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Ween. Today I replaced the word “weed” with the word “ween.” Who knows why I did it. It’s a sort of Zippy the Pinhead thing I’ve got going every now and then.

The word appeared in my head before I even got out of bed. It kept going round and round. Then, it began to take the place of ordinary words. For instance, “I’ve really got to ween. I haven’t weened in two days. If I’m going to call myself a weener, I need to ween every day.”

I was tired, bone tired when I woke up. I felt like I’d been digging a hole all night with an oversized shovel. I didn’t have a reason to be pooped. I’d slept well and had good dreams. I mean, people I like and find pleasant filled my dreams. We did fun things, had good conversation.

Ween. Ween. Ween.

I lugged out of bed and fixed myself a cup of tea. My face felt heavy and my limbs like bags of sand. If I didn’t know better, I’d say it was one of my periodic depressions coming on. But my fatigue didn’t possess the sense of doom. I didn’t find myself allergic to light. I was in a good mood.

So, about an hour and a half after getting out of bed, I went back to bed and slept restlessly for another couple of hours. All the while, ween, ween, ween. I started a chant under my breath. I weened for the ween of it.

When I rose again, ween stayed in my head. I texted a friend of mine who would understand. I focused on weed. Here’s what I wrote:


Ween whacker

Weening the garden

Field of weens.

Getting into the weens

A ween is an unloved flower

A ween is but an unloved flower

Don’t let the tall weens cast a shadow on the beautiful flowers in your garden.

A flower doesn’t lose its beauty because the weens mocked it.

Weens are stubborn. Weens are independent. Weens aren’t tolerated.


A ween is simply a plant that wants to grow where people want something else.

A ween is a plant that has mastered every survival skill except for learning how to grow in rows.

May all your weens be wildflowers.

Ween them and reap.

Even in the richest soil, if left uncultivated will produce the rankest weens.

Gentlemen, take charge of your weens.

My friend wrote back:

Most varieties of willow are weens disguised as trees; same with silver maple and Asian elm.

All the weens in Utah are artificially modified into super strains because Mormons have poured so much weenkiller on them in their middle-class obsessed sense of order.

This broke the spell. He’s gotten me off on another subject. I’m convinced that there’s only one Asian/Siberian/Chinese elm. Its roots have encircled the earth. What looks like individual trees are merely manifestations of the mother tree. They are like aspens, only with a broader reach. I wrote my friend back:

The Asian elm is the super ween.

Asian elm. Chinese elm. Siberian elm. All appellations for the same species of tree. Or, at least I thought so. I just looked and the trio is actually two species. Asian/Chinese elm: Ulmus parvifolia. Siberian elm: Ulmus pumila. My amateur sleuthing reveals that the trees I think are so weeny around here are Siberian elms. The Chinese elm has a slender trunk and smooth bark that exfoliates, much like a sycamore or shagbark hickory. The Siberian elm trunk is thicker. Its bark is mottled and filled with ridges and long bumps. You can chip off the bark with your fingers, but it’s pith is thick around the cambium., the website for the Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health has this to say about the Siberian elm:

Ulmus pumila invades pastures, road-sides and prairies throughout the Midwest and Great Plains regions of the United States. The trees are very drought and cold resistant allowing it to grow in areas where other trees cannot. The abundant, wind-dispersed seeds allow this plant to spread rapidly. It forms dense thickets that close open areas and displace native vegetation, thereby reducing forage for wild animals and livestock. Ulmus pumila is native to northern Asia and was first introduced into North America in the 1860s. It has been planted throughout the Midwest and Great Plains for windbreaks and lumber.

Siberian elms are the problem. I’ll let Chinese elms obsess me another day.

So, I though, my headache dates to the time of the pioneers who thought the Siberian elm worked better than native species of maple, oak, and elm. I can blame white people. They were the ones that first planted this tree on the Great Plains. It grows fast, drops millions of seeds, consumes fence lines, and is about as resistant to ween killer as any ween in the garden.

I first developed my notion that this particular ween spread from roots somewhere else when I was digging out a crawlspace under my first house to make room for a new furnace. Every time I shoveled or whacked out another pile of dirt with my mattock, I came across a net of wiry tendrils that sometimes sent up shoots into the gray space beneath the house. The ghostly rhizomic sprouts were definitely Ulmus pumila. The closest elm to that crawlspace was in the alley at least seventy feet away.

Those roots make my life hell for the week I chucked and whacked and shoveled. I was sure the Siberian elm was my enemy, my nemesis. I’d bee fighting it for years on the fences. It threatened my foundation. I’d used RoundUp and Ween-B-Gon, and Tordon. I battled the army back and it returned with a vengeance. I came to hate the Chinese elm with a passion that made it one of my defining life characteristics. Without the Siberian elm, I would have no reason to keep living.

At my present house in the same neighborhood, I engage in hand-to-limb combat with the Siberian elm on a weekly basis.

So, ween started the day. Everything was ween. I had ween in my head, on my hands, and in my teeth. Now, I’m free. I have started to obsess on the Siberian elm.

I’m thinking I ought to take my canoe down the Lena, that great river of northern Siberia. I’m sure the trees I’ll see will be the mother trees, the ur-trees of those that pester me.

Siberia. Siberian. Siberian elm. Encircle the earth. Encircle the earth. Encircle the earth . . .

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One Comment

  1. I really thought this post was going to be about the band Ween. Ear worms can be invasive, too!

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