The Tumbleweed Snowman: An Immigrant Tale

Tumbleweed Snowman, December 2014

Tumbleweed Snowman, December 2014

A riff in the morning paper on Albquerque’s beloved Tumbleweed Snowman, after spending the morning watching the flood control authority crew do his final assembly:

Tumbleweed origin stories differ, but only slightly. German-Russian Mennonite farmers are believed to have inadvertently brought the seeds of our modern tumbleweed, also known as Russian thistle, mixed in with flax or wheat seed packets they brought when fleeing the Russian czar in the 1870s.

The wheat, a hard red winter wheat, turned out to be well adapted to the harsher climates of the western Great Plains and changed farming there forever, according to journalist Timothy Egan’s “The Worst Hard Time,” a history of the Dust Bowl and Midwestern farming. The tumbleweed, meanwhile, tagged along for the ride, moving easily with the humans as they remade the continent.

Its most common means of spreading was to hitch rides on the expanding railway system, Lowrey said, and it made itself at home in the arid West, especially in areas that are heavily grazed. “They like the aridity and they like disturbance,” he said. “The overgrazing in the West has been perfect for them to spread.”

As an aside, I love my job.

One Comment

Comments are closed.