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For Electric Cooperative Members

Observations

No Hedging

Waging a battle—but losing the war—against vengeful hedge parsley

Illustration by Andrea Cobb

I never suspected a thing. As I pulled and yanked, I had no clue that the weeds I sought to eliminate planned a revenge I’d never forget.

“You better stop,” my husband warned as I worked that spring evening in what we call the meadow, our adjoining lot turned nature preserve. “You’re going to overdo it.”

“I’ll be fine,” I retorted, bending down to pull another and another and another.

James rolled his eyes and left me knee-high in firewheel, prairie verbena, Engelmann’s daisies, Texas stars and—horror! —common hedge parsley. The introduced species did not belong among our native beauties. So I was determined to get rid of them.

Honeybees flitted among the wildflowers as I used my right arm to tug out another slim stem of hedge parsley. Their tiny flowers and fernlike leaves reminded me of their carrot cousin, Queen Anne’s lace. Their bright white umbels also made them easy to target in my execution march across the meadow.

Occasionally I surveyed my progress, which was not impressive. I sighed. Hundreds more of the intruders swayed in the breeze, taunting my efforts. I knew it would take hours more to pull them all. But I kept going.

At least I’m making a dent, I convinced myself. There won’t be as many next year.

But I knew the truth. Next year, beaucoup of their sticky seeds (that latch onto fur and socks) would germinate by the thousands. No matter what, hedge parsleys would flourish as they always have. The only difference, I would soon learn, was I’d never declare war against them again.

Just a few days later, on the road for a trip, my right shoulder began to ache. Gingerly, I rotated my upper arm and brushed off the pain. Yeah, it’d go away. I’d be OK.

But I wasn’t. The week after we got home, James drove me to our medical clinic.

“I did the same thing,” said the nurse practitioner as she checked my shoulder and arm. “I scrubbed floors by hand one afternoon. Then I stirred hot chocolate at the football stadium’s concession stand. Took six months for my shoulder to heal.”

“Six months,” I echoed.

“Sure did,” she said. “Don’t worry.” She patted my shoulder. “You’ll get better. Just give it some time.”

I did. Six months later, though, my right shoulder still reminded me of how I sinned in the meadow. Would it ever truly heal?

In the meantime, I dreaded the next spring. I could already envision the hedge parsleys waving their leaves in victory, sense their roots snaking deep into the soil.

Somehow I had to ignore them. Because, trust me, revenge of the hedge parsleys is for real. Just ask me and my right shoulder.