Cockleburs, beggar lice and Spanish needles

Published 9:11 am Thursday, January 24, 2013

When I came in from raking and blowing leaves the other day, I discovered my jeans were covered, mostly from the knees down, with beggar lice. I had not seen that stuff since I was a teenager on Rippy Hill. Cockleburs, beggar lice and Spanish needles seemed to be everywhere that was not mowed or tilled regularly.

When I mentioned the beggar lice to my fellow geezers at McDonald’s, they perked up and mentioned Spanish needles and picking cockleburs out of their dog’s fur. The only reason I have spelled cockleburs right is that I Googled them . . . all of us pronounce it “kuckle-burrs” around here, usually accompanied by some choice, not-nice words.

I know of no easy way to remove any of the things, but the Google writers suggested “easy” removal methods. I picked all the beggar lice off individually with my fingers, outside. As I remember, Spanish needles also cannot be brushed off, but must be picked off individually with fingers. Digging cockleburs out of animal fur with fingers is not recommended, though, as each burr has a hundred sharp spines!

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Our dogs would close their front teeth over them and pull them out, usually taking several tries to succeed, if they tried at all. Most often it was left to their caring human to work them out, if and when we had time.