Re: [gardeners] Tales from the Bamboo Thicket

George Shirley (
Mon, 19 Apr 1999 07:48:31 -0500

Allen and Judy Merten wrote:

> Hi George,
>     Did the Yellow Eyed beans ever arrive? Second mailing was in a "mailing
> pouch" with the little bubble whatcha call its lining the inside.

Not yet, now I'll be calling my mailman at home to see if he has them. Our town is
small enough that the mailman, same one for 11 years, is a fishing buddy. I'll let
you know when I get them.

>     I wish that I was close enough to come cut some of the big bamboo. Our
> youngest son went with me today and we cut some more. The location is really
> kinda spooky. It is right on, in and alongside one of those steep sided creeks
> that are indicative of flash flooding. Lots of "bottom land" type vegetation,
> kinda dark. The sunlight that does get through is dappled and all broken up
> which just makes spotting Copperheads and Canebrake Rattlers more difficult.
> Keeps one in a "heightened state of awareness" if one knows what one means! If
> you have never experienced meeting a big Canebrake Rattler at close proximity
> to your face, you need to get out there and do it before the opportunity to
> check the soundness of your heart gets away. Opportunities like that don't come
> around very often.

Lived in southeast Texas and southwest Louisiana most of my life, the native cane
here doesn't get much diameter but gets tall and hides all 5 of the poisonous
snakes in the US. Never came face to face with a canebrake rattler but beat a 7
foot timber rattler to the draw back in the sixties. Good thing I had a change of
drawers in the truck!

>     Back in the early '70's I was living in Marshall, Tx, 20 odd miles west of
> Shreveport, La. Found an enormous canebrake. Some of the stuff was 8 - 10
> inches in diameter. Cut a bunch of it and made porch swings, lawn furniture,
> wind chimes, etc.

See, that's what I'm wanting to do. Did you store it and let it dry first or work
it green?

Took it to the Trade Days at Canton, Tx. Stuff sold likecrazy. Took orders for
more. The day after we got home, back to the canebrake I

> went. Man, I'm deep inside the canebrake, hot, humid, sweat just arunnin'. I
> have a good sized bundle of Bamboo to drag out, but decided to cut down what
> must have been the oldest living bamboo in the cane brake. I was using a hand
> saw. It was tuff work. I had sawed almost through the trunk when up pops ol'
> grandmammy Cane Brake Rattlesnake. I mean big.  She had a head as big as my
> fist, and I have big hands. She's looking at me, looking at her. Wheeww!! That
> snake was about 2' from my face. I apologized for poking her with my saw,
> s-l-o-w-l-y backed out of there and retired from cutting anymore bamboo. She
> was a little bit stirred up but not bad. She would give her rattle a little
> shake and let it whir a little.

Probably had her belly full and decided you were more trouble than she wanted to
deal with.

>     I could see her when I closed my eyes that night to go to sleep.
>     Allen
>     Bastrop Co.
>     SE Central Tx.

I think if I got that close to one that size I would never sleep again. Been snake
bit twice, one as a 7-year old by a ground rattler - didn't even get sick. Second
time by a copperhead and I had to have the antivenin at the local hospital. Think I
was 23 or 24 at the time and was clearing a lot we built our first home on. Scared
Miz Anne worse than it did me. Stayed at the hospital overnight and then back home.
Reckon big ol' rattler like that would have enough poison to kill you pretty quick.
We sometimes have a problem with coral snakes in this area, haven't heard of one
biting anyone in recent years but one of the local hospitals keeps a supply of
antivenom just in case. Don't think one of those would be able to bite me, they
have to chew on you to inject their venom and I ain't giving one a chance to taste
much less chew.

George, waiting for the sun to warm the ground before I start doing a little