to voice over artist Tim George
the part of Hank Peabody
Tim George's website to learn more
about his work
from The Reeducation of a Turd Peddler
by John Henry Peabody
He Fought the
Fury of the Apache Warpath
Back was the Target of a 100 Guns.
from the film Tumbleweed
starring Audie Murphy
I SETTLED INTO MY Sunday
evening with the television on. I suppose people who run the world dont
settle into Sunday evenings. Well I donot that I run the world.
But I'm a family man. I like to settle in.
Tonight my family was cheese and crackers, smoked oysters,
olives, pickles, The New York Times, and coprolite grant possibilities.
Was I missing something?
perfectly early Sunday evening. Channel 13 was running an episode of
The Outer Limits called The Cry of Silence.
Eddie Albert, pre-Green Acres, starred with June Havoc and
Arthur Hunnicut. I remember the episode. I googled the date: October
24, 1964. I'm sure if you went to Wikipedia you'd find there was
more to it, but my internet is slow.
is nothing wrong with your television set.
Do not attempt to adjust the picture.
We are controlling transmission . . .
Determined tumbleweeds were terrorizing the local populacenot
exactly the local populace but the people who were in this small,
windy town, who didnt seem capable of getting into cars and getting
out of it, they were being terrorizedby tumbleweeds.
As they called out to one another, across the street, one
or the other of these folk would step off the sidewalk and a tumbleweed
would blow down the way and catch on to their face. This town had no
But you do have to give The Outer Limits the high five for
eeriness (not that I give high-fives). An episode of "The Limits"
was always unsettling. While The Twlight Zone was hip and
Night Gallery was in color, Outer Limits was
certifiable . . . I cracked an oyster, hit the Two Buck Chuckannay and
proclaimed another Sunday evening underway.
Once when I was eating popcorn and watching The Outer
Limits," I surmised the kernels were extraterrestrial soldiers
come to take Gulliver to their planet, all tied up with sewing thread.
No reaching for wine there.
I spied another oyster: a cracker split with a cloud . .
Lets be clear, I wasnt here to forget my science.
I knew that tumbleweeds dont have a consciousnesseven if
it made sense on The Outer Limits.
Tumbleweeds are a dried form of thistle, Russian thistle,
Salsola iberica, of the many sub-species, of Eurasian extract
to be sure (related to spinach; the juvenile sprigs are as edible as
the young shoots called fiddleheads from forest ferns).
They arent even native to the country.
thistle making everything
more or less tumbleweedy.
which are so much a part of American Western lore and iconography, didnt
show up on the mis-en-messy-scene until 1877, and that was Wisconsin
where they made their debut, on the backs of sheep from the Caucuses,
native to the arid steppes of the Ural Mountains in Russia. Or they
came in shipments of flax seed from the Ukraineeither wayyou
make it up on your own . . . the Ural Mountains might be in Ukraine,
for all I know. It's Sunday, I'm tired.
The show I was watching was made in 1964, so it was autêntico,
but any Western set before 1877 with tumbleweeds was a fake.
I quaffed. then quaffed again.
Tumbleweeds, Russian thistle, thrived when Yankee farmers
pulled out native prairie grasses in the effort to farm the Indian land
of America. The Latin part of the name, Salsola, is a reference to the
Latin sallere, "to salt," a nod to the plants
salt tolerance. As tumbleweeds grow best where there are no plants,
they easily followed the path of each railroad cutting West.
Am I showing off?
No, Im drinking wine.
As your average tumbleweed rolls down a desert road, or
in the middle of a windy town in The Outer Limits," the plant
does what it does best: it disperses seeds, which number around 250,000
By 1900, the tumbleweed had reached the Pacific Coast to
take up residency along the disappearing Camino Royal. It filled the
drainage ditches of Highway 101. Yellow mustard had been tossed along
by the padres as they built the mission system. Now it had a colonial
pal growing along side it.
bulit this City
On flora and fauna . . ."
I suppose what
I am getting at is that all these tumbleweeds romantically blowing around
the cinematic landscape are a bit of a fiction if a movie is set before
I got particularly hip to this trick three Sundays before
tonight. Laden with my crackers, vino, sofa and the Times, an Audie
Murphy pict called Tumbleweed was on the tube. I watched
the beginning and began to remember an enthno-botany seminar I took
in grad school. I thought: bullhooky.
The movie was about the Apache wars. The tag line: He
Fought the Fury of the Apache Warpath, While His Back Was the Target
of a 100 Guns.
Which, like Custer, he probably deserved.
Ole Wus'er Name,
the Professor from Gilligan's Island,
Audie Murphy and Chill Wills in Tumbleweed.
"I think I see sumpin' rolling down the road, Audie."
the film, its Murphys horse that is named Tumblweed, but
the notion of the tumbleweed as a symbol of the desolate
West is all over the title of the film.
The story of the Apache wars in Arizona is fascinating and
complex. Ive drank too much wine to go into it all right here.
But Geronimo, the Indian hero, who I believe never ate a smoked oyster
in his life, was first captured in 1877. So if that was the year of
the arrival of Russian Thistlethe tumbleweedin Wisconsin
or North Dakota, how would anyone even know about tumbleweeds at the
height of the Apache wars? And who even knew when the thistley thing
tumbled out to Arizona anyway?
Oh, rightI poured the last of the $2.99 chard o' naysome
people in Hollywood in 1953 made a movie with Audie Murphy set during
the Apache wars. Thats how they knew!
I laid back, sipped the last of my yellowy goblet and stared
at the stuffed Jackalope on my book shelf. . . Outside the mission bells
rang and a tumbleweed blew through my living room.
A Great Tumbleweed Page
Cry of Silence"
Apache Wars & Geronimo
Buck Chuck at $2.99
Asleep on the Couch