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Faded Pictures from a Life: The Weed Fort


I grew up in the city of Aberdeen, a railway hub in northeastern South Dakota. We lived on the west side of town, the wrong side of the tracks, with mostly lower middle and lower class folks, although few of we children knew it. We lived a small gray two story house on a large lot. Not far to the south of us were people living in tar paper shacks. In the back of our lot was my father’s large vegetable garden, maybe 100 feet by 50 feet. Every Spring he would spade up the entire garden using a shovel that he filed to a razor’s edge. Every Summer he would spend all his spare time sweating in that garden or sleeping in his chair when he was not working on the railroad.

Directly to the east of the woven wire fence that surrounded garden was a lot that was densely overgrown with five foot tumbleweeds (Russian Thistles). Ironically, they were first brought to the United States by rail in the 1870s from Russia to South South Dakota in rye seed. My father cursed and hated those weeds for the countless seeds that would be blown into his garden each year. I, on the other hand, thought they were the greatest thing in the world. They were a jungle for a seven year old Tarzan devotee. Small hollowed out forts were made, cutting the thick stems with my little hunting knife. Yes, seven year olds had hunting knives in those days — at least in our neighborhood they did. Spears and swords were fashioned from the weeds, even arrows to be shot from stick and string bows. The adventures I had. The bitter smell and stickiness of the weed’s juice still lingers in my senses to today

The Weed Fort, acrylic on Shuen paper, 9″ x 12″

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