by Carol Dunn
HUERFANO– Many Huerfanos know the sickening “pop” of the skin on the heel of their foot as a goathead sticker punches through. Where do they come from? Goathead gremlins leave them at night while you are sleeping. You can be 500 feet from the nearest goathead plant, and one will just happen to be lying in wait on the path to your mailbox. A goathead can bring the biggest, toughest cowboy to his knees – well, that is if the particular cowboy would ever be caught dead wearing flipflops or going barefoot. Call a “waa-mbulance for me!” I’ll admit it, I am not much into stickers, cactus spines, thistles and their ilk.
About five years ago we fell in love with a property in Majors Ranch subdivision, up by a rock wall. Well, almost fell in love. We had our rose colored glasses on. When we took them off, we noticed about seven million little barrel cactus plants. In my mind’s eye, I suddenly saw them gaining “protected species” status on the day escrow closed, then growing large and multiplying like rabbits, forming a gauntlet around our home. The dog would constantly have spines in his nose, and you know where dogs stick their noses when they want to greet you. The UPS guy would refuse to deliver packages. We wouldn’t be able to play badminton in the front yard (not that we do anyway, but it’s just the thought). The school bus would need a plow on the front – like the cattle catcher on a train – to get through the driveway.
Even someone from Pennsylvania, who finds cacti to be a novelty, knows her limits. I was not cut out to tame a cactus field. We piled into the car and sped away, squealing the tires on the dirt road like they used to do in Hawaii Five-O.
I have pretty much the same ill will toward thistles, horehound seeds, cholla spines, cockleburs, and prickly pears. Some people may not be aware there is a law against thistles in Colorado. Unfortunately, the ignoramus thistles do not know this, so they continue to scourge us. Don’t get me wrong, thistle flowers are downright beautiful. Unfortunately, once they flower and go to seed, they pretty much have the run of your property. After the Yosemite caldera explosion, the only things left alive will be cockroaches (adobe bugs in Huerfano County) and thistles. Greater landowners than us have fought the thistle war and lost. The only solution I can think of is to find a way to make ethanol from them. You’re not going to hear anyone whining about how thistles could have fed a person for a year instead of being used as fuel to drive 1,000 miles. And farmers won’t have to plow up their ground to plant thistles. They grow everywhere, evidently require no water or fertilizer, and the seeds are free. You don’t even have to use a planter. Just hold a seed head in the Huerfano County wind and you’ll have thistles for 50 miles around.
If you have been a victim of the goathead sticker, aka puncturevine, you can throw your support behind Goatheads.com or visit one of the other 15,700 web sites dedicated to goathead-icide. As a comparison, there are 587,000 web sites about how to kill thistles, and on this I don’t even have to exaggerate.