Harvey H. Jackson: Kudzu to you, too
Dec 11, 2013 | 2555 views |  0 comments | 29 29 recommendations | email to a friend | print
This July 12, 2004 file photo shows a kudzu vine as it reaches toward one of the trails in Cumberland Gap National Historic Park outside Middlesboro, Ky.  The kudzu vine was promoted by the federal government in the 1930's for erosion control and for providing shade, hence the name "porch plant." It's a vigorous perennial, capable of growing 60- to 100 feet per season. It soon lost favor around the South, where it grew out of control -- covering trees, buildings and yards. The U.S. Department of Agriculture declared it a pest weed in 1953. Photo: Roger Alford/The Associated Press/File
This July 12, 2004 file photo shows a kudzu vine as it reaches toward one of the trails in Cumberland Gap National Historic Park outside Middlesboro, Ky. The kudzu vine was promoted by the federal government in the 1930's for erosion control and for providing shade, hence the name "porch plant." It's a vigorous perennial, capable of growing 60- to 100 feet per season. It soon lost favor around the South, where it grew out of control -- covering trees, buildings and yards. The U.S. Department of Agriculture declared it a pest weed in 1953. Photo: Roger Alford/The Associated Press/File
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Like the weather, everybody talks about kudzu, but no one does anything about it.

Introduced as an ornamental vine and later pushed as a way to keep Dixie’s fallow fields from washing away, some of it escaped into the wild. Thus, despite falling from favor as an ornament and despite its loss of habitat when washed-out fields turned to suburbs, kudzu not only survived, it thrived.

And you can’t get rid of it.

So, what do we do?

Oh, there have been attempts to turn it into something useful.

Some folks have said you can make jelly from it. I once tried what was said to be kudzu jelly. I can see why that idea went nowhere.

And there are those who contend the herb contained in kudzu will help combat alcoholism. They say it is an old Chinese remedy. Well, if so, then it puts to rest my late father’s solution to the kudzu problem.

“Pour whiskey on it,” Daddy said, “and after dark the Baptists will sneak out and eat it right down to the roots.” (Daddy enjoyed picking on his Baptist friends almost as much as he enjoyed Auburn football.)

Others say the vine is just perfect for making Christmas wreaths, but if every door in Dixie was decked in coiled kudzu, it would hardly make a dent in the available supply.

I had not thought much about kudzu until my buddy and editor Lisa sent me a link the other day to a website that revealed yet another attempt to do something with kudzu.

What might that be, you ask?

Why, make money, what else?

And who is going to do this?

Some guy from San Francisco, who went to the University of North Carolina “where he first saw (and became fascinated with) kudzu” — no lie, that’s what the website says.

And how is he going to make money?

By getting us, you and me, to pay for building Kudzilla — “a 40-foot Godzilla-like” skeleton that will be the mother-of-all roadside-attractions. Check it out online and you will find that an “ever-growing team of experts — architects, engineers, gardeners and topiary artists” are ready to “turn this idea into awe-inspiring reality.”

They will build the skeleton and around it plant kudzu. Since the vine can grow up to a foot a day, if it is planted in May, in well-prepared soil (mix in old motor oil, broken glass, crushed up concrete and assorted fast-food wrappers), Kudzilla will be covered by the Fourth of July.

If we give them the money to do it.

Of course, if you contribute to the project you will get something in return, depending on how much you kick in. Categories start at $1, which gets you “an official sponsorship email, somewhat suitable for framing,” and go up to $500, for which you will receive all of the goodies in the other categories plus membership in the “ultra-elite Kudzillionairs Club” — apparently, they aren’t expecting many in the top one; if they did, it would not be “ultra-elite.”

Now, I gotta admit, the Kudzilla-themed T-shirts and hoodies they are giving are pretty neat, but that would be expected since the guy from San Francisco is the founder of a mail-order casual clothing company. Naturally, you can also order more, Christmas coming and all that.

So, I suppose, the money is rolling in. And if they get more than the $50,000 needed to build it, they will add glowing eyes, arms that move, a tail that moves, and they’ll even get it to breathe fire.

But where will they put it?

In the Southeast, of course, down here in the heart of kudzu country, where “empty lots in every town teem with the vine.”

But which teeming town?

The one “where folks want it the most.”

In other words, the one that has the most Kudzilla sponsors.

So, let the bidding war begin.

In fact, it has already begun.

And as of this writing, which town has the lead in the race for location?

Atlanta.

“The City Too Busy To Hate,” “The Next Great International City,” “HotLanta” has all the necessary ingredients — sterile soil, nasty air, an inadequate sewer system and best of all, a large useless space almost ready and waiting.

Turner Field, where the Atlanta Braves — soon the Cobb County Braves — play is perfect. Just pull down the stadium, clear off a spot for Kudzilla, leave the rest of the debris to serve as inner-city potting soil and you have the perfect environment for kudzu.

There is even a parking lot for all the folks who will come to see the city’s newest attraction. Kudzilla will be the best show in town.

At least until the first frost comes.

You know what it will look like then.

Harvey H. (“Hardy”) Jackson is professor emeritus of history at Jacksonville State University and a columnist and editorial writer for The Star. Email: hjackson@jsu.edu.
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