Rick Edwards


As a kid, my primary job on weekends was to get on my bike and put as much distance between myself and home as possible. I’d be out the door, after a hearty breakfast of Froot Loops, and wouldn’t return until sunset. (All without parental notification, or an approved safety helmet.)

It wasn’t just about the open road, the call of vacant lots or feeling the wind blowing through my crew-cut. There was a penalty on weekends for not getting out early and under the radar—unpaid over-time. Beyond the daily chores and the generous compensation package, “Froot Loops don’t grow on trees, ya know.” (Amazingly, when I was growing up, nothing grew on trees, according to my mother), one of the more dreaded weekend employment opportunities to broaden one’s skill-set, was pulling weeds.

Some call it a chain-gang or a forced-labor camp but on the inside, we called it, “The Backyard.” Though the word is thrown around a lot these days (mostly for comic effect and as the ultimate exclamation point), my dad really was a weed-Nazi. To his credit, he never used weed-killers (other than his children), which may be why my kids were born with the desired number of fingers and toes. A friend of mine I call Agent Orange, thinks weed control comes from a container, the contents of which are “only to be used in a manner consistent with its labeling.”  (Preferably wearing a Haz-Mat suit and a respirator.)

When it came to weeding, there was only one rule in The Yard (besides, “Stop whining!”) and it was, (if you like you can use a German accent) “You must remove all of the root!”  Even as a child I, begrudgingly, understood the importance of that rule. I understood that a weed could grow back, even if only a tiny piece of its root was left behind. I really got that! And what kid doesn’t want to make the old-man proud. But looking back, I can’t help but wonder if it was all just a cruel joke or one of the ways parents like to remind us of who is really in charge. Let’s look at the facts: Weed season means it’s hot, the ground is hard, I’m just a little kid and I don’t even remember getting any kind of gardening tools or gloves. I mean, I’m living off Froot Loops and riding around who-knows-where without a helmet―what the hell do I care whether the weeds grow back, or not? I’m lucky to be alive! Needless to say, I “dutifully” removed the tops of the weeds, even when I tried to get all the root. But, I figured if I kept my nose clean, and didn’t fight with the other detainees, I’d get time-off for good behavior.

I’m living on a chicken farm now, (of course there’s a story of how this came about, but that’s not why I asked you all here) and last spring my partner and I put in what’s called the community garden. It’s actually three gardens, covering over 4,000 square feet and as you can imagine, that’s a lot of weeds. Given my history, you’d be right to guess that I had a visceral response when the late rains brought forth a bumper-crop of weeds. But I didn’t run, screaming, in the opposite direction. I’d swear that, off in the distance, I heard a bugle playing a call to arms. I didn’t sow those weeds but, by God, I’m certainly reaping them now, roots and all! Given that watering is usually done by others on the farm and there’s little else that needs tending to, except weeding, it has become my obsession.

I guess when it comes to weeds, after all that’s said and done; I am my father’s son. Most of the weeds here, live (briefly) in fear of me, and those that choose to remain are learning to stay on the outside of the garden, looking in. (Under the radar, you might say.) I think my dad would be proud if he saw the gardens and even more so because he was the kind of parent who hoped that his children learned more than he did. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned (that he didn’t), it’s that you never, ever ask your kids to pull weeds. (Oh, and don’t let them eat Froot Loops!)