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Saturday, April 24, 2010

A passion for bamboo

Several years ago I stumbled upon bamboo growing in Northeastern Oklahoma.
Once I put my hands around the gigantic canes of Phyllostachys Vivax, I was hooked.

An elderly gentleman known as 'Cotton' kindly allowed me and my brother; Keith to dig as much as we wanted. It turned out not to be such a generous offer considering we had to work very hard to get what little we did. Allow me to rephrase that, Keith worked very hard. Though bamboo has a somewhat shallow root system, many varieties often reaches great heights, and as such is digging is not a simple matter of grabbing a shovel.

Cotton's wife, whom we humorously referred to as 'Mrs. Cotton', explained that he was near death, with a medical order not to resuscitate him should otherwise require such services. He was ready to go when his body instructed. Knowing this made Keith and myself nervous, as Cotton was right in the middle of the bamboo with us, digging, swinging, chopping to help us get a few good roots. I'll never forget Mrs. Cotton making small fabric circles for what is known as a Yo-Yo quilt. What I wouldn't give to have that very quilt she was making that day.

We enjoyed a tour of Cotton's makeshift museum, toured his property and thanked them profusely. There is no doubt these people would have gladly entertained us further, even cooking dinner if only we would have accepted.

Years later, I returned to the property hoping to visit with Cotton and his wife once more, only to find the home empty. A second and third trip found the property unkempt, the bamboo untidy and left with dead canes in the grove. Most recently, in April of 2010, a neighbor informed us the couple passed away and the property was in bankruptcy. I seem to recall his wife being much younger than he was, so I can only imagine his passing left her life terribly empty.

The neighbor allowed us to dig more bamboo up on his side of the property, though the bamboo was actually from Cotton's side of the land. At the time we first transplanted, Cotton explained it was a twenty-five year old grove. Ours is now but five years old, but with good health and a sound mind intact, we may be able to continue the legacy of Cotton's bamboo grove.

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