Iowa State University


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We've come a long way
by Bob Hartzler

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January 31, 1997-- E.P. 'Dutch' Sylwester, the original extension weed scientist at Iowa State College, was legendary for his storytelling. I came across this skit in some of his old files and felt it was worth sharing. I assume Dutch wrote this play in the early 1950's, but there was no date on the script. I think the play provides an interesting perspective of the optimism with which these modern chemicals were introduced. However, 40 years later our weed problems are just as bad as ever. This article provides interesting contrast to the comments of Stephen Powles.


by Pearl Converse, Iowa State College, Extension Service

(Based on information supplied by E. P. Sylwester)

Time: 3 minutes.

Characters: Father Time, Weedy the Thief, Miss Verda Land and the Hero 2,4-D

Costumes: Father Time draped in a sheet - beard (of most anything ---- frayed rope, or cloth or paper cut in shreds, or regular theatrical crepe hair unbraided.) Should carry a scythe if possible.

Miss Land - Should wear a green dress - possibly of crepe paper cut into shreds like a grass skirt - - - carry a basket.

Weedy The Thief - Hat pulled down over eyes - coat collar up. Could wear a narrow black mask with large eye holes.

The Hero 2,4-D - A dash of rouge on cheeks to make him look young and handsome. Shirt open at throat. Should carry a knapsack sprayer or spray gun.

Note: Do not read the parts in parenthesis out loud. Those are your stage directions.

- - - - - - -

FATHER TIME: (Enters) Well, howdy, folks! I reckon you can guess who I am or can you? Take one good look at this sheet. It tells you that I'm not Gandhi -- yep, that's right! You've guessed! I'm old Father Time, I been mowin' 'em down for quite a while now. Simple old fashioned tools too --- nothing fancy --- but I seem to gather in the harvest just the same, weeds and all ------ Well, well --- who's this coming? Looks like she's in trouble.

VERDA: (Comes running in) Oh Father Time-----I'm so glad to see you-----so glad you're here to protect me.

FATHER TIME: Well, if it isn't Little Prairie Flower -- or is it?

VERDA: No, I'm not Prairie Flower. I'm her sister - Verda ---- Verda Land.

FATHER TIME: Verda Land - Oh sure - Little Greenie we used to call you.

VERDA: No -- you used to call me Little Grassy.

FATHER TIME: Little Grassy -- Yes, I guess that was it ---- Greenie isn't bad though.

VERDA: There's a villain following me Father Time and I need you to drive him away.

FATHER TIME: A villain?


FATHER TIME: Who is he?

VERDA: Weedy, the thief. See, there he comes now.

WEEDY: Yes, here I come now, Weedy the Thief. And you can hand over all your valuables -- and that basket full of stuff -- and your green dress --- everything.

FATHER TIME: Not so fast my fine friend. I've been cutting down your Weedy family for years.

WEEDY: (Laughs) Yes and a lot of good it's done you. We're a hardy bunch of folks, us weeds -- you can cut all you want. We defy you to harm us.

FATHER TIME: Defy me, eh?

WEEDY: You bet your bottom dollar we defy you -- what good has all your cutting done to my cousin, Poison Ivy, or good old DANDELION - or Sour Dock or Vervain?

VERDA: Oh I think you're just awful --- Weedy!

WEEDY: Keep your trap shut beautiful - - - 'cause you're coming with me. And old Fuddy Duddy Time can't stop me.

FATHER TIME: Why you young villain - - - you young whipper snapper. I'll mow you down, so help me -- I'll mow you down.

WEEDY: Save your breath, Grampa. I'll fill your fence rows and your lawns and your parks and your golf courses with my Weedy Family. Wait and see.

VERDA: Father Time -- do something.

WEEDY: "Do something," she says!! Do something!! I've got you just where I want you. We'll rob your soil and kill your grass and choke your gardens. We'll fill the world with weeds --- weeds victorious!!!! Nothing can stop us.

HERO 2,4-D: (Bounds in) I can stop you.

WEEDY: You? Who are you?

VERDA: Yes, who are you, Handsome?

HERO 2,4-D: Me? I'm the Hero 2,4-D.


HERO 2,4-D: Right, I'm 2,4-D. And with my trusty spray gun I guarantee to rid the world of villains like you weeds.

WEEDY: (Laughs) A spray gun? Ha! Ha! Go tell it to the Marines! We Weeds have had sprays used against us before -- Kerosene, sodium chlorate, iron sulfate... They poisoned the livestock. They killed the grass. They ate up the metal. They caught on fire. They did everything but kill us Weeds!

HERO 2,4-D: You'll laugh out of the other side of your mouth, Mr. Weedy, when I get going. I challenge you to a good fight any time you like -- just any time.

WEEDY: I don't believe you're very powerful.

HERO 2,4-D: You don't? With one good spraying I'll kill all the dandelions in your family --- all the plantains.

WEEDY: Just talk! Just a new fangled mistake. Come on Greenie! You're going with me. (Grabs Greenie to drag her away.)

VERDA: Help, Father Time, help.

WEEDY: Ha! Ha! Help from that old Guy?

VERDA: Help, Hero 2,4-D!!!

HERO 2,4-D: Unhand that girl. Stop where you are. Stop I say.

WEEDY: Just try to stop me. Just try.

HERO 2,4-D: All right. You asked for it. Take this, and this and this. (Sprays Weedy with spray gun.)

 WEEDY: (Grabs his throat) Ugh! You got me! You got me! I'm not long for this world. I'm done for - blast your hide. Blast your soul!! (Weedy staggers out and away)

 VERDA: My hero. How wonderful you are. How strong.

 FATHER TIME: Yes. Congratulations son. You're a better man than I am, that's sure.

 HERO: It's easy. Simple. And now if little Greeny here will always stay by me I promise to keep old Weedy and all his family away from her forever.

 FATHER TIME: Do you promise, little Verda?

 VERDA: I promise.

 FATHER TIME: Good. Now how does the Wedding March go?

 VERDA: (Sings) Here comes the Bride ----

 (All exit singing the Wedding March.)

Prepared by Bob Hartzler, extension weed management specialist, Department of Agronomy, Iowa State University

For more information contact:
ISU Extension Agronomy
2104 Agronomy Hall
Ames, Iowa 50011-1010
Voice: (515) 294-1923
Fax: (515) 294-9985
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Common chemical and trade names are used in this publication. The use of trade names is for clarity by the reader. Inclusion of a trade name does not imply endorsement of that particular brand of herbicide and exclusion does not imply nonapproval.