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Kudzu, killer bees, bears and bad columns - Daniel Silliman

I heard about Kudzu while playing out behind the back of the church, playing with the other kids, where you hear the really strange and scary and scandalous stuff.

An unstoppable, fast-growing vine or weed with a weird name that just grows over the top of everything and couldn't be killed and was taking over the South.

I didn't believe it.

Even though I believed in the apocalypse and the coming destruction of the earth, I didn't believe in Kudzu.

I said, "Na uh." And the kid who knew, said, "Yeah huh," and later, my dad confirmed the news. Living in Texas, my dad had also told me about the killer bees, coming up from Mexico.

So it was just a question of which horror was going to reach us first, but it was obviously either death by kudzu or killer bee.

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I have written 117 columns, not including this one. I still don't feel like I know how to write a column.

There are a couple or three columns I think were good, but normally the closest I get to writing something decent, in my opinion, is having an interesting idea. I go back and forth between thinking I want to write essays and thinking I want to write a sort-of, piece-at-a-time memoir. When I finally figure out what I'm doing, maybe I'll figure out how to do it decently.

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The kid who told me about Kudzu also told me that ground hamburger was made out of worms and that fast food companies owned really large worm farms.

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There are some columnists I really like. They always sound like themselves and give me the strong sense that have a project.

I don't have a project here.

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When I was a kid in the mountains of California, a bear ate our chickens. There were a dozen or so laying hens, and then there was nothing but feathers and one detached leg.

The bear ate a bunch of our neighbor's sheep and some garbage. There were a lot of sightings, that summer. We all talked about what to do if you walked up on a bear, how to make yourself look really tall and not run. That was emphasized -- "Don't run."

We got dad's shotgun and loaded it with solid shot and waited for the bear. We figured he'd come back and we'd kill him before he started eating dogs or toddlers. (We figured he was a he.) Our neighbor, who ran a hunting-guide service, got a big movie director from L.A. to sign on to a bear-hunting trip.

If my life were a book for young adults, I would have killed the bear and become a man, or learned to understand the bear and protected the bear, fighting back against violent and bigoted adult society.

In truth, nothing happened. There's no ending to the story.

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Another fake memoirist was caught recently. A lot of people are upset.

I don't know why you would fake a memoir. I ask, "Why?" but I don't say it in the, "oh-I'm-so-hurt-and-I'm-struggling-to-understand" tone, but more like "why-are-you-sticking-a-swirly-straw-in-your-eye?"

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My brother shot a snake with that shotgun. We said the snake was six feet long, but really that's just guessing, because it was shot with a shot gun and a middle piece was missing.

I haven't asked him directly, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't life-changing.

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The more I write columns, the more I come up with random rules about how it's done. I have a list I'm not allowed to write about, for example.

There's a second, longer list, about things I can write about, but have so far always failed. That list includes: Greek myth, Freudian analysis, and literary theory.

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Growing up, I knew three men who were missing fingers. None of them really had anything in common, except they fascinated me.

Daniel Silliman covers crime for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached at (770) 478-5753, ext. 254, or via e-mail at dsilliman@news-daily.com.