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Sunday, March 03, 2002 ISSUE #220
 

 

ATLANTA: I'm down here in Bobby Jones country, spending the weekend with 500 professional speakers. There's 10,000 high school principals from all over the country convening in the same place, so the speakers are here, mostly, to caddy for 'em. You can imagine all the demerits we accumulated, and are still working off, for talking out of turn in class.

We've heard some great oratory from the platform. Actually, with this bunch it's more like casual conversation and clean entertainment, presented with a clear message of hope for a bright future. We heard Gus Gustafson, T. Scott Gross, a former Miss South Carolina Jane Jenkins Herlong, and Bob Danzig, the former CEO for the publishing company founded by William Randolph Hearst. And a man you all remember from the Newlywed Game on television, Bob Eubanks. These folks, and dozens more who took their turns at the microphone, were at their best, to help make us all better.

But the one speaker we were all thinking about was not in Atlanta, except in spirit. Art Berg died suddenly two weeks ago, just shy of his fortieth birthday. He had been paralyzed in an accident almost twenty years ago, but life in a wheelchair had not slowed him down. He was always optimistic and cheerful, so much so that doctors treating him in the months after the car wreck that took away use of his legs, diagnosed him as having "Excessive Happiness". Well, they were right about the Happiness.

Art Berg may be gone, but his message remains. By coincidence, if your Sunday paper today came with the Parade insert, look at the inside back cover and you'll see a column from his book, The Impossible Just Takes a Little Longer.

All I know is what I read in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution or what I see from my window on the 31st floor of the Marriott Marquis. It rained yesterday, but Georgia is suffering through a long drought and water is getting mighty scarce.

Let me give you an inkling of how tight the supply is. On the bathroom sink in my room, next to those little bottles of shampoo and body lotion, the Marriott had placed a quart jar of water, imported all the way from the French Alps. The sign said it was there for my convenience, but in fine print it said if I opened the bottle, a charge of $4.00 would be added to my room tab.

There was no sign suggesting what the cost would be if I took a drink from the sink, or warning me as to where that water had come from. But those Marriott folks are some of the nicest you could ever meet, and they can't help it if the Chattahoochee is running on empty.

According to the newspaper, everyone is cutting back except for the farmers. There's a state law that says farmers can use all they want to irrigate their crops, and don't even have to tell how many gallons they use. This is an old law, passed during Prohibition. Every farm had a still, and the Legislators didn't want to risk cutting off their private supply during dry weather. A Legislature can pass laws in a pinch without water, but to lubricate the fine-tuned machinery of government, alcohol is essential.

So the farmers have the water, and the folks in Atlanta, and surrounding states, would like to get a share of it. Florida wants to irrigate the Everglades, but after Georgia waters all the peach trees, peanuts and watermelons, there won't be a drop make it past Valdosta.

Now I ain't getting myself caught between farmers and a newspaper, but it is surprising that here we are in a country where folks complain if they have to pay $1.50 a gallon for gasoline, or $2.50 for milk, and yet water at $16.00 a gallon gets not a mention in the editorial pages.

If the French want to sell us their water at $16 a gallon, we should trade 'em our corn for the same price.

Georgia isn't the only state worrying over water. In Oklahoma the Choctaw and Chickasaw hired a lawyer to re-read the old treaties, and they have found, or at least they think they have found, that these two fine Indian Tribes own the rights to all the water on, and under, about two-thirds of the state. That seems fair because the farmers and everybody else can have what falls on the other third. Except for one little defect, it don't rain but seldom on their third. You might wonder what will the Indians do with all that water, it's too far to pump it to Atlanta.

Well, they have found a closer market, in North Texas. They may not draw the same rate as the French, but even if they only get 16 cents a gallon, it beats what they're getting now, which is nothing. But you just wait; the Governor will figure a way to keep a hundred percent of the water, and a hundred percent of the wampum, leaving the old Indian high and dry as usual.

I saw a headline in USA Today: "Hollywood and Congress Team Up on Ethics Probe". What a laugh. I don't know what the story was about, but can you picture those two on Ethics. Why, that would be like Colonel Sanders and Oprah Winfrey combining to open a Texas Steakhouse. There couldn't be any two with less interest in a subject, or know as little about it.

Historic quote from Will Rogers:

"You could be the World's greatest orator and if you don't say anything while orating, they are going to walk out on you after a while." WA #139, August 9, 1925


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