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Looking Down On A Legend


By Tom Poland

web posted June 3, 2016
life down
                                                          southLIFE DOWN SOUTH –  A glimpse leads you to believe these are sweetgrass baskets. No. They’re made from pine straw and kudzu. People appreciate pine straw as mulch. As for kudzu, it’s a legend, but that doesn’t stop people from belittling it because kudzu will cover anything in its path.

Drive up to Belton, and you’ll see kudzu mobbing deep woods like a topiary artist gone mad. Sit still as a stone and you can hear the plant growing, a stretching noise like plastic wrap being pulled against the box’s cutter. (An exaggeration, of course.)

Kudzu has accomplished what armadillos, hydrilla, coyotes, and other outsiders have failed to do: become a cultural icon of the South despite being an exotic. This mile-a-minute vine from southeast China is a legendary part of the South. “In Georgia, the legend says/That you must close your windows/At night to keep it out of the house. The glass is tinged with green, even so …” From “Kudzu,” by James Dickey.

And who is our artist? Aptly named Cherokee, Nancy Basket of Long Creek. Kudzu’s runners and vines prove excellent for basketmaking and its beauty rivals Lowcountry sweetgrass baskets. Nancy weaves pine needles into her baskets—a beautiful fate preferable to mulch.


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