Drought brings back 'water war' stories

Published 3:03 pm Wednesday, December 5, 2007

By By Lowell McGill
We are fortunate that our area has not suffered drought conditions like some other parts of the Southeast.
There are many who live in northern and eastern Alabama and western Georgia who have experienced extreme drought conditions for a couple of years now.
In a story carried by "The New York Times" a few weeks ago, it was pointed out that Georgia officials and residents had a special prayer day for rain. The article also related how the water shortage had actually caused some businesses to close their doors and some had to go bankrupt.
The story also related about a town in Tennessee, which had totally gone dry. The town used a fire truck to transport water from nearby north Alabama.
In an Associated Press article this week, several carwash owners in Sylacauga agreed to close one day a week as the city was fighting the drought. That article pointed out that the city, which has a population of 13,000 was keeping an eye on Lake Howard, their main drinking water source. The lake was down nine feet from its normal level.
I have a friend who lives not too far from Rome, Ga. and he tells me that a lot of animosity has built up between neighbors and friends. He says some simply will not comply with conserving water, while others are practicing proper water conservation.
He told me that homes that contained four to five bathrooms were "part of our problems." He said these large size homes were found in the larger cities. A farmer friend of his had to sell off all his cattle because he did not have enough water for them. He said he knew of one event that took place near him involving a salesman who lived in a large Georgia city and who let it be known he had four to five bathrooms in his home. He said this salesman made regular calls on customers near him. Well, when it was learned that the salesman and his family used so much water he lost those accounts. His customers became angry art him. It was pointed out to the salesman that it was unfair for him to "flush that many toilets" in his home, while his neighbors were under such a strain to conserve water.
The states of Alabama, Georgia and Florida have been at odds for the past few years and several meetings of these states' governors have occurred in an effort to get a fair share of water distributed through these three states.
When I was a very small boy I heard older folks talk about a severe drought that hit southeastern Alabama. I remember hearing my grandfather tell my dad and others of a "water war" in north Baldwin County. I don't remember the time period when it happened, but it must have been in the 1930s.
Back in those days Perdido had a small turpentine barrel manufacturing business. My grandfather worked at this small firm as I was told. He said that certain firms and individuals would come in and buy new barrels. They would put the barrels on wagons, which were pulled by mules and oxen. They would then set out to some secluded area to get water.
Some the details of this are vague to me now. But he said because of the seriousness of the drought some of those men would carry with them on their wagons blasting powder and guns. He never did say that any one was hurt or killed, but he said area residents living away from Perdido heard loud-sounding blasts, assuming coming from the blasting powder.
He said men "from all walks of life" came and bought these barrels. I heard him tell my dad one time that men who were believed to be "moonshiners" bought barrels for using water in their trade as their water supply had also gone dry.
I never heard him say where the water supply was located. But I do remember him stating that it was one of the worst droughts ever seen in this area.
I saw a report on the Internet just a few days ago that no real relief is in sight over the next two to three months. If you want some good information about Alabama's water problems tune in to Montgomery's TV Station on cable channel 8. I don't know if this station can be seen on a dish system. But they have drought reports on all counties, mostly in northern and eastern Alabama. You can actually see those rivers and streams that have almost totally gone dry this past year.
Lets hope those areas that are suffering now will get the necessary rainfall that will bring the levels up to normal standards.
Next week I hope to have finished a column about our "number, please" ladies. I'm speaking about those days when you didn't dial a phone number, you had those "soothe talking girls and women" dial it for you.
Lowell McGill is a historical columnist for The Atmore Advance. He can be reached at exam@frontiernet.net

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