Russ Dixon of Ashland demonstrates how his invention of a steel hand attached to a Bobcat can tear out bushes such as this Oregon wild rose by the roots, especially useful for blackberry eradication. 2009 file photo

Russ Dixon is dedicated to eradicating Himalayan blackberries, those aggressive, non-native vines that have invaded so much of Western Oregon.

"They are tenacious as hell," Dixon says. "You can't burn 'em or mow 'em "Ľ they will just grow back."

Dixon invented a mechanism just as tough as his adversary — a hydraulically powered steel "hand" that attaches to the front of his Bobcat excavator or other machines commonly known as "skid steers." The hand has enough strength to rip out a juniper bush 5 inches thick, but its specialty is tearing out whole clumps of blackberries in one pass.

The grabber was built in Ashland by Hasfell Fabrication, and it has not been named. Dixon didn't patent it either; he sent a postmarked envelope with the specifications of the design to himself to prove that it's his invention, though.

"I'm not interested in manufacturing it," Dixon says. "I just work it hard."

That said, he acknowledged that if the right deal came knocking, he might consider selling his idea.

Dixon uses the attachment frequently around the Rogue Valley for clearing fertile farmland that has been overrun by blackberries and other brush. He also works at residential locations and clears ladder fuels from forest floors with the steel hand.

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