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COLUMN: Pond cleanout leads to cattail fever

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By Linda Ireland

 There are a couple of things you need to know about my husband Bud. He is the hardest working man I’ve ever met and he never, ever does things the easy way.

He became concerned that cattails were taking over the pond and endangering the cows’ water supply.

Those tall spiky plants appeared to be sucking it dry. 

He could have sprayed the cattails with herbicide. But we didn’t want to put any kind of poison where the cows and calves would be in contact with it – no matter how safe the manufacturer claims it is.

So I Googled “killing cattails” for an alternate method. (You can find a multitude of ways to kill almost anything on the Internet – which is kind of scary.) Pulling the rhizomes by hand or cutting the stalks just below water level appeared to be the most effective way to control the plants.

I did not think Bud would suggest doing either of those things on Saturday afternoon with the sun still up and the temperature hovering around 100 degrees. I really did not think he would suggest I accompany him.

But he did.

I should have refused. I have spent much of the last 20 years sitting in an air-conditioned office. I’m in no shape to tromp around in a pond pulling cattails in July.

There are a couple of things you need to know about me. I really enjoy working outdoors – as long as I’m not having a heatstroke – and I have a terrible stubborn streak I inherited from my dad.

So I put on my least-favorite tennis shoes, armed myself with a serrated knife and a machete and prepared to battle cattails.

Bud told me to work on the plants near the bank and he would wade into the pond. I thought we were making pretty good progress for about two minutes. The plants were piling up on the bank and I had not spotted a single water snake or snapping turtle.

Then the reality of what I was doing began to sink in as the mud yanked off my shoe. I started sinking and the sweat started running in my eyes, blinding me so much I couldn’t find the darned thing.

I blundered around in a circle, saw what appeared to be the toe of a Reebok, pulled the shoe out of the mud, stuck my foot in it, ignored all the dirt and random chunks of stuff that had fallen inside and started whacking cattails again. 

I did not realize I had strayed from my assigned work area.

A second later, I was blinded – and blindsided – by a wad of mud that landed above my right eye and splattered across my glasses. It came from the general direction of my loving husband.

You might think Bud ran to check on me after he so unceremoniously slung a handful of mud in my face – that he would be very sorry and apologize and tell me I could go back to the house and relax in air-conditioned comfort. Later he could bring me ice cream.

But you would be wrong.

He told me to go back to the area I was supposed to be working in. He was knee-deep in water and continued chopping away at those tall, spiky plants.

He wouldn’t look me in the eye.

“Have you lost your mind?” I started to ask.

Then I realized why he was avoiding looking at me.

I was standing there, ankle-deep and covered in mud, face bright red, sweat and mud pouring into my eyes, with a large, wicked-looking knife in hand. Glaring.

I didn’t mean to scare him – I really didn’t. 

I didn’t even chase him.

I simply walked away and sat in the shade, brooding, until he decided to come out of the pond and call it quits for the rest of the day. 

I try to be a good sport about things. I really do. But if he ever suggests I help him clean out the pond again, he’ll be the one Googling for ways to extract a Reebok from his own cattail.

(By the way, Mr. Ireland, Happy Anniversary, and I love you dearly.)