I don’t know why I hate the dandelions in my yard. I just do. I dug up 2,217 of those little bastards last weekend, crouched like a serf, forked root-puller in my hand. Yes, I counted. Because there’s nothing else to do when you’re pulling dandelions, that’s why.
Oh, sure, you could sing Beatles songs, but my point is, you can do either one or the other. You can’t do both.
Dandelions multiply like roaches, but that’s no reason to hate them. Why do I hate dandelions? I wondered.
So last week, early May in Denver, I asked everyone I met whether they hate dandelions.
All of the men said yes. The women, not so much.
I realized, eventually, that men hate dandelions because they had to spend hours plucking up the little vegetal cockroaches with their bare hands, under orders from Pa. Then we spent hundreds more hours uprooting dandelions on summer jobs.
No wonder men hate dandelions.
One woman told me she had a pet tortoise as a child, and the tortoise liked to eat dandelions. So she likes them. Well, isn’t that … something.
Last week I wrote of my hate-hate relationship with gardening, and the labor it took to plant two peach trees. But that was different. I don’t hate peach trees. I like peach trees. I disliked the labor.
So pardon me for living. I’m a writer and editor. The heaviest things I customarily hoist weigh 12 ounces, plus the weight of the glass.
But dandelions are different. It’s not the labor I hate — it’s the dandelions.
I don’t know why I hate them. Yes I do: It’s because I don’t want them to be there. But there they are, with their fuzzy dry white promiscuous sexual heads, their yellow flowers, spatulate leaves and ugly penile purplish-whitish roots.
I’ll tell you what I like, though: Sticking that root-puller under the heart of one of those fat, spreading bastards, pulling it out in one yank and throwing the damn thing into the street, root and all.
I know, I know. I’ve read Freud. Call it displaced anger, or aggression, or repressed anger at Mom and Dad, who made me pull dandelions when I could have been playing softball with the kids. But I don’t think that’s it. I think that dandelions are inherently despicable. It’s their nature.
My neighbor disagrees. I mean no disrespect to her when I say she’s an aging hippie. I myself am an aging hippie. I ran away to Haight-Ashbury in 1969 — two years too late. I think the hippies were right back then, when the Vietnam war was raging. So my disagreement with — let’s call her Helen — has nothing to do with politics. It has to do with dandelions.
As I did stoop labor in my front yard, executing Taraxicum officinales by the hundreds with my bare hands and cold steel, Helen approached with her golden retrievers.
“Every part of that plant is useful,” she assured me.
Sooth to say, I was grateful for the break. I fell back upon my withered haunches.
“‘Scuse me?” I said.
“You can eat the leaves and boil the root,” Helen said.
Now, I have eaten dandelion salad. Once. It tasted like (Bob: This is a family newspaper) … it was bitter. I found it bitter.
I freely admit that I have never boiled dandelion roots, though if I could do it to all of those little bastards in situ, believe me, I would.
I may yet.
Resting on my aching loins, I asked Helen: “Have you eaten dandelion salad?”
“At least you’re not using pesticides,” she said, preserving her moral integrity while dodging the question.
Ahh, the Sixties. Ahh, politics.
I declined to tell my lovely neighbor that I was just after buying 1 liter of top-notch dandelion-killing chemicals. And that I would have been spraying it then and there over the whole lot of those verminous asteracae had not my neighbor Marvin just aerated my front yard, and told me not to do anything to it for three weeks, because whatever I dumped would go deep into the soil.
So. Helen walked on toward the park with her goldens, and I returned to my stoop labor, both of us, surely, morally impeccable. So far as we know.
“Nine hundred and nine” I said in my mind, as I pried up another fat purple penile root.
“Hah, you (bad word),” I thought, “how do you like my front yard now?”
(Courthouse News columnist Robert Kahn is resting comfortably at home.)