The Failure How would you feel if you were gored? It happened to Herb repeatedly. Would you like to see the scars?
This is the story. Periodically, Herb would walk about a quarter of a mile to visit with the Norquest children. Each time he arrived for a 30-minute visit, Uncle Carrol would mandate that Herb work on a special project for at least 20 minutes. This special project led to Herb getting gored, repeatedly.
Oxheads are a low-growing plant with seedpods with several sharp thorns. Other people call them goatheads or Devil’s thorn. Since Herb grew up calling them oxheads, that is what they will be called. No matter which direction they are placed, there is always one thorn which is facing up. The oxhead thorns can penetrate thin-soled shoes or shoes where the soles have worn thin and gore the feet of the person wearing those shoes. With thick soled shoes and boots, they penetrate and stick and can easily gore the fingers of anyone who tries to remove them without pliers. In Deep South Texas during the time this story took place, when a hole was worn in the sole of a shoe, cardboard was often inserted to extend the life of the shoe. Oxhead thorns penetrated cardboard with ease.
Mowing the plants does not control them since they never grow high enough for the mower to cut them. The only effective way to control them is to till the land repeatedly over several years (destroys the lawn) or to dig the plants before the seed pods are mature enough to sprout, and to remove the plants.
Uncle Carrol was not just picking on Herb. Any of the Norquest children who were going to visit with Herb would spend twenty minutes clearing the yard of oxhead plants. A hoe would be used to cut the root, and then the plant had to be deposited in a bucket. In the process, most of the young fingers were gored by young oxhead thorns. When a bucket was full, it was taken to the trash pile to be burned.
There was a reward for filling a bucket. The team got to fill another bucket with oxhead plants. The process went on summer and winter, whenever there were oxhead plants to attack. For three years they cut out and lifted out oxhead plants, and it did not do a bit of good.
The Lesson If there is motivation (in the case of the oxheads, the motivation was provided by Uncle Carrol), one can continue to work at a miserable task for years.
The Success During the fourth year, the number of oxhead plants decreased. During the fifth year, the number decreased even further. Then they disappeared, except for a straggler, or after a flood had washed seed in. After all of that persistence, one could walk across the lawn without getting gored by an oxhead.
Herb proceeded to apply the lesson to life. If something is worth doing, just because the results do not show immediately is no reason to stop. Continue working on it year after year. Continue working after all reasonable people had given up on the project. Continue working on it after people start saying that insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results.