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This article first appeared in issue 35, and was written by Christopher Rowe.

I have spent the last few weeks killing thistles. I used to think it was a rare man who considered them anything but pests, but I've been looking into the history and lore of thistles--reading old books and hearing odd stories--and I come to you today with unexpected news.

Perhaps you've heard the old proverb "One man's weed is another man's defense against attack by Vikings?"

Nodding thistles, I'm told, first appeared widely in Adair County sometime between 1960 and 1980, coinciding with the construction of "new" North 55 and the Cumber-Nunn Parkway. Thistle seeds were "in the straw the highway boys used," my expert source says, to cover the new grass after construction. "Straw brought in from off."

"Off where?" you may ask. "Is this some conspiracy to keep our cattle from their pastures and drive out our native grasses?"

There is apparently only one group of people in this wide world who actually prize thistles, the Scots. The thistle is their national emblem, historically valued because long ago a late-night ambush was thwarted when invading Danes stepped on the thorns and cried out, rousing the sleeping Scottish forces.

I have learned that our local variety of thistle is Canadian in origin. It's surely not news to the sophisticated and worldly readers of this publication that most Canadians are in fact Scots, except for those who are French. (If you need proof, consider the case of my friend Judy McCrosky. Though resident in the suspiciously named Canadian city of Saskatoon, she was actually born in Scotland.)

So now we see that the Canadian government, anticipating invasion by modern day Norsemen, infiltrated the Kentucky Highway Department nearly thirty years ago to set up a Thistle Defense Shield.

I am not a military strategist. I cannot tell you why the Danes are invading Canada by way of Milltown and the greater Cane Valley area. But my diligent research shows that this is surely the case.

We find ourselves caught in the middle of a foreign war, one that's come to live in our fields and even our back yards. How we choose to react will be a test of our mettle as Adair Countians.

This story was posted on 2001-06-15 12:01:01
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