Silicon Folly: Cones of silence

I was told at an early age that it’s not polite to listen in to other people’s conversations. Unfortunately, I never followed my parents’ advice.

The other day during my morning caffeination, two official-looking people were at a nearby table having a discussion in hushed tones, pointing at their digital delivery screens. Having spectacular hearing, I tuned into their back-and-forth. The topic: pine cones.

It seems that a four-legged Los Altos furry recently met with a serious injury when a large cone left a branch and clobbered him during a leashed walk around town. The good news is that “JoJo” is recovering after the stitches were removed.

I heard them talking about 38 species of conifers in Northern California, with the most common the Lodgepole, Ponderosa, Jeffrey, Knobcone, Western White and Sugar. I was ready to leave when a third person joined them – one of the country’s leading arboriculturists dealing with pines.

Next time you are driving on El Camino Real between Palo Alto and Mountain View, take a look at the median strip – you will see hundreds of pine cones on the street surrounded by needle piles, and hear them crunching under your tires. While taking your morning walks, there are all manner of noggin-knockers just waiting to pull rip cords from their branches.

The Coulter pine is a tall conifer tree that grows along the mountains of California, and its pine cones are the equivalent of bricks with claws.

The cones are usually approximately 16 inches long and can weigh more than 10 pounds.

Additionally, each cone has hundreds of sharpened hooks circling around it, which means there’s no best way to have one fall on you.

Dog walkers have nicknamed them “widow-makers” because they are so dangerous. Please pay attention to your surroundings.

Note to anyone traveling to Australia now that restrictions are loosening up: The Land Down Under can literally put you in the ground down under with its Bunya pines, which can grow 20-pound pumpkin projectiles.

Andy Dolich operates Dolich & Associates, a sports consultancy in Los Altos.

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