Had I been born at the time, I could have told Papaw it was a bad idea to accept his new son-in-law’s offer to help him and his sons hoe the cotton. There were a couple of things wrong with this idea. The first was that Daddy was a city boy, raised in the home above his father’s barber shop in downtown West Point, Mississippi (county seat of Clay County, population 10,000 or so). His knowledge of weeding was limited. Secondly, Daddy’s eyesight, that had him in glasses when he was but a wee lad, made distinguishing one plant from another problematic.
But Daddy’s heart was in the right place, and Papaw needed all the help he could get. A long morning of chopping cotton made all the men ready for the dinner spread at noon, the main meal of the day. Ever the storyteller, Daddy couldn’t wait to tell about the huge morning glories he had chopped down that morning. An unaccustomed silence followed as the sons looked at Papaw.
Papaw said, “Berton, those were not morning glories. Those were new plants I just bought. They were recommended by the Mississippi State Extension Service for my dairy cows to graze and to curb erosion.”
By the time I was old enough to hear the story repeated in the family lore, everybody knew that Daddy had almost done Papaw a favor. Papaw had joined many other forward-looking dairy farmers in the South to establish the vine that would provide economical feed for their cows and control the gully-washing that took place in hard rains. At that time, nobody guessed that neither Daddy nor the dairy cows could manage the invasion of kudzu, often called “the vine that ate the South.”
Daddy’s hoe was a small hiccup in the life of the huge morning glory (aka kudzu). It performed as advertised before it began to run on and on like The Gingerbread Man singing, “I’ll spread my vines both left and right, growing a foot each day and night.”