COLUMN: Seeds that stick

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A quick trip into a corn field last week turned into a sticky situation I’ve yet to extricate myself from. It was more annoying and embarrassing than anything but it proves once again Mother Nature’s amazing abilities.

I have a habit of stopping by the farm this time of the year to see how fast the corn crop is maturing. I grab an ear of corn here and there to get an idea of how soon the harvest might begin. My brothers decide when my fields get harvested since I’m just the landlord in the relationship but I like to keep tabs on how the crops is doing.

So it was nothing unusual for me one Thursday afternoon, having taken off a few hours from work, to park my car and walk a few rows into a field and grab two ears of corn.

The rows of corn were free of weeds, thanks to herbicides, but as I walked through a few weed bushes on the roadside, I unknowingly waded through several bushes of stickers.

I’ve yet to discover what kind of sticker bushes I encountered but I emerged with hundreds, probably thousands of stickers on my shirt and all over my shorts. The ones on the shirt came off with a little rubbing but the ones on the shorts didn’t budge. These stickers were small and flat with some sort of barb behind them that stuck perfectly into the fabric of my shorts. I’m familiar with cockleburs and the longer seed heads I know as “sticktights.”

I’d seen these before and occasionally found a few on my clothing but nothing like the mess I ran into last week.

Had they been poisonous, I’d have dropped dead on the spot. I went home to change clothes and the pair of shorts is still covered in stickers. I spent half an hour or so picking them off but gave up. I didn’t get 10 percent of them. There’s no way to get them out other than by hand and I’ve yet to make time to tackle the job.

I’m ashamed to admit that as a middle-aged man, I still drop off items of laundry at my mom’s house. It’s usually a stain I can’t get out or a fallen-off button. I never mastered sewing on a button and feel shame in admitting that sad fact. I thought about tossing the shorts on the washer and not saying anything but even I have a bit of a conscience.

I thought about throwing the shorts in the washer but decided it would do little good to remove the stickers.

Mother Nature has done wonders in helping plants reproduce. When the cottonwoods in City Hall Park are blooming, the tufts of white seed heads can be found blocks away. I saw kids this summer playing with the helicopter-like seed heads from a fat maple tree. Nature intended for all kinds of animals to carry to fertile ground the sticky seeds that stuck to me. Humans are animals, too.

We just wear shorts and put our thoughts into words.