My first trip to California went off like a dream.
I boarded a plane in Atlanta and flew nonstop to LAX with a crowd of smiling people dressed in their Sunday best tended to by lovely young ladies called stewardesses.
The food was plentiful, the legroom was more than adequate, and it was a great way to spend several hours with a bunch of strangers.
The next trip to the Golden State wasn’t so smooth. The route ran from New Orleans to LA via Flagtaff, Ariz. I was driving. Everything I owned was in the trunk of the car. My mother was riding shotgun.
Things went smoothly until we hit the California border. The state line looked like the entrance to Wally World, marked by a wall of what appeared to be toll booths. Every car passing through was being inspected by serious looking men in dark green uniforms who went through the cars like the IRS went through Al Capone's tax returns.
I had never seen anything like it. Mother explained that because California's agriculture was crucial to the state’s economy, special care was taken to make sure no one entered the state toting plants harboring diseases that could devastate California crops.
Fifty years later I wish Alabama had been as picky about admitting unwanted plants. In 1882, a species called Golden Bamboo was the first to cross the U.S. border. The bamboo was imported by Alabama tobacco farmers to serve as a fast-growing windbreak.
Unfortunately, undocumented plants have a way of spreading to areas where they are not considered desirable. One of those areas is my backyard, which for several years has been growing bamboo faster than either I or my lawn tractor can kill it. Superman is easier to slay than bamboo.
That's a problem, and it's not going to get better without serious intervention.
Bamboo comes in three different types – clumpers, runners and reeds.
I won't rest until a fourth species is created – deceased.
Pesticides don't work. Herbicides are a joke. The only way to get rid of bamboo is to hire something to eat it. But the stuff is so obnoxious even goats avoid it.
Only one living creature eats bamboo without being coerced. So I’m now seeking a federal grant to pay for a mating pair of service pandas. In my case, the service performed will be eating my bamboo.
Before militant plant protectionists get all up in arms, I’m not alone. According to several sources, unwanted bamboo is so serious in some parts of America that laws are being passed to stop the invasion into adjoining yards and recreational facilities.
There are kids in my neighborhood. Livestock, too. I couldn't live with myself if their habitats were threatened by my bamboo.
Removing it won’t be easy. A plant expert at Farmingdale State College on Long Island, N.Y., said bamboo has a mind of its own. According to horticulture professor Dr. Jonathan Lerner, “You may want it to stay in a straight line on your property, but it’s going to go 360 degrees every which way.”
That’s a problem. Since I’m reluctant to commit planticide, a pair of service pandas is the best solution.
My bamboo needs to die. I’ll rest easier if I tell myself I’m not killing an obnoxious plant but nourishing a cute cuddly critter.
Alex McRae is the author of “There Ain’t No Gentle Cycle on the Washing Machine of Love.” He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org .