The rivers provided the large amounts of water that was needed.
—Georgia, by Elmer D. Williams, Ph.D., University of Georgia
Principal Lurlene called all her teachers and said we had the day off. Bridges were out and so were a lot of streets, she said.
It’s rained that hard for that long. I asked her what she was going to do with her free day and she said she was going to cook something. I imagine her husband and our little school’s English teacher, Old Burrell, was going to do a lot of the eating. They’re already calling it the Great Georgia Flood. It hasn’t been great for a whole lot of people.
I turned on the TV and the 81st governor of Georgia said he’d really like for everybody who doesn’t need to go out to stay inside and be safe. Later, a local TV reporter interviewed one of those good ol’ boys who work our roads said, “We’d really appreciate it if folks would stay home and quit poking around and gawking and let us do our jobs.”
I walked down a road near where I live and asked the good ol’ boy who works the roads for the city if I could walk down the road and look at the bridge. He had his city truck and some orange cones and some yellow tape blocking off the road.
He said, “I don’t care.”
Some woman came rolling up, and she didn’t know the roads real good and he told her the best directions to get where she was going and she looked a little freaked out as she drove off.
The good ol’ boy said to me, then, “These people come down these roads all the time and when they have to go some other way it just bowggles their minds.” He threw his hands in the air.
“Pays to know your area,” I said, puffing on a delicious cigar.
He said the water was bubbling up through the bridge. About three or four in the morning he said it was over the bridge but it was just right under the bridge right then. He moaned, “We’re probably going to be here all night.” He looked like he needed a cold can of beer.
I walked down the road, which crosses over a big stream coming out of a north Georgia lake. I looked at a map a while back because I wanted to know the stream’s genesis. The big stream is called Big Creek, and it’s a tributary to the Chattahoochee River that eventually flows to the Gulf of Mexico.
The sun was coming out finally, and mixed with the humidity I felt my neck and face begin to burn. I was thinking that detoured woman should buy a map and get to know the local scene. I told my little historians while I was teaching them a little geography one day that the moment you look at one of those maps you get from the gas station you get all intimidated, you shouldn’t be. Maps are made to help you. Maps are full of information. Hell, you couldn’t run a war if you didn’t have maps. Cartography. It ain’t for nerds. Understanding maps is James Bond cool.
You know it’s been a bad rain when you see so many dead frogs. I saw a lot of them along the side of the road. The air smells different during a flood. I got to the bridge, where they’d put some asphalt in the cracks in the road surface of the bridge. You could easily mush the asphalt with your shoe. I like that fresh asphalt smell. But, this was dangerous water: orange, rushing, angry water. It was so high it altered all memories about what the area used to look like. I go over this bridge at least four times a day. A huge, amber colored ant was walking across the bridge on top of the guard rail, going eastbound. Taking the highest road. The amber ant sparkled in the sun.
I started walking back. Next to the road and through the woods is a nice private golf course, where I used to play a lot. I walked up through the woods and onto a concrete cart path and saw another altered landscape. The fairway of the 5th hole of the course—a par 5—was under water, all the way from the men’s tees to the green. The orange water wasn’t still. It was flowing, but it was strangely quiet there on the golf course. A hawk circled overhead. I called my best friend with whom I used to play golf on this course a million times and left him a voice mail message. I said in a somber tone, “You would not believe what I’m looking at right now.”
I got back up to the roadblock and a guy in one of those huge pick-up trucks came rolling up. The city road worker told him the detour, and then the guy in the pick-up truck says something I hadn’t heard in a long time. And you could tell the guy meant it, too. You could tell he wasn’t making fun of the two rednecks standing there sweating and breathing cigar smoke by some warning cones and flapping caution tape. The guy said in a real loud southern accent, “Dad gum…” then guns his diesel-sucking monster and roars off.
The South ain’t dead. It’s been rising. And it’s orange.
Image credit: Flickr Creative Commons/Andrew Kalat