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Thursday, July 24, 2014
My Jungle Adventure, Missouri stylePosted Monday, August 27, 2007, at 7:34 AM
My daughter Kristin grapples with a large polk plant in the back yard jungle of her aunt's Springfield home. In the background can be seen the harvested remains of the bamboo forest, recently cut down with machetes and other implements of destruction.
Where, you ask? Ah, if only it were on my parched Tillman farm! Sorry, no such luck!
I took my trusty work crew and drove the old farm truck over to the rolling hills of Southwest Missouri to help my sister, whose back yard looks like a South American jungle, complete with lost Mayan temples and a hidden tree of life. To complete the jungle theme, a torrential Friday night storm swept up from the southwest, filling Springfield streets and dry creeks with WATER! I couldn't believe it! Over here in the Southeast, we've forgotten what rain feels like.
The torrent swept right up the I-44 line (as usual), and bypassed Southeast Missouri, just as it did in that awful summer of 1983, when my husband were standing out on our farm, watching the sky and praying for a rain which never came.... Why does this climate DO that??
One look at my sister's back yard jungle (the reason for our journey), and I knew immediately that this part of the state had been keeping the rain to themselves!
I have never seen polk bushes so tall in my life! There was a veritable polk bramble in that back yard. The bamboo that my sweet, sainted mother had planted many years ago, pruning religiously every fall, was now woven into a mysterious inpenetrable labyrinth along the fence. Enormous piles of February ice-storm damage still dotted the landscape, furnishing more spots for a veritable forest of polk plants with stems larger than my wrist. Had it been just 3-4 short months since I last tackled that massive back yard? How could it have grown so big, so fast??
My daughter and her boyfriend, armed with machetes, disappeared into the polk/bamboo forest, hacking plants 10-12 feet tall. My sister and I attacked the mountains of broken, shattered tree branches, loading them into wagons and wheelbarrows and pushing/pulling them uphill to my truck, which seemed miles away in the front yard.
Ah, yes, folks, this is Ultimate Yard Work at its best. Man (and woman) against the elements of the Jungle, pitting our strength and wits against those ancient forces of primitive nature.
Beasts and poison ivy lurked in every darkened recess, as we hacked our way through the Great Polk Forest of the Southwest. I fully expected to see flesh-eating vegetation larger than a hippopotamus, reaching out to snatch us up like popcorn!
This must be what those intrepid explorers of that great southern continent felt like when they explored the wilds of ancient Brazil. I fully expected to meet Stanley Livingston deep under the branches of that rambling forest of polk.
"Dr. Livingston, I presume?" I would say.
"Why, yes, my dear lady. Would you like a spot of tea?" he would reply, as he gave me a seat beneath the bamboo trees... He leans forward to pour my tea....
"Madeline, what are you doing?!" shouts my sister. "Get back here and help me load this wood!"
"Sorry, Dr. Livingston. Perhaps another time," I murmur...as I pick my way back to reality...
Saturday evening finds us filthy, bug-bitten, and scratched, but happy. Though we have not finished my sister's massive brush clean up, we HAVE made a difference.
She treats us all to a delightful vegetarian dinner at Tasia, and we live to fight another day...another weekend.
I'm sure Dr. Livingston will wait for us under the bamboo, until we can all get another weekend off to go deep into the darkest Jungle of Southwest Missouri, searching for the key of life, the fountain of youth, the lost City of Atlantis...
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Madeline (Giles) DeJournett is the Advance writer for the North Stoddard Countian. A retired high school English/history teacher, she spent 32 years teaching in 5 schools in Missouri and Alaska. These days, she lives quietly with a menagerie of wild and domestic animals on 52 secluded acres in the remote Tillman hills south of Advance. She graduated from Dexter High School in 1960 and Southeast Missouri State in 1964. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 573-722-5322.