More Jackson County Opinions...

JULY 21, 2004


Column

By: Virgil Adams
The Jackson Herald
July 21, 2004

The rain came down — and ran amuck
For 14 months I’ve wondered why I tossed it in the shoebox. Now I know. I saved it for a rainy day. In late June and early July, we had a lot of those.
Ever notice how we spend weeks wishing and praying for rain. Then, when it starts raining, we spend a day or two wishing and praying it would stop.
Why is that? I guess it’s because we can get along better with dry than wet. Dry weather doesn’t cancel so much of our stuff.
It may help to remember that it always rains after a dry spell, and the sun always shines after a storm. At least, that has been my observation over the years. I’m willing to leave God in charge of the weather, although I don’t like what He does sometimes. If you think you can do a better job, I don’t know where to tell you to apply.
It is true that we had flooding before flood control dams. It is also true that we’ve got flooding after flood control dams.
Why is that? In a little while I’m going to tell you why I think that is.
This is the headline in the story I saved 14 months ago: “Flooding spurs outcry.”
That always happens when things don’t go our way. Find somebody or something to blame. Just don’t blame the rain.
Here’s how the story began in that May 10, 2003, newspaper: “A wall of water that stopped traffic on I-85 for 15 hours and chased 300 people from their homes was still lapping through this town (West Point) Friday (May 9).
“Businesses and homeowners were mopping up in sight of the West Point dam, which has tamed the Chattahoochee River for 28 years, until Thursday.”
Why did the dam not contain the river this time? Sure, six inches of rain was a contributing factor. But like I said, don’t blame the rain. What, then?
In the last 28 years a few (few?) subdivisions were put in upstream. That took out a number (a number?) of trees and made several (several?) streets and driveways necessary.
Full blown shopping malls and smaller strip malls proliferated during the 28 years since 1976, and their buildings and parking lots required several loads of asphalt and concrete.
Roadways and highways had to be built and widened to accommodate the traffic. Service stations and convenience stores had to be built to accommodate traffic’s demand for fuel and food.
Farther up river, condominiums, apartments, liquor stores, restaurants, night clubs and bars joined the rat race and turned a beautiful wilderness into ugly wildness.
The big airport — first Atlanta, then Hartsfield, then Hartsfield International, now Jackson-Hartsfield International — has also seen a change or two in recent years.
The big city has grown, too. Sprawl moved west, north and east, overrunning Gwinnett and Barrow Counties, and is about to swallow up Jackson.
Oh, my!
And we wonder why six inches of rain flooded the town of West Point.
Let me tell you why. There ain’t enough dirt left in the metropolitan area north of that town to soak up that much water. It fell on pavement and had no choice but to run. It ran into the Chattahoochee, and then south to West Point.
It didn’t help any that Lake Lanier was about to overflow, and they had to open the dam to let more water run into the Hooch. Why? Because there ain’t enough dirt left around Gainesville and Lake Lanier to soak up six inches of water.
And we ain’t seen nothing yet. Just keep on developing. Just keep on paving. Just don’t call it progress. Sometimes you can call developing and paving a disaster.
Sometime ago I told some of you when the world is going to come to an end. However, a lot of people have moved to Jackson County in recent years, hoping to escape the sprawl and traffic congestion and settle down in a quiet, peaceful, tranquil countryside with huge, beautiful shade trees and green grass growing all ‘round. They need to hear my warning, too. So bear with me.
Please understand, newcomers, that I am no prophet, and my theory is not very theological. I’ll leave theology to the theologians.
Some of us believe it started in a garden, one man and one woman in the most beautiful and bountiful spread ever planted and cultivated. It was the harvest that screwed things up.
Well, my theory is, it’s going to end in a garden, one old man and one old lady, hanging in there, tilling, planting, hoeing, weeding, trying to grow a few fresh homegrown tomatoes.
As time passes, their garden becomes smaller and smaller. It used to be a whole acre. Then 100 square feet. Then ten. Now it is down to one square foot. That’s all the dirt that’s left. But the old man and old lady refuse to abandon their garden.
Then one night, under cover of darkness, a DOT truck backs up to the one square foot of Good Earth that’s left in the world and dumps a load of concrete on it.
Open the floodgates and turn out the lights?
Ridiculous? Sure it is. It is, isn’t it?
Virgil Adams is former editor and owner of The Jackson Herald.

Jackson County Opinion Index

Column

By: Susan Harper
The Commerce News
July 21, 2004

Vacationing In Quandary
“You know, Susan” a writer named Leo Litwak once cautioned me, “if you live your fantasies, you can’t write them.” It was obviously one of those can’t-have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too warnings; but why was he warning me? A single parent with two boys and two jobs, I was in graduate school as well – apparently forever. (It actually took six and a half years.)
But of course Leo was right. We were living in one of the world’s great cities, and one of my jobs was in publishing, the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. My son who loved acting could go to a performing-arts high school; my son who loved surfing could design his own curriculum, learn on a tutorial basis, and spend some of those valuable daytime hours at the beach! For our offbeat little family, this was definitely a fantasy life of sorts. And it left very little time for writing.
I’ve thought of Leo’s warning many times over the years. It implies a duality I seem to see everywhere. Right now I’m trying to get ready to go on vacation. This is more complicated for me than for most people, I suspect, partly because all during my childhood, Commerce was where we went on vacation – and now I live here.
Beyond that, though, I think the whole idea of vacation presents us with a quandary, which Noah Webster says is “a state of perplexity or uncertainty” – one state I don’t have to plan a trip to. Consider the work involved in vacationing. For me, this time, it means making travel arrangements, coordinating with fellow vacationers (in this case, my family), doing routine tasks and office work ahead, and attending to whatever’s on top of the prioritized pile on my desk, calling for attention in a tiny high voice like something out of “The Omen” so I can’t ignore it.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, there are clothes to be washed, dried, folded or – heaven help us – ironed, and packed. Get gas in the car, take all the trash out, have the mail and paper held, water the plants, be sure to pack your allergy medication . . . am I hitting you where you live yet? Or rather, where you vacation? Is it just me, or do a lot of us think wistfully, somewhere in here, “Maybe I should just take the time off and stay home.”
By the time you read this, I’ll have been to my annual family reunion on St. Simons Island, and (heaven willing) I will have been back for days. I will already have unpacked, put everything away, gone to the grocery store, picked up the mail, and started trying to catch up with my work. And my guess is that I will still be basking in the glow of that brief but halcyon time with my sons, siblings, parents, cousins, uncles and aunts. Someone (like my Aunt Mera’s famous parasailing adventure) will have done something wacky that we’ll remember for years. Someone else will have had a birthday or gotten engaged; one year we even had a wedding. And every year we have a talent show.
And yes, I’ll be as tired as when I left. But it’ll be a different kind of tired. A sand-in-your-shoes kind of tired. A vacation kind of tired. Worth working for, I reckon.

Susan Harper is director of the Commerce Public Library.


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