It’s been in the news the past few months that multiple U.S. cities are suffering from lack of water.
This at a time, parts of Middle Tennessee has had record water amounts in June, July and August.
But, it was only last summer that we were in a severe drought, amplified by sweltering temperatures that lingered for days over 100 degrees. Several days in a row, my hometown of Smyrna was listed on Channel 4 as the hottest spot in Tennessee.
While Tennessee and most Southeastern states have received ample rain this year, several cities in central Texas, where first cousin Robert Terry “Good Boy” Reed lives, are having major water shortages.
And droughts are often accompanied by hot temps that magnify the problem.
“Yesterday our temp was 108-degrees,” noted Good Boy’s wife, Carol, a native of Fort Worth. “Today, the temp is again 108 and Thursday, the forecast calls for the hot dry weather to continue.”
Without water, like food and oxygen, there would be no civilization. Without the Stones River that flows out of the side of Short Mountain, it’s likely there would be no present-day blessed communities of Woodbury, Readyville, Murfreesboro and Smyrna.
Although I’ve seen no serious studies about this, I think it’s safe to surmise that there’s been as many “killings” down through the centuries over water as there have been over unfaithful lovers and greed for gold, wealth and power.
Growing up alongside the mighty Mississippi River, I noticed as a farm boy that it was either feast or famine regarding water. It was the uncertainty of farming, due partly to lack of water or too much water, that I decided at an early age I would not following in my father’s footsteps.
I recall 1951 was one of those extremely wet years in the six-county “Bootheel” cotton farming region of southeast Missouri, located directly across from Tennessee’s Reelfoot Lake formed partially when the mighty Mississippi “ran backwards” in the New Madrid Earthquakes of 1811-12.
Like West Tennessee counties near the river, the Missouri Bootheel counties remain some of the most fertile farm land in the world.
As a six-year-old farm boy, I learned early in life that water can quickly become a crisis for farm families.
Daddy Whittle had been dead less than a year in the 1951 spring planting season, when widowed Mama Whittle came bolting into our farm house one early morning, cursing and crying at the same time.
It was the most angry I’d ever seen Mother.
“Someone has dug a damn ditch across the road back behind Little River … that’s drowning out our soybean and cotton crops,” Mother described.
Mother franticly instructed older brother, Van, to load our farm truck with bricks and concrete blocks.
She ordered sister June, the oldest child, to round up all the picks and shovels we had in our farm sheds.
“Danny, you go get the shotgun, and bring all the ammunition we have stored on the back porch,” Mother ordered.
Upon arriving at that “damn ditch,” my job, being I was too small to man the shovels, was to hold the shotgun with both barrels fully loaded with No. 3 buckshot.
I remember this scene as clearly as if it happened last month.
“Danny, keep that shotgun near me, in case the (sob) farmer that dug this damn ditch comes up on us,” Mother cursed some more.
Within minutes, the real-life drama heightened, as the farmer in question approached in his own farm truck as Mother, brother and sister were feverishly working at damming up that “damn ditch.”
Fortunately, the farmer stopped his truck before getting within “shooting distance” of Mother’s shotgun.
Do I think Mother would have shot the man dead in his tracks over that “damn ditch” that was flooding our fields?
Yes, without a doubt.
And I recall my mother’s heart-aching words: “He would never have had the guts to dig that damn ditch, if your daddy was still alive.” Amen!