"You youngsters have it so easy!"
The old tumbler shook his head sadly and spat into his soda can. I laughed silently at his grumpy whine, and I got ready for him to settle into his typical reminiscing rant about the "good old days". I liked the old guy, but I'd heard his stories now for years, and they never changed.
"Ever' house has a fence a some sort, and yer tumbleweeds jest nat'rally get caught. You don't haf to no more'n step out yer front door and you got a dozen fresh tumbleweeds in nothin' flat. Hell's fire! A six-year old boy can grab more'n two or three by hisself an' still have time to play Nintendo all afternoon!"
He made another deposit into his can. I peeked around at the faces of the folks gathered round the campfire. A couple were rolling their eyes, but most were smiling and encouraging the old geezer to continue his song and dance. I didn't mind it myself. He might be exaggerating a bit, but he really was right. When we want a tumbleweed nowadays, there's almost always one in the yard, or up against a neighbor's fence. It wasn't always so easy, and the tumbler had a right to boast about the hard life he'd survived.
"Tumbleweeds in the old days had nothin' to stop'em once they got to goin'. Miles an' miles a flat land, no fences, no buildin's to speak of...nothin' for what to catch'em nor stop'em. A feller'd haf to push his horse mighty hard to keep up with'em, an' even so you'd only get maybe one or two at a time, an' you'd have miles an' miles to backtrack back to home a'fore you could enjoy the fruit a yer labor! But us tumblers knew how to do it right. We could catch hun'erds an' hun'erds in one day!"
My grandson's eyes opened wide, and he impulsively asked the old man how they could get so many.
"We boxed 'em, my boy! We'd yip an' holler an' slap our pots an' pans and the wind would start blowin' an' we'd chase those weeds right into a box canyon. The walls o' the canyon would close in an' the herd would bunch up an' slow down an' they'd come to the end a the canyon and pile up on each other an' stop. We'd have hun'erds an' hun'erds a 'em there, pantin' an' blowin an' stampin'. In one day we'd have enough weeds fer ever fam'ly in the town fer the whole week. The townsfolk would clap an' holler an' give us free drinks an' smile at us 'an the editor a the paper would print it up the next day like we was the troops comin' home an' then..."
The old man's story faded to an end. He stopped mid-sentence and let his words dry up as if the incoming tide of memories had just washed out the fragile story of his life.
I drained the last of my cold coffee and walked out of the fire's light to stand next to the creek. I listened to the water running over the rocks until the cold of the night drove me back to my tent.
Tumbleweeds by Milt Reynolds is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.