Goat Heads, Grass Burrs and Inner Tubes

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courtesy of Delbert Trew

There are a few who will argue that the good lord never made a mistake. This is not true. I offer the “goat head” and grass burr as prime examples. I challenge any reader to send me a legitimate reason for either’s existence.

I learned to hate these abominations as a child while playing with toy cars in the driveway. Many an attack on enemy positions while crawling through grass was aborted by an encounter with goat heads. Few things could halt a charge against entrenched enemy positions like a good stand of grass burrs barring the way.

That shiny new bicycle received at Christmas was rendered useless once the summer’s goat head crop matured. The only good thing I know about goat heads is that it forced parents to buy shoes for their offspring who might otherwise have had to go barefoot until maturity.

I can’t write about goat heads without mentioning inner tubes. The pace of my life picked up considerably after the advent of inner tubes. My first bicycle removed most of the limits and restrictions of early life. No longer did I plod along in play. I began to move at the speed of my imagination and reveled as the wind blew the hair back from my face. That is, until I had a flat caused by a goat head.

Early-day bicycles had thin treads and thinner inner tubes. Each day’s ride was prefaced by patching tubes and pumping up tires. It certainly took much of the fun out of great anticipation. But there is another side to the inner tube story. Few castoffs held the value of a used automobile inner tube, at least to us kids.

With scissors in hand, cutting strips of inner tube, the theory of propulsion was born. By carefully snipping narrow bands of rubber from an inner tube, all sorts of neat stuff came alive. By attaching two bands to the forks of a limb, the device became a slingshot capable of getting the builder into all kinds of trouble.

Inner-tube rubber bands became ammunition when shot from the L-shaped handle of a wooden pistol triggered by an ordinary clothespin. Though not capable of producing injury, they did sting a little when a victim was hit. The stretchy bands held packs and weapons when at play and sent arrows off into the blue where they were hard to find, especially if there were tall weeds. Dad used inner-tube washers to patch all sorts of holes, and bearings on farm equipment were often protected when wrapped with this all-purpose material.

I have a photo of me at 4 years of age, swimming in our horse tank. Grandpa Trew is watching nearby as I use an inner tube as a floater. I am wearing a band of inner tube around my head with white leghorn chicken feathers inserted in it, making an Indian headdress. Talk about a scraggedy headpiece. Geronimo would fall off his horse, laughing at the sight. FC


Delbert Trew is a freelance writer, retired rancher and supervisor of the Devil’s Rope Museum in McLean, Texas. Contact him at Trew Ranch, Box A, Alanreed, TX 79002; (806) 779-3164; email: delrutrew72@gmail.com.

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