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Column: Recalling the ‘tumbling tumbleweeds’ of 77 years ago

Salsola tragus (currently not valid synonym Kali tragus) is the so-called "Russian thistle." It is an annual plant that breaks off at the stem base when it dies, and forms a tumbleweed, dispersing its seeds as the wind rolls it along. (iStock)

WORTHINGTON — It’s Dec. 7, 1941, and the horror of Pearl Harbor has just been announced.

My parents wanted to drive to California that December, and they decided that they would go ahead with their plans. We left Dec. 20, just a family of four — and our dog, Keno, made one more. We were headed to Los Angeles to see my eldest sister, who had just married a Navy man.

The first night’s stay was in Kansas City before we would go to Joplin, Mo. and get on the

famous Route 66. We checked into a hotel, and the lobby and check-in counter was all decorated for the holidays, I looked to the right and saw an enormous tumbleweed, four feet wide, decorated with twinkle lights. I was mesmerized by this image and had never seen a weed being used as a decoration, especially at Christmas.

As we traveled Route 66 through the southwestern deserts, I saw more and more types of

tumbleweeds. Many — oh many — years later, I was in Worthington, raising a family and having a craft business called Nancie’s Fancies out on North Highway 59. I am making dolls, wreaths, and centerpieces out of cornhusk. I went downtown to do an errand and, where the new Methodist Church was built, I saw tumbleweed, a very rare find in Minnesota and even so on the prairie.

I tugged and pulled and stuff that weed in my trunk. How can a grown woman get so excited about a tumbleweed? I was thrilled to find one, and ready to find a way to use it as a decoration in my shop. I hung this huge weed over the doorway in my shop without a price tag.

Not too long after that, I asked a friend to clerk for me while I had to be away from the shop.

When I returned, I immediately noticed that my tumbleweed was gone. She was so happy that she sold it for $10. Disappointed is not enough to say — someone else is enjoying MY

TUMBLEWEED!

This brings to mind the Sons of the Pioneers song “Tumbling Tumbleweeds,” written in 1930 by Bob Nolan. Remember?

See them tumbling down

Pledging their love to the ground

Lonely but free I'll be found

Drifting along with the tumblin' tumbleweeds

Cares of the past are behind

Nowhere to go, but I'll find

Just where the trail will wind

Drifting along with the tumblin' tumbleweeds

I know when night has gone

That a new world's born at dawn

I'll keep rolling along

Deep in my heart is a song

Here on the range I belong

Drifting along with the tumblin' tumbleweeds

I know when night has gone

That a new world's born at dawn

I'll keep rolling along

Deep in my heart is a song

Here on the range I belong

Drifting along with the tumblin' tumbleweeds

Drifting along with the tumblin' tumbleweeds

Tumbleweeds, tumbleweeds

Tumbleweeds