In late winter, where I live, the mud grows an early grassy fur, and the brush starts to thicken. The ground is spotted with Scotch Broom, an invasive species. Not too long now, and each bush will be a boy-high lump of yellow blossoms. These will drip to the soil from their dark green spikes, and reveal hard pods that explode, hurling seeds all over my yard. Scotch Broom will cover my acres in a few years.

Men in these woods have fought the Scotch Broom for generations, with varied and occasionally ingenious weaponry. I come armed with a bent chunk of green metal called a weed wrench. It’s a lever with a set of serrated jaws. It bites into a plant at its base, clamps hard, and I lean. I feel it through the handle up into my shoulder blades – the shrieking and clinging as roots are sucked from the ground. I imagine the plants are tearing bloodied fingernails clawing to keep their hold; dragged out by their feet. One plant at a time. One ‘set, clamp, and bend’ per plant. A thousand plants.

It’s cold these mornings. There’s only the sound of birds, and the scruff and crunch of broken rock as I move toward the next patch of invaders. It feels good. I tire quickly and stay tired. I’m used to that. Sweat soaks the shirt against my skin, and breezes blow cold. I leave uprooted Scotch Broom lying behind me, resting often to review my success.

It’s good, killing Scotch Broom; making way for softer living things. I am weary and aching. There’s a long way to go, but it’s something I can do. Carelessly, I bang my knee on the iron bar. My boots slip on the rocks. My breath disappears in the wind. I am a man on a hillside with a weed wrench, living.

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