It's March in New Mexico, which means that it's windy. Which means that the wreckage of last year's tumbleweed is being blown around, and lodging itself against barbed wire fences. Which means that it's forming archetypal Western views.
This works, of course, to remind one how recently constructed such views are. Barbed wire was being patented between 1867-1874 - the original vicious spikes somehow being manufactured in a coffee mill. And around this time tumbleweed arrived. There was nothing remotely native about Salsola Tragus. Seemingly, it came over from Russia in shipments of flax seeds in 1870 or 1874, and escaped after that. It always looks so pretty when it first starts to sprout in the spring, but that's delusional. This year, I'm going to try vast quantities of white vinegar, which apparently it really dislikes - but I don't know how far to trust that advice. For tumbleweed is insidious, and possibly malevolent, and can carry nasty stuff with it. We saw some photos in class last week that Peter Goin took of the decommissioned Hanford Nuclear Reserve in south-central Washington: apparently in 2000, some nuclear-reactive tumbleweed escaped (the shallow root system absorbs nuclear properties very easily), and had to be hunted down and geiger-counter tested, as it bumped and rolled its way over the neighboring wilds.