Appalachia Appalachia Through My Eyes

Appalachia Through My Eyes – Cuckle Burrs

My life in appalachia - Cuckle Burrs

The outdated answering-fax-copier-phone machine that sits on my desk has a little alcove like place underneath it for the paper to come out. The handful of cuckle burrs above has been sitting in that space for almost a year.

I can’t even remember where I picked them up. Before they came to live on my desk they lived in a coat pocket for several months. It was an old coat we keep handy for a dash down to Granny’s or to throw out scraps when its cold out.

Chatter put the coat on one day and stuck her hand in the pocket. After a good scream  she said “Who in the world put cuckle burrs in this pocket?” I said the first thing that popped into my mind “I did. And they’re my friends so leave them in there!!” Well you can only imagine the response that statement brought from my teenage daughter. It was after that episode that I rescued the cuckle burrs from the pocket and made them comfortable in their new home under the telephone.

I haven’t a clue what made me say they were my friends, but after seeing how Chatter reacted I brought the subject up as often as I could over the next few weeks, asking her if she’d like to hold one and making sure she overheard me talking to them on a regular basis-kinda mean uh?

Cuckle burrs remind me of childhood days: of tromping through fields; playing hide-n-seek; walking home from the bus stop; of the big garden at the end of Mamaw and Papaw’s little house; of making my younger cousin run around screaming when I told her they were bees and put them in her hair.

Do you believe you can make crafts from cuckle burrs? I didn’t either until I discovered these: Cuckle Burr Poodles. I guess you know what Chatter’s going to find in her stocking on Christmas morning don’t you?


Appalachia Through My Eyes – A series of photographs from my life in Southern Appalachia.


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  • Reply
    Mary Lou McKillip
    November 1, 2018 at 9:08 pm

    Tipper. I worked with this lady she was so crafty. She made the cuttist poodle from churkle burrs she paint it black it was a piece of art only Berthia could create

  • Reply
    Vernon Kimsey
    July 25, 2016 at 6:55 pm

    Cuckle burrs and beggar lice I can put up with much better than I could the sand spurs I encountered during my time in South Carolina. Barefoot boys and sand spurs do not play well together. They really hurt to pick them out of the soles of your feet.

  • Reply
    November 25, 2011 at 11:55 am

    That made me laugh…out loud!
    I can’t wait to read that post!!

  • Reply
    Jennifer in OR
    November 23, 2011 at 2:25 pm

    LOL. Very cute, and we have similar things here that just hitch a ride on everything and scratch you up. But nothing as cute as your cuckle burrs. 😉

  • Reply
    lynn legge
    November 23, 2011 at 3:45 am

    lol awww tipper you sure make me smile every day .. i cant thank you enough.. and i love that story of those burrs… as my girls used to get them and throw in each others hair.. but now i wish i had some as those poodles are awfully cute.. i love how you and the girls are.. reminds me of when mine were home.. lol its good to tease.. and then you can say… i hope when you have children they will be just like you .. lol and now i am seeing that my daughter is getting her payback by having a 13 year old daughter just like her.. hahah
    much love to you and all .. and have a wonderful thanksgiving..
    big ladybug hugs

  • Reply
    Suzi Phillips
    November 22, 2011 at 10:36 pm

    I did wash a cuckle-bur not long ago-& found it in my sock. OUCH!

  • Reply
    Hug A Porky
    November 22, 2011 at 4:15 pm

    In Wisconsin, the tourists from Illinois go crazy for 2 or 3 cockle burrs in a little straw nest. Porcupine eggs: $1 each. Keep warm to hatch.

  • Reply
    November 22, 2011 at 2:35 pm

    These burrs are a real mess to deal with when they get tangled up in cows’ ears and tales. We try to keep them sprayed in the fields.

  • Reply
    November 22, 2011 at 1:05 pm

    Congradulations to Lanie and
    Osagebluff Quilter on winning the
    North Wind CD.
    I’ve had lots of those cuckle burr
    stickers on me from hunting trips.
    Spanish needles are the worst for
    me, they just dig in. But when I
    use to rabbit hunt with my feists,
    I got begger lice on my pants and
    for taking them hunting those
    dogs would pick every one off.

  • Reply
    November 22, 2011 at 11:18 am

    My grandfather always told us cockle burrs were porcupine eggs! It made sense to kids, so we believed him for years. (He also told us a whole coconut was a mare’s egg!) I may have to go look for some burrs this weekend and make a poodle for my granddaughters. Thanks for the memories!

  • Reply
    November 22, 2011 at 11:16 am

    I won! I am so looking forward to a CD with more of the girls on it. Of course I love your Dad and Paul too!
    Happy Thanksgiving!

  • Reply
    November 22, 2011 at 10:58 am

    Good for you keeping the kids guessing about you!
    I have a cockleburr collecting standard poodle. One time I took 20 burrs out of her fur after a visit to a field.
    A few years ago the bazaars had ornaments made from teasles (like burrs) but have never seen one made to look like a poodle.

  • Reply
    Laura @ Laura Williams Musings
    November 22, 2011 at 10:52 am

    You gave me a giggle this morning. You’re a mean Momma. lol j/k.

  • Reply
    Elizabeth K
    November 22, 2011 at 10:52 am

    Cute story. I hope you’ll share Chatter’s reaction to the poodle after Christmas! Keep talking to your friends, LOL.

  • Reply
    November 22, 2011 at 9:23 am

    Those little poodles are a good idea, they’re so cute!!!

  • Reply
    grandpa ken
    November 22, 2011 at 9:02 am

    It took man centuries to invent velcro but the Lord above had the original patent. The burs were there with that idea forever, he let us see thing sometimes.

  • Reply
    November 22, 2011 at 8:57 am

    I always wanted to know what those things were called. Now I know. However, I must admit they are a bit lithal when they just appear unexpectly. I noticed that now there is coal disguised as bubble gum this year. Just an idea!!! I hope you and your family have a wonderful Thanksgiving – cuckle burrs included.

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    November 22, 2011 at 8:48 am

    Tipper,in addition to the cuckle burrs I remember beggar lice and hitch hikers. I’m not sure what the correct names are but I do remember being covered in them more than once as a boy. I loved playing around the garden in the fall. I would use it as my own battlefield. I would crawl between the rolls like I was in the trenches. I would pull up the root ball of the corn stalks and lob them like grenades. I remember getting the beggar lice all over me and using my trusty pocket knife blade to scrape them off.Just thinking back to those days makes me smile…thanks!

  • Reply
    November 22, 2011 at 8:41 am

    be sure to photograph the cuckle burr poodles you put in the stocking. i popped over for a peek at the poodles and they are adorable. and thanks for telling me what these are. i found some of these at Emerson point and took photographs but did not know what they are. i love it when i find something that flips me back in time and brings on the memories. down here in GA and FL we have sand spurs… they do not bring fond memories.

  • Reply
    November 22, 2011 at 8:37 am

    I enjoy your posts so much. They really make my day! The little cuckle burr poodles are so cute. I wouldn’t mind having some of those in my stocking. I can remember having to get them out of my socks after walking through the woods. Thanks for bringing back so many good memories!

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    November 22, 2011 at 8:24 am

    Oh, these are the most horrible things to get out of your clothes. If you miss one before washing, they are most sure to end up in your underwear.

  • Reply
    Kimberly Burnette
    November 22, 2011 at 8:23 am

    HA-HA! I love the fact that you are talking to the cuckle burrs!!! Chatter might be thinking that it is time to call the men in the little white coats to come and take you away! 😉

  • Reply
    November 22, 2011 at 8:02 am

    I always was the one to pick those cockleburrs and boggie-lice off my dad hunting clothing– not a good memory but? a memory just the same—and thank for the info of how velcro came to be—although I am not a fan of that either—-Linda

  • Reply
    kay dallas
    November 22, 2011 at 7:57 am

    my grandfather (since gone home to be with the Lord) told my mother and her 5 sisters that you could use these cuckle burrs as curlers in your hair LOL. well my grandmother (also home with the Lord) had a hissy fit about this because she had to cut all of their hair. This was told to me by my mother (also home with Lord). I can’t even imagine. Love your posts

  • Reply
    Pat in east TN
    November 22, 2011 at 7:52 am

    The poodles are cute and I got a kick out of your story of them being in the coat pocket! I just know they’re a dickens to get out of a dog with longer hair!

  • Reply
    Uncle Al
    November 22, 2011 at 7:39 am

    That was sure a funny story Tipper. I bet the look on her face will be priceless. I haven’t had any of those show up round her for a while. You know I do have some sweetgum tree seed balls that might make a bigger poodle. I picked them up at my mama’s on a recent visit and have had them in a bag in the basement. I’ll have to give that some more thought though.
    I also liked. B. Ruth’s comment about the the memory that will “stick” with you! LOL

  • Reply
    November 22, 2011 at 7:37 am

    I love this story.. I also have 2 girls, those teen years can be fun but can also be brutal. So I always get a kick out of a little surprise on them once in a while. LOL

  • Reply
    Canned Quilter
    November 22, 2011 at 7:37 am

    With two long haired dogs living in the country cockle burrs are the bane of my existence! One good rabbit hunt and I spend hours getting them out of their fur.

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    November 22, 2011 at 6:56 am

    Tipper and Alica,
    A feller (and fellow engineer, I would proudly add) by the name of George de Mestral did indeed come up with something that is functionally beautiful based on cockleburrs.
    In the 1940’s, after removing cockleburrs from his dog’s coat and his britches, he took a look at them under a microscope and saw the hooks that would help the cockleburr hitch a ride with most anything that came wandering along. From that came the invention of velcro.
    Nature has many lessons to teach us, if we but had ears to hear.

  • Reply
    November 22, 2011 at 6:24 am

    had forgotten about CockleBurrs. Thanks for bringing back memories again. I think I’ll walk the edge of a field this weekend and find some dried dog fennel also.

  • Reply
    November 22, 2011 at 6:02 am

    Hmmm…I’m glad someone came up with something nice to use those cuckle burrs for…the poodles are cute!

  • Reply
    November 22, 2011 at 5:44 am

    Oh poor Chatter! 🙂

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    November 22, 2011 at 5:43 am

    Your post was so funny, but do you dread the pay-back?…I think teenage daughters would be able to think of some revenge type mischief…
    Now then those little cuckle-bur poodles are “fine as frog hair”…and if I was able to walk in the old garden, I’d gather me a few on my old fleece joggers, pick ’em off and make me one…LOL
    Thanks for a memory that will “stick” with you!..LOL

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