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Toast to the killer of kudzu
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The year begins with outstanding news: A University of Georgia junior has discovered a cure for kudzu.

That’s right friends; kudzu is hereby warned. Jacob Schindler has received a patent for a device that will eliminate kudzu.

Kudzu has been an enemy of mine for years. For those of you who purchased a copy of my Times’ best-seller, “When Old Mowers Die,” you may remember the title column was about the death of my 8-horsepower Snapper Comet riding mower in a lost battle with kudzu.

Our yard was a kudzu proving ground, with kudzu proving it had the upper hand. It took a guy named Earl with a giant excavator to remove the evil vine from our yard. We had several dumpsters filled with kudzu and shipped it to a landfill. There is a landfill guy who may curse me when he reads this.

Kudzu, it seems, has been on Jacob Schindler’s list (I had to do it) since he was in grade school. His efforts continued in middle and high school. Now, he has found a sure-fire kudzu killer using a drill and helium. Voila!

The vine was introduced to the United States at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876. It came from Asia and was heralded as a cure for erosion. It was introduced to the South in 1883 at another exposition in New Orleans.

Kudzu is mean and evil. It is primarily found in the Southeast U.S., but has been seen as far north as Nova Scotia and in all five boroughs of New York City.

In 1943, author Betty Smith wrote the classic, “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.” It is metaphorically about the Tree of Heaven, another Asian import that grows on vacant lots in New York. There is some kinship to kudzu, which grows on about every vacant lot in Georgia. I don’t know how much kudzu there is in Brooklyn, Staten Island or The Bronx, but plenty of it is in our neck of the woods.

Jacob Schindler has the potential to become a rich young man, but he told a newspaper in Valdosta he was in no rush.

There is something ironic about helium being the nemesis of kudzu. I have spoken several non-Sunday-school words to my former kudzu crop. The thought of being able to suck in a little helium and speak to it in a squeaky voice has some appeal to me.

Jacob’s device is known as KEHTA. It stands for Kudzu Eradicating Helium Technology Apparatus. That sounds impressive.

Young Schindler’s invention is now among a list of my favorite things invented in Georgia. They include ether for anesthesia, invented by our Jackson County neighbor, Dr. Crawford Long.

A few years ago, when I turned 50, they made a little movie of me over at the hospital. In hindsight, pun intended, I am glad they had modern anesthesia. The thought of biting a bullet after swigging some straight whiskey wasn’t all that appealing.

I’m also grateful to Dr. John Stith Pemberton, the Georgia-born inventor of Coca-Cola. It is my beverage of choice and I am forever loyal to my home state’s fine product.

Let’s raise a Coca-Cola to Jacob Schindler, our state’s new inventor, and wish him well with his kudzu killer.

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on

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