The sand-spur is a cruel Florida weed.
This thorny and stealth-like weed is most adapt to growing in Florida’s sparse and sandy soil as well as within the lush suburban landscapes. I’ve seen grown men ‘frozen’ in their tracks from the simple realization that they stood barefoot in the midst of a sandspur patch – What to do? It is an abrupt lesson to those unaware; stepping on the thorns of a sandspur hurts, plain and simple.
Native Floridians learn early on (usually through experience) to recognize red-ants from black-ants and to recognize a sand-spur patch before strolling into one. The term “Grandpa!” (the expression used as reluctant sandspur splinters are painfully plucked and removed from the skin) connected long before their Grandfather’s proper name.
The lessons for children in Florida were in this order; 1) sandspurs HURT and 2) red ants bite! (don’t stand on a red ant hill). In the early sixties running barefoot was ‘norm’ and sandspur patches in our neighborhood were commonplace, as were the emotions tied to them. The dismay, the epidermal pain that sandspurs produced were all shared first-hand in our generation of friends – of course we considered any ‘friend’ that fell to a sitting position while in a sandspur patch a bit ‘slow’….. We learned to cope with sandspurs because avoiding sandspurs was impossible.
VISITORS TO THE SUNSHINE STATE
In the early seventies I drove a truck long-distance for a living, and on one particular trip returning from New York I witnessed quite the real-time sandspur awakening – it was a Northern family’s exuberance tempered by that little Southern weed.
Remember too that the large windshield of a semi is much like a ‘picture window; the driver of a truck notices most everything passing outside, that’s their job – to disseminate the information surrounding their truck (while operating in a safe manner).
It had been a long night of driving and on several occasions along I-95 from New Jersey I had noticed this certain vehicle with a particular family inside; also traveling south. It wasn’t out of the ordinary to notice the same vehicle (s) several times over long distances when traveling in the same direction – on the same highway. This particular family and I were running about the same pace so it just occurred that we crossed paths several times throughout our southern trek – their vehicle certainly fit the profile of ‘tourist’ – another family eagerly anticipating vacation in the sunshine state.
Traveling down I-95 to I-4 and onto central Florida’s Hwy-27 with the early morning sun rising. Once again, the same vehicle came up in my large mirror.
THE PROMISED LAND
As they passed I noticed a ‘restless’ movement in the back seat of their car, all appearing cramp and waking from their long night of traveling; ‘packed like sardines.’ In their stirring I sensed anticipation as they peered beyond the daylight while ‘prodding’ each other for elbow room. They were waking to their ‘Promised Land,’ the land of sunshine and warmth – this New York family had finally made it to “Florida!”
I really could sense their excitement……
Their vehicle was in the distance when it slowed and pulled onto the right shoulder of the road, – the doors exploded open and the family lept from the car onto the shoulder of highway-27’s lush Florida earth.
Nearing, I noticed the tracks of the left where they had driven through the thick morning dew – then I recognized the sandspurs clinging to the car’s tires – and THEN, I noticed their faces.
WHERE’S THE GLEE?
As I moved on down the road it all began to sink in what was happening – the vehicle had stopped and the family sprang from the car onto the lush green surface – that was a fact. BUT, it was at this point that each met reality within a Florida sandspur patch. I imagined their exuberance as their weight likely pressed their socked feet onto the damp green surface – youch! – NO third steps here – any glee was suddenly an emotion past.
Startled expressions of dismay, faces as animated as neon signs – to this day this Northern family remains fixed in my mind just as they were that morning – ‘frozen’ on the Southbound side of Highway-27 and standing on a Florida sandspur patch.
Welcome to Florida folks, “The Sandspur State.”
THE GIFT THAT KEEPS ON GIVING
As I drove onward towards my hometown of Ft. Myers the appreciation continued to grow in what I had witnessed – this Floridian was grinning inside and out. It seemed then that my long weary journey from New York had now turned into a very pleasant ride home – for me, this event was funny – real funny.
Y’all come back y’hear…….
(years later this still makes me smile)
(this does not)
– Now how did we remove those thorns? tweezers/a clean needle
For the thorns/splinters that did not come out with the ‘burr,’ tweezers were our third option (our fingernails were second). At times, getting under the tiny head of the thorn with a knife, gently prying upward – then grabbing the tip of the splinter with tweezers worked.
– Embedded thorns/splinters; (the ones you wanted to ignore but didn’t ‘go away’) we followed the path of the thorn under the skin (yes, I know its sensitive) with a needle before tearing the skin above, squeezing and having it surface (yes, its sore) – sometimes pre-soaking helped. When a thorn/splinter has been in place a period of time the area will remain sore and eventually puss-up, if you have made it that far you may be able to break the surface of the skin, compress the area like a ‘zit,’ and have it surface.
Its hard to believe that a single tiny thorn can cause so much pain, but once the culprit is out – the pain ends…