Thursday, March 3, 2011

Cockle Burrs

The restored prairie continues to fill in and establish itself more vibrantly each season. Disappointingly, the cockle burr plants are rejoicing in the absence of the murderous herbicides with the same enthusiasm as the tall grasses. Ginger the horse is a walking burr dispenser. Her forelock is usually terribly matted, forming a tower of red hair and cockle burrs. She resembles a unicorn. (If she were a kinder horse, that image would not be so funny.) Her tail becomes a matted nest of twisted horse hair and burrs. It is heavy and stiff and ugly.

Last night while waiting for the farrier, who never arrived because she was scheduled to come today, I had time to once again comb all the burrs from Ginger's mane and tail. I have lost count of the times she and I have endured this irritating ordeal. The burrs pierce my fingertips, sometimes drawing blood. After a few sticks, it begins to really hurt. Ginger does not consider standing still as an equine responsibility so the grooming is all mostly on the move.

I think the forelock is sensitive the way the human scalp is and Ginger refuses to cooperate for more than a few seconds at a time. I understand the supreme irritation of having someone combing your hair and yanking at tangles. I fidgeted, complained, suffered and moaned from the first to the last time my poor mother ever put bobby pins in my freshly washed hair, or rolled it in permanent wave papers and clips, or yanked the comb through my already naturally curly hair! So, I do have considerable empathy for Ginger when I am pulling burrs from her mane and tail. I also send the energy of amends to my mother, wherever in the universe or beyond she may be.

Last night I succeeded in removing every single burr from Ginger's mane, tail, and those stuck tightly in her long winter coat, which are probably the only ones that bother her. The recent rains had washed the dust away and she looked like a gorgeous redhead just stepping from the salon. I stood back to admire my handiwork, which lasted all of ten seconds. She nosed into some tiny shoots of green along the fence and when she raised her head, she had every burr from the plant stuck in her forelock, mane, ears - even some on her face.

It will only take a day before Ginger's mane and tail are as tangled and clumped as they were last night. The next time someone comes to visit Ginger, they will see a horse covered in cockle burrs and think she is neglected and unloved. But, it is not so. All who saw me as a tom boy with tangled hair, grass stained knees and ripped clothing had no idea how hard my mother worked to make me presentable, either.

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