Laughing at Lamb’s Quarters

The Lamb’s Quarters that were invading the green kale rows seemed to be laughing at me as I slashed at their tenacious roots on Independence Day. Even as I put every ounce of remaining energy into raising my scuffle hoe high in the air and coming down where root met ground with great force, the metal of my hoe just bounced back, not even making a dent in its thick roots. I heard it giggle through the unbearably humid air, making fun of me – I was too weak for it. Sweat dropped like beads from my forehead to the ground as I slashed and slashed. But with every clang of my hoe I felt my energy drain, my thirst for water increase, and hopelessness slowly take over my heart.

Finally, it looked like the root was cut enough that I could pull it out. Yet as I gathered the magnificent plant in my hands and started to tug, I could hear its laughter increase. Of course it would not budge, holding fast to the earth with determination. I clenched my teeth and pronounced war, trying in vain to yank it out of the ground. Just when it seemed as if it were going to give, the top part of the plant pulled off, leaving the rest of its multitude of roots still firmly in the ground.

I gave a shriek of anger and felt tears welling up in my eyes. I was too pathetic to even get a dreadful Lamb’s Quarters plant out of the field and too drained to move on hacking at the remaining forest of looming Lamb’s Quarters in front of me.

The exhaustion had originated from mulching the peppers, tomatillos, and some of the tomatoes all morning in 100 degree heat and heavy humidity. I had wrapped a handkerchief over my nose and mouth so that I would not breathe in the dust. Like the rest of the crew – Janaki in particular, since she had multiple handkerchiefs wrapped around her face – I looked like a bandit. Still, when mulching with a bale of moldy hay, I started to cough and everything began to taste like mulch. As I carried the hay bales down the long rows of peppers, I would count my steps in order to forget how my arm muscles ached, weighted down by the hefty bale. Then I would find my hand hoe, the metal part sizzling hot to the touch, and cut the string. Sitting down on my hands and knees, I would then distribute the mulch, making sure to push it forcefully against the pepper plants, leaving no room for weeds to grow. Mulching is my least favorite job on the farm since it takes so much energy to lug the bales and to distribute the hay while feeling as if you cannot breathe the whole time. But mulching in 100 degree, humid conditions was my worst nightmare, since the sun’s fiery rays stole away most of my energy.

Back in the jungle of Lamb’s Quarters, I was halfheartedly hitting the roots of another plant, which were refusing to budge. My head was starting to pound, a sure sign of dehydration, so I decided to trek across the field to the red truck and get a drink of water. I drank in desperate gulps and then fully refreshed, made my way back to the kale, eating a banana. I realized then that somewhere along my adventure of chopping evil Lamb’s Quarters, I had lost my hand hoe. My fatigued, emotional state combined with this insight made me want to weep once more. Thankfully, after searching frantically – the special hand hoes were shipped in from Japan and thus could not be lost – Janaki helped me locate my precious object underneath a heap of dreaded, murdered Lamb’s Quarters.

We had moved on to another bed, where the Lamb’s Quarters were still young and thus still slash-able. I felt my energy surge and when Val came over to tell us that Daddy said we could either take a break at noon, which was in fifteen minutes, or work until one, I was feeling so invigorated that I wished to stick it out one more hour. Val gave us clippers to cut out the Lamb’s Quarters, which was a much easier way to quickly get rid of the weeds. I felt gleeful as I snipped at the plants, watching them fall to the ground. I giggled – what weak weeds!

Fifteen minutes later, Kazami came over, his face red and eyes tired. “Daddy says we have to go home now,” he told me, so I replied that I was going to stay. He shook his head and told me it was Daddy’s order.

Later, as I waited for Matt to drive the red truck over to where Kazami and I were standing next to the road back to the house, I watched as Daddy bent over the weeds at the lettuce patch, cutting them out with swipes of his slicer hoe. I knew he, with his aching back and tired muscles, would work on for at least another hour in the hot, humid air.

I knew that the Lamb’s Quarters were wrong – I was not weak. I could work through anything if I had water and food. I knew that I was Daddy’s daughter and I was tough.

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