Tread Lightly

In our house, impaling your foot on a Hot Wheels car ranks pretty high on the pain scale, but it’s a rare occurrence. Around here you’re far more likely to step on a sharp, bristley, saliva-soaked burr.

No child or adult is immune in this house. It’s only a matter of time before you puncture your foot on one of these critters.

The burr announces its presence by jabbing its teeth into the bottom of your foot and, thanks to the cotton fibers of your sock, it hooks on for dear life. Or at least until you’ve stepped on it several times or hopped around and peeled the prickly mass free — usually sticking your fingers in the process.

There’s no escaping these things because the burrs do a fabulous job of camouflaging themselves in the rug. You might spot one in the daytime but at night, they’re land mines poised to strike.

Where do these burrs come from, you ask? Well, they’re born from the stemmy, weedy growth that hovers along the corn fields and their journey begins when a flash of black and white fur — pink tongue wagging — comes roaring past at 24 miles per hour. In an instant, these toothy seeds are swept up in the tail of the beast and they happily hunker down in the mass of fur.

The beast is moving too fast to notice that she’s picked up the freeloaders. But that evening when she’s curled up on the couch, shedding bits of grit and dirt from the day’s adventure, she feels their prick. While the human dwellers are asleep or mesmerized by tv, she tugs at the burrs with her teeth and tongue. Finally she frees herself from the prickly growths and spits them out — quite far, I’ll tell you — whereupon each saliva soaked burr, well concealed within a few tufts of fur, blends into the swirls of the rug.

And there they happily wait for their next victim.