Tumbleweed and other gifts from Ukraine

Photo courtesy Pablo Garcia Saldana, Unsplash!

Those of you who have followed InterestEng. from the beginning will remember our young Dr.Surprise—a boy from Ukraine who loved to surprise us with science stories about our solar system. Dr.Surprise is now grown and studying bio-engineering at the “Harvard of Ukraine” in Kiev. He still finds time now and then to send us very interesting stories, including this one about tumbleweed and “westerns”.

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I FIRST encountered tumbleweed when I was a little boy.  I’ve  never actually seen one. The first ones I saw were in an old USSR movie.  The movie was a western, a comedy called The man from Capuchin Boulevard. The story was about a cultured, dignified film maker who travels to a far-off western town to show the people movies. He goes to a “wild west” town in Texas and shows the cowboys a movie of a train. The movie is in black and white. The cowboys have never seen a train and are terrified that it will come off the “screen” (a white sheet hung up in a saloon) and hit them. They begin to shoot at the screen to stop the train and then they all run outside terrified. The film maker convinces them to come back inside. He then shows them a movie of a gardener watering his garden with a hose.  (There is no sound in the film, so one of the cowboys in the saloon starts to play the piano in such a manner to express the emotions of actors in the movie.) Suddenly the water from the hose stops (because a boy is standing on the hose). The gardener picks up the hose and looks into it. The boy takes his foot off the hose and water shoots up into the gardner’s face.  All the cowboys laugh and suddenly the film maker becomes a hero.            
     The film maker dreams of a world of peace, without fighting, drinking and bad behavior. He hopes he can convince the cowboys that it is more fun to watch movies than to shoot up the town. He shows them films of people walking in gardens, putting on napkins before eating, and going to libraries. The cowboys start to drink milk in the bar instead of whiskey, say “please” and “thank you” and stop shooting each other. 

      It was very popular to make westerns in the USSR. In such movies it was typical to show all the stereotypes of the wild west, including lots of shots of tumbleweed. Russian actors played both the cowboys and the Indians. But it was only recently that I learned that tumble- weed did not originate in Texas. It came from my country, Ukraine, to western and southern America hundreds of years ago!  
     Here are two short videos. The first is a trailer from the USSR comedy, The man from Capuchin Boulevard.  The second is a short educational video about tumbleweed. It is how I learned that tumbleweed is originally from Ukraine.  I was so shocked, I replayed the video several times to listen to that part again and again because I couldn’t believe it.  —

 ©InterestEng. July 2013  §  The stories in the magazine portion of the site are written by English language learners. Stories are corrected by a native English speaker.  § Photos are staff or used with permission.  §  To contact us:  go.gently.on@gmail.com