorous, saliva-soaked spur with one rapid-fire movement. Princess would later reward me by urinating on my bed.
So now I was capturing these devilish landmines by the billions, gathering them safely away into the farthest corner of my yard until I had amassed a gigantic haystack of sandspurs three stories in height. What to do now? Can’t bury them, they’re seeds.
Burn them! Burn them all!
I pulled out the grill and put in a pile and tried to ignite it. It smoked mightily and pretended to light but for some reason refused to conflagrate. I worked for hours before finally dumping the grill and storming into the house in defeat.
I tried to relax and put it all behind me, kicking back in my chair.
“Oh, honey,” my wife called out. “Our yard is on fire!”
Sure enough, those sanctimonious spurs that had steadfastly refused to light had no problem bursting into flame once set free upon my lawn! I raced out, grabbed the hose, prayed it didn’t tangle and commenced to put out my yard before anyone could call the fire department.
Fortunately, I did not become an arsonist. And it’s good to know that thrash and burn techniques are still quite effective in yard and garden maintenance. Ain’t no spurs in my yard now.