Bamboo Panda

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Experts say bamboo grows about a foot per day, so fast you can actually stand in front of it and see shoots and leaves sprouting.

That’s what my three brothers and I believed for those seven magical years we spent growing up at 110 Flamingo Street.

Don’t really know if it’s true or not. Even though there was a bamboo forest on the far bank of Cripple Creek, none of us actually saw the bamboo grow. Every time one of us stood in front of the forest, we were quickly knocked off the bank into the frigid waters below.

Still, over the years, I’ve learned some interesting facts about bamboo and the one animal that has made bamboo its favorite food: the panda bear.

Pandas sleep about 18 hours each day. During those six hours awake, they do two things: eat bamboo and look really cute. And how could they not? They’re black and white with fur all over and live in China.

Even Little One loves pandas. She’s slept with a stuffed panda since she was born.

That’s something else I’ve learned recently: do not, under any circumstances, lose the panda. If you do, you’ll be up all night searching. Searching is hard to do while carrying a crying baby, trying all the while to get her to go to sleep.

And no, trying to convince a stuffed panda to come out of hiding by offering it bamboo doesn’t work. Okay, stop laughing. At 2 in the morning I’ll try anything to get Little One back to bed.

Using bamboo for rafts isn’t a good idea either. My brothers and I discovered that we could cut down bamboo, lash it together and make a raft just like Huck Finn. We discovered the raft would hold all of our weight as we paddled out to the center of the lake above the swamp in our backyard.

We also discovered a raft made out of bamboo, and not logs like good old Huck’s, will stay afloat for about 10 minutes before sinking.

Other than making rafts that sunk, flutes that never worked, and pirate swords that left one heck of a mark if whacked with, we didn’t find much use for bamboo. Things certainly have changed in the last 50 years since we lived on Flamingo Street. Now, bamboo is used for just about anything.

Want to wear the softest shirt you ever felt? Try one made out of bamboo and you’ll give away all your old shirts and buy new ones made out of this multi-use plant. Pants, socks, undergarments, hats, towels, and even sheets made out of bamboo can be purchased and shipped right to your door. If it’s made out of bamboo and can be worn, I’ve bought it.

But there’s one other thing you can do with bamboo that I didn’t mention. The super fast-growing plant makes a great natural barrier between you and your neighbor.

Here’s how to plant bamboo. Visit the local garden store with the orange roof and buy 30 bamboo plants. It’s easy; they have them right up front in the garden area. Next, rent a backhoe. On your property line, dig a 6X6 trench, line it with concrete, and then fill the concrete trench with topsoil.

Take all the bamboo plants back to the store and trade them in for roses. Trust me. Unless you dislike your neighbor and want to move, you don’t ever want to plant the aggressive, intrusive, 20-foot tall bamboo in your yard. But if you do, I’d suggest also visiting the zoo and bring home a panda.

Here’s my last tip about bamboo. If you’re wearing bamboo clothing from head to foot, it’s not a good idea to get too close to the outdoor panda exhibit at the Atlanta Zoo.

Not admitting to anything, mind you, but our granddaughters, Little One and Sweet Caroline, sure were amused how fast their Big Papa can move.

Bamboo – it’s not just for pandas anymore.

[Rick Ryckeley, who lives in Senoia, served as a firefighter for more than two decades and has been a weekly columnist since 2001. His email is storiesbyrick@gmail.com. His books are available at www.RickRyckeley.com.]