Some things can’t be delegated. You own them. They’re yours.

Last week, I hired somebody to weed the nutgrass in a flowerbed. “Somebody” was young and strong, but even so, I had a sense of dislocation when I explained what the job entailed. I was offloading a task that belonged to me and was as much a part of my destiny as birth and death.

When I came home, I found his leather gloves and water bottle. Gloves and water, but no him. He was gone with the hot, windless day. His abandoned gloves and gloves made a statement: “It’s all yours. Good luck!”

I saw a patch of nutgrass, referred to as the world’s worst weed in its Wikipedia entry, in the corner of my father-in-law John’s house recently. He told me he had a man coming over to get rid of it. I wanted to put my arm around him and console him. Tell him that if the man came over that it might be the first and last time he ever saw that man because that man was switching careers or moving out of state.

Nutgrass is amazing. If I could grow hair like nutgrass grows, I’d have a mane like George Clooney. Bottle that active ingredient and bald would be no more.

Nutgrass seems like something that was cooked up in an evil laboratory by Gene Wilder. Simple grass spliced with the beans from Jack and the Beanstalk.

Nutgrass grows while you’re watching it. A foot overnight. Go away on vacation and when you return, shade.

I spent last weekend weeding a 6-foot-by-20-foot flowerbed. This is less brute physical labor than it is archeology. Ignore the few pieces of pottery on the surface because most of the action is down below.

The under-girding of nutgrass is like the ancient Chinese civilization buried in the Taklamakan Desert, which includes temples, houses and documents from the Tang and Han dynasties.

“Ancient people believed that once you entered the place, there was no way out,” according to the exploration website

No way out? That’s nutgrass. Once it enters, it will not go away.

The only way into the underworld is with a shovel; dig as if China were the goal. I found an old abandoned sewer line from the civilization that preceded modern Bakersfield. The line probably belonged to the swamp people or their descendants.

Brown, gnarly sinewy roots that run one way and then another. The roots looked like they were computer generated. They were as vigorous as a cage fighter in a small cage.

I went 10 rounds and then another 10 the next day. I wasn’t looking for a victory; there are none with nutgrass. Nutgrass or anything else you can’t hire out.

No victory but the realization that some things cannot be ducked. They must be faced with a pair of leather gloves, a water bottle and as good an attitude and as much equanimity as you can muster.

Like nutgrass, the right tools and a good attitude can be sturdy religion.

Herb Benham is a columnist for the Bakersfield Californian and can be reached at or (661) 395-7279.

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