Adventures while walking about Auburn, Alabama and its environs...
17 May 2021

The Bamboo Forest

My last article mentioned the Burke Place neighborhood that was built just to the east of the Stage Road subdivision that I grew up in during the 1980s. During those years Burke Place was nothing but wooded land (if I remember correctly, the property was all owned by a family named "Fuller" -- I think a "Jessica Fuller" rode the same bus to school as I did during that time).

Those woods were on the opposite side of the Stage Road neighborhood from my house, so I was much more likely to explore the area around the Dirt Road directly behind my house. Every now and then, however, my friends and I would get adventurous and travel to parts farther afield.

One of those wanderings took us to "The Bamboo Forest". My memory of this place is more about the idea of the place rather than the place itself, if that makes sense. There was an area in the woods (where Burke Place now sits) that had a lot of bamboo in it (bamboo, like kudzu or wisteria, can grow out of control very quickly), and I know that at least one time I ventured to it. But, I think I only visited that place once in my whole childhood (maybe twice). And yet, growing up, if at any time any of our main group of friends mentioned "the bamboo forest", we immediately knew what was being referenced, and it seemed like this almost mythical place.

The one journey I can recall involved following a creek through the woods (not the creek at Chisholm Drive mentioned in the previous article, but one from the railroad tracks to the north heading south into the woods). At some point we (I was with my brother, and friends Steve and Jim, I think), came to the patch of heavy growth bamboo. We were also scouting out for the house on the property (which I assume was still owned, but maybe not lived in, by the Fullers). I have a vague memory of seeing the house through the trees, and a much more distinct memory of coming across an old well in the ground. The well was uncovered and a dead opossum was drowned in it.

But these memories are all nearly dreamlike now. I'm sure for the week after that excursion my thoughts about it were razor sharp; but I'm writing this nearly forty years later. How much of the above is accurate? I'm really not sure.

My doubts about the veracity of all of this were such that when I was walking through Burke Place last weekend, I asked myself, "just how real was this Bamboo Forest?... is there even any bamboo remaining in this neighborhood?" So, I kept my eyes peeled, on the lookout for any of that vegetation.

I almost missed it. But, while standing at the intersection of Burke Place (the road) and Burke Lane (not to be confused with nearby Burke Court), I spotted a few tall stalks of bamboo at the back of someone's proerty. You can see it out in the center background of this photo (I didn't want to go tromping through someone's yard just to satisfy my Bamboo Forest Curiosity):

The location of this bamboo seems to align with my memories. There is a creek very close by (a creek that runs from the north to the south), and I believe the original house-in-the-woods was at my back as I took the above picture (it's the only house that seems older than the more recently built domiciles). I could not, however, find an old well or cesspit anywhere around.

But again, this may be a case of my brain re-forming memories to fit an imagined narrative. There is definitely a little bit of bamboo in the area still, and I know we, as kids, frequently talked about "The Bamboo Forest", but whether that "forest" was prominent enough to warrant its nearly legendary status is a very worthy question, indeed.

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