Today I was reminded of one of my favorite books as a young science-fiction fan, the British classic The Day of the Triffids, by the late great John Wyndham. The novel was made into a movie in the early 60s, and then remade, much more flashily, for TV in 1982.
The story involves the aftermath of a beautiful meteor shower, unlike any ever seen in Britain, which draws everyone out to see it. Everyone except our hero, who is in the hospital following eye surgery, with his eyes completely bandaged. Early the next day, strange plants appear, which grow with incredible speed. It appears the meteors have carried the seeds of an alien plant species, which, after growing to seven feet tall, can pull up its roots and walk about! It is also carnivorous, stinging its prey into submission with a long whiplike tendril. What a bad time for people to discover that radiation given off by the meteor display causes blindness! Uh-oh. A fortunate few, who like our hero missed the spectacular, retain their sight, and try to stave off the impending vegetative apocalypse.
Why did this story come to mind today? Well, the weather has been fairly nice for the last couple of days here in Seattle. Today, around midday, I walked out my back door to discover that my back yard was host to a couple dozen yellow blooming dandelions, which were absolutely not there yesterday. It wasn’t that many days ago that I took the weed-whacker to the area, so it’s not like they could have been hiding in tall grass. I swear.
I also noticed that the backyard of the older guy next door had a crop, which is unusual, since he’s much more careful about his yard than I am. Even though he’s been moving a bit stiffly of late, his son was here over the weekend and did his yard.
Later this evening, as I walked down to the neighborhood supermarket, I noticed yellow heads popping out everywhere! In well-tended sod, in rockeries, well-kempt yards and ill-. I walk that route for daily exercise. I know I would have seen them if they’d been there two days ago. They weren’t. Today was the day. Today was the Day of the Dandelions! (cue Theramin.)
Fortunately, I must have been watching Jon Stewart during the meteor shower, and the dandelions have only a fraction of the growing speed of the triffids. And, so far, no carnivorous tendencies or mobility. After my return from the store, I resolved to spend the remaining evening light in a pitched battle against the yellow-heads with my trusty Weed Hound.
I quickly realized that removing all the dandelions in my yard would be beyond my ability. For every yellow head, there were several other leaf clusters which hadn’t sprouted blossoms. So I began my selective breeding program, only pulling up the dandelions that had already sprouted yellow heads. If I do this for a few minutes every day, it should be possible to keep up. I figure that, if I keep at it, I will either develop a late-blooming variety, or one that eats me.
The true test will come when, instead of a pleasant spring evening, it’s a cold and rainy one. I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. Perhaps it will motivate me to think back to this evening, the night when I had the only house on the whole block without a yellow dandelion in its yard. It’s a nice feeling.