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Wednesday, December 28, 2011


This piece first appeared as a column I wrote for The Kent County Daily Times many years ago. It is included here verbatim, with fond greetings to those who worked with me in the newsroom back then, folks I consider very dear friends today.

I've already seen one.
It was on the sidewalk, a sad husk lolling to and fro in the slight wind.

And soon, there will be many more.
They are a type of shrub called "Holidayus Tumbleweedus," or something like that, but I've never seen them in plant books. "Holidayus" resembles those bushes in Western movies, the ones that roll around in a puff of dust down a deserted street, just before the shootout.

"Holidayus Tumbleweedus" appears quickly after December 25th, sometimes in the middle of the night. They sprout hugely around New Year's Day, and the growing season ends about two weeks later, give or take a day or two. Weather has no effect on the shrubbery, as it seems to thrive under all types of adverse conditions.

They have an incredibly strong resemblance to another type of vegetation often seen growing on top of station wagons and mini-vans, but that variety appears in early December and those plants look healthier than "Holidayus." 
You might see an occasional "Holidayus Tumbleweedus" in February, but those are extremely rare.

"Holidayus" comes in all shapes and sizes, the greenery more abundant in some specimens than in others. If you look closely enough, many have little bits of a tin foil type of substance clinging to the branches. It is not clear to me what causes that.
Unlike the common, ordinary tumbleweed (which appears to live predominantly in old John Wayne movies), "Holidayus" lives all over the country and travels at varying rates of speed.
Most of them live out their drab existences in front of houses, on occasion dangerously close to the curb. And that's where most of them stay.

A few errant varieties of "Holidayus Tumbleweedus" make a run for it, however, after the wind hits 10 knots, and those are the ones that cause serious mayhem.
I've seen "Holidayus" rolling down the road at breakneck speed worthy of all the Andrettis combined. Cars must swerve to avoid hitting the pesky plants and getting into collisions with other vehicles.
During the peak of "Holidayus" season, driving down the average street can become a deadly game of chicken for the inexperienced. And even for those of us accustomed to "Holidayus Tumbleweedus" and its peculiar habits, this is a period of time we absolutely dread.

Unfortunately, "Holidayus" season is here again, and there is nothing we can do about it. Their numbers will increase in the coming days until for some inexplicable reason, they disappear as mysteriously as they arrived.
Until then, we will all just have to cope. (Or maybe we can recycle our Christmas trees by calling up the folks at the Department of Public Works?)

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