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What is a Weed?
Answer: A Plant Growing in the Wrong Place.

Ever alert as I am to find that just possibly some common weed that is currently a bane to our existence, such as nutsedge, treadsalve, cocklebur, eclipta, sicklepod, careless weed - you name them I've got them - may yet be found to cure the common cold, lengthen longevity, or most urgently in my case, cure acute senility.  Last summer I chanced to find a plant growing on Lucille's home place (which we call the Johnson Place) that I thought just possibly might be the answer to one or more of our vital needs. It was a vine growing on a mesquite tree at the end of her field. At the time I found it, the vine was covered with numerous greenish looking seed pods of some six inches in length. What could it be? Hastily gathering a few of the pods, I could hardly wait to take them to my neighbor, Bob Whitney, to get his expert opinion as to it's species.

How can I describe Bob Whitney, one of the most knowledgeable men I know? Such words come to mind as astute, brilliant, clever, discerning, intellectual, perceptive, percipient, perspicacious, sagacious.  He is a man of many diverse talents such as sheep-shearing, fence building, builder of log houses, a dedicated husband and father, and an all-around nice guy. He is active in his church and community and in so very many fine endeavors for the betterment of the town and country in which he lives and works.

Having said all this and I could and should have said much more, you can understand just how shocked and disappointed I was when Bob said he had no idea what this new plant might be. He did say he would try to find out.

Next, I sought George Alston's opinion. George gave it a cursory inspection, and with more of a blank expression on his face than he customarily wears, said "I have not the vaguest idea, but I will try to find out."  I have not heard from George, and since he retired I must get word to him to quit researching this project as he is probably doing private research at a preposterous expense.

Sorry, George, that was a cheap shot! We in agriculture shall miss the jocundity, effervescent, insouciance, ebullience of your spirit and we hope you will enjoy your retirement years, while conducting research in your spare time for some agriculture plant that will cure baldness.

Finally, I went to the Comanche Public Library where the Wisdom of the Ages is at our dedicated librarian's fingertips, if one has the wisdom to know what wisdom one seeks.  It only took Mary Hart five minutes to place a book in my hands that described my new plant (weed?) as one of a species of Vine Milkweed.

But my question was still unanswered, is this a plant or is it a weed?  Well, my good friend and neighbor, Wayne Power, whose interest was prompted by my find, wrote me a letter and dropped off the Mid-February issue of the current Farm Journal, and I quote from an article in the magazine:

"Natural Fibers Corp. produces pillows and comforters from a mix of goosedown and a natural floss from a plant known to botanists as syriaca. (My vine milkweed)! The company has 200 acres in production. The company estimates current sales of syriaca at about six billion dollars. Biggest consumer benefit the company claims, is that syriaca is hypoallergenic yet has the warmth and feel of goosedown."

Which probably indicates it did not have the medical property I was hoping for, but just maybe it would be a cure for insomnia and possibly, being hypoallergenic, might be a cure for many allergies, hay fever, and asthma.

The moral to all this, if there is be a moral, is just maybe we should look first to our neighbors for first-hand information about new crops and different farming techniques. This is why I keep pestering the George Binghams, the Carrolls, and now I'm adding Wayne Power to my list. After all, it was Wayne's daddy, Ezra Power, who some 70 years ago identified the "Nameless" weed that I can still identify. (But now, Wayne, in all honestly was it you or your lovely Karen that first found this very informative article you furnished me?)

Having found out from a neighbor farmer the name and use for this plant, we need Bob Whitney to do research on the type of milkweed that is practical to grow.  I for one am not about to grow a crop I have to climb 12 or 15 feet in the air to harvest. It must be a compact, high-yielding, drought-resistant crop that can be planted with our planters and harvested with our peanut combines or the Carroll's cotton stripper. We would also need to know who would buy it and if we could borrow the money to plant it.

Meanwhile, I encourage all my farmer friends to keep on the look out for some weed that will cure the common cold and advanced stages of senility.


Printed in The MESSENGER magazine, July/August 1996