Saturday, March 31, 2007

Tumbling Tumbleweeds

Today is just a little gusty, but it is enough to send the tumbleweeds tumbling around. Although many people think of the American West and deserted ghost towns when they envision tumbleweeds, what most don't know is that this scrubby plant is not indigenous to the Americas at all. The tumbleweed is the plant called the Russian Thistle, or more properly, Salsola. It was brought into North America from the Ukraine by immigrant farmers, where it found an environment where it could thrive.

There is a reason for the tumbling as well. Since a single plant can produce up to a quarter-million seeds, the tumbling in the wind across the prairie scatters seeds far and wide, insuring the next generation of tumbleweeds will soon appear. Rather than blowing across a dusty, deserted town in an old Western, around here they are often seen tumbling across the roads, and getting stuck under parked cars.

Tumbleweeds are also well known from the song Tumbling Tumbleweeds, written by Bob Nolan of the Sons of the Pioneers back in 1932. This song was originally called Tumbling Tumble Leaves, but was changed for the Gene Autry movie titled, appropriately enough, Tumbling Tumbleweeds. The new name stuck, and it has been sung by just about every cowboy singer from Roy Rogers to Marty Robbins.

Here are the lyrics. Enjoy!

I'm a roaming cowboy riding all day long,
Tumbleweeds around me sing their lonely song.
Nights underneath the prairie moon,
I ride along and sing this tune.

See them tumbling down
Pledging their love to the ground
Lonely but free I'll be found
Drifting along with the tumbling tumbleweeds.

Cares of the past are behind
Nowhere to go but I'll find
Just where the trail will wind
Drifting along with the tumbling tumbleweeds.

I know when night has gone
That a new world's born at dawn.

I'll keep rolling along
Deep in my heart is a song
Here on the range I belong
Drifting along with the tumbling tumbleweeds.

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