Thursday, July 15, 2010

Yadkin River Blues

The stock market surged yesterday after aluminum giant Alcoa posted better-than-expected earnings. As Wall Street applauded, more than a few people in North Carolina were scratching their heads. They're in a legal battle with Alcoa over the use of the Yadkin River, which flows south from the Blue Ridge Mountains, through central North Carolina, eventually becoming the Pee Dee River and exiting to the sea in South Carolina.

Years ago Alcoa build four hydroelectric dams on the Yadkin and used the power to run a smelter which is now closed. They would like to renew their fifty-year lease on the river, but some locals and politicians say "no."
If the state misses this chance, it won't get another one for 50 years. Meanwhile, Alcoa will have perfected a perfidious kind of globalism: It still generates power from the Yadkin, and the power is still linked to industrial jobs—only the jobs are in Iceland.
The only certainty is that lawyers in Washington and Raleigh will be haggling about this for a long time to come.

But back to the Yadkin:

Years ago our friend Glen leased a small farm along the banks of the Yadkin. Glen was never a small man, and some say he topped the scales at well over three hundred pounds at times. North Carolina can get hot in the summer, and this year's no exception. It's always cooler in the shade by the river.

One summer I went down by the river to cool off. The fish wasn't biting and after a while I got to feelin' kinda lazy. I said what the hell, ain't nobody around, so I got off all my clothes, left 'em right there on the bank, and got into the river. The water was warm and I just floated on my back lookin' up at the blue sky and the clouds.
It was so relaxin' just floatin' there thinkin' about nothin' and after a while I just drifted off to sleep.

I still don't know how long I was asleep, but some time later I bumped up against something--it was a bridge piling--and I woke up. "Where the hell am I?" I musta floated almost two miles downstream. There was a highway with cars goin' over the bridge!

"Holy s--t! What am I gonna do?" This was gonna be hard to explain. I waited for almost half an hour for the traffic to slow up. Up by the bridge there was a couple of posters for a county fair that was comin' up. In between cars I ran up and got both of 'em, and positioned 'em fore and aft, so to speak.

It took me almost two hours find my way back to where I'd left my clothes. By then it was late, but not dark yet. I still don't know how I made it back there without anybody seeing me.

....Those were the days, my friend. We thought they'd never end....

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