For the past couple of years, two of my good friends have been embroiled in quite a tizzy.
I guess their discord can be best described as a nonviolent but rather heated disagreement on the pros and cons of doing right by Mother Nature, while at the same time keeping in tune with the traditional laws of farming.
One is a farmer and has been most of his life. He has raised corn, beans, cows, pigs, chickens, pigeons, dogs, geese, ducks and whatever since he was knee-high to a Shetland pony. I have witnessed him accomplishing feats many farmers would never believe possible.
He and I grew up in a time when most farmers hated any variety of weed. Made no difference the weed – all were considered bad and had to be done away with. That’s why farmers would pay us kids the startling sum of 50 cents/hour to eradicate them.
That early life education stuck with us over the passing of several decades. Of course, it had much more of an impact on my friend because he became a farmer. I, on the other hand, had little problem with weeds while working on a newspaper.
This brings us to my other friend, who grew up several miles to the west of us. He probably spent some time laboring in the farm fields as a youth near Guthrie Center, but he didn’t have us nearby to educate him.
Be that as it may, that friend became a pilot. Evidently, because he has spent many hours buzzing around in the air, he has taken to heart the much publicized dilemma of the monarch butterfly and its possible extinction.
Herein lies the roots of their brouhaha.
Monarchs must have milkweed plants to survive. Their caterpillars only eat milkweed plants and adult monarch butterflies need to consume milkweed to lay their eggs. Over the past several years, milkweed has nearly disappeared from our landscape, thanks in a large part to the use of herbicides.
As mentioned earlier, my farmer friend does not believe in weeds; my pilot friend does believe in weeds (milkweed, that is). However, my farmer friend has slowly softened his stand on milkweed. He now allows my pilot friend to harvest milkweed seeds from any he might find in his fields and ditches. This is a major win for the pilot.
So if you are driving the country roads northwest of Slater and see someone bent over in a ditch picking little seeds from a weed … try not to lose control of your vehicle. After all, the future of the monarch butterfly might be at stake.
As to my farmer friend’s opinion of the situation – he thinks my pilot friend may have spent too much time in the air.
Ed Rood is a former publisher of the Tri-County Times. He and his wife, Sharon, live near Cambridge.