Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The River Flows or Does it?

Move to Atlanta

By Richard E. Noble

It was at the Courthouse in Apalachicola over 20 years ago. A group of “politicos” had come to our tiny “fishing village” from the big city of Atlanta - one fancy dressed squirt, in his suit and tie, was from the Georgia governor’s office in that land of prosperity and unrestricted growth.
They were here to explain to us why they had the right to take water from the Apalachicola River System for their growing, prosperous, big city in Georgia.
The courthouse was near capacity, packed with white boots, jeans, and baseball caps - no suits and ties.
All the seafood workers knew that the bay needed the river. All of us didn’t know exactly why the bay needed the river, but you didn’t have to be a real genius to see that there was a connection.
We were all there to learn and the first thing we learned was that as Atlanta grew in size and population, the Apalachicola River got lower and lower. There was a big lake up there called Lake Lanier and the city of Atlanta was draining water from the river system and storing it in Lake Lanier for drinking water. So the argument was kind of slanted. The suits and ties from Atlanta wanted to know what was more important - the lives of prosperous, hard working, successful citizens up in Atlanta or a few oysters or shrimp down here in this dying “little fishing village” at the bottom of this long river; a village that was filled with dilapidated (rustic) tin shacks and a small group of workers who had the misguided notion that maintaining their subsistence level and traditional livelihoods was being successful.
As the argument progressed our side down here at the mouth of the river was looking shabbier and shabbier. The suits and ties talked about “citizens” and constitutional rights and prosperity and growth, and MONEY. In Atlanta they all made MONEY!
The fishermen were all very understanding of growth and prosperity, but they pointed out that this was not exactly an argument of people against “oysters”; it was actually some people against some other people. The people down here in Apalachicola caught the oysters and other seafood, and sold it to other people and made their living. It was people vs. people, not people vs. Polar Bears or Blue Nosed Sap-sucking Yellow Peckered Warblers.
The suits and ties understood people needing to make a living but they didn’t understand why the seafood workers couldn’t just do something else. Like in the Willie Nelson song “don’t let your sons grow up to be cowboys, let them be lawyers and doctors and such” - why didn’t the seafood workers in Apalachicola just let their children become doctors and lawyers and such and forget about catching oysters and crabs and shrimp.
Here we had the Will Rogers type county talkin’ simple folk in a debate with the Atlanta school of wannabe Harvard graduates with a southern drawl. Talk about living in two different worlds; well here they were.
The suits and ties had flown down here in their space ships and the locals had carted themselves over on their buckboards and the two were here discussing the future.
One group knew exactly what their intentions and goals were and what they were going to do. And the other group was being told to move and make way. And that was it; pure and simple.
Finally one of the white boots and baseball cap crowd said: “Yeah but what about our rights? Ain’t we citizens too? I have always heard that this is a country where all men are created equal; where we all have equal rights and freedom. How can you guys just do whatever you want up there and tell us down here to all go to hell?”
“Well, we aren’t telling you to go to hell. You’re missing the point,” said the representative from the Georgia Governor with his wily wannabe Harvard lawyer’s smirk. “In fact, if you would like, you could all move to Atlanta too. We’d love to have you all join us up there.”
The white boot man then said; “So you ain’t exactly telling us that we can all go to hell, you are just asking us to all voluntarily move there.”
Unfortunately we seem to be getting an instant replay of this past scenario. Only this time it is coming directly from the horse’s mouth. Now due to over-development and lack of foresight a new Georgia Governor demands more water for their lawns and putting greens and recommends potential devastation for our commercial and sport fishing paradise. Come on People!

Richard E. Noble has been a resident of Eastpoint for around thirty years now. He has authored two books: “A Summer with Charlie” which is currently listed on and “Hobo-ing America” which should be listed on Amazon in the not too distant future. Most recently he completed his first novel “Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother” which will be published soon.