Storm Lake Times Pilot

Cultivating grass and trees

Rain Tuesday was welcome for my grass-growing efforts at home. I tossed seed around our front yard where thin spots have spread under a wide canopy tree.

I don’t know why the grass isn’t growing there. Maybe the tree roots are sucking up all the nutrients, or the leafy canopy may prevent sunlight from getting to the grass.

Two of the three trees in our front yard are ashes, which are susceptible to the emerald ash borer disease. Arborist Jerry Kahl is treating them and we hope they can survive. Storm Lake and Alta have been hard hit by the borers and unlucky homeowners have had to cut down hundreds of trees.

Old-timers like this reporter remember the 1960s when Dutch elm disease spread by beetles was the scourge of shade trees across America. Hundreds of those trees were cut down in The City Beautiful, and left the barren streets looking like a tornado had passed through. I remember West Fifth Street looking especially forlorn and naked when I was a kid.

Since then, arborists have developed species that are resistant to Dutch elm disease.

There are some ash trees in China that are resistant to the emerald ash borer disease which, like Dutch elm disease, is spread by a beetle.

City workers were busy last winter cutting down diseased trees situated on parking in residential areas.

We have lived in our home for 37 years. When we moved in the trees in our front yard we’re relatively young. Since then they’ve matured into stately shade trees and we’d certainly hate to lose them. 

Congratulations to all the high school seniors who celebrated their graduations during the past week, marking their ascent to adulthood.

When I graduated from St. Mary’s in 1968, I couldn’t imagine how irrelevant an old fogey like me would be five decades later. 

I’m happy to report to these new graduates that a 50-year alumnus can be a productive citizen despite the drool running out of the corner of my mouth.

Memo to Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, and Congressman Randy Feenstra: According to the Gallup Poll, 92% of Americans — that’s right, 92% — favor background checks on all gun transactions to prevent violent or unstable people from buying guns.

They need to do something before a massacre happens in one of our Iowa schools. They can’t claim to be “pro-life” when they allow maniacs to have guns that kill little school children. 

John Cullen is the founder and retired publisher of the Storm Lake Times Pilot. He can be reached at

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