What’s quite a few bucks when it comes to protecting your homestead? There’s seems to be fewer and fewer of us left—you don’t even want to know how many funerals I attend annually—but most people over the age of 30 or so remember the flood year of 1983. I do. I was a sandbagging fool back then. By day, I’d spend hours filling the bags. By night, I’d hop aboard a flatbed truck and walk along Big Cottonwood Creek or Mill Creek where the waters met nearby houses and toss the bags in the general direction of the gushing waters. I don’t know if the water receded first or if the bags finally accumulated to sufficient height, but in the end, homes were spared costly flooding.
The flood year of 1983 was perhaps the last time I did any good at all for my fellow travelers on planet Earth. In the quarter century since the flood, I haven’t even squeegied the shower walls, let alone attempted to divert another rushing torrent. By the summer of 1984, I started this newspaper and all bets have been off ever since thanks to depletion of time, the sapping of energy and the rueful acknowledgement that bad people, bad laws, bad bands, bad food and floods never really go away. Vigilance is not an easy thing, even when your livelihood depends on it. So it is that this time around, instead of fighting the potential flood, I’m resigned to letting the water rise to wading levels in my basement and then letting the insurance company call me in St. George after it’s been repaired and it’s safe to come home.
It’s that way with the paper, too. I must be getting old because I have less energy to tilt at windmills these days. I let the staff do the tilting, and I’ve grown fond of learning that, like a flood, it’s as much fun to watch a fight as to be in one. I used to want to fight anybody, especially anybody who challenged this paper or an employee here. I always defended it, and them, harder than I defended myself, partly because of the sexy nobility factor that came my way by standing up for things I thought were right. Plus, people who defend themselves too much end up looking and sounding like Hillary Clinton. I’m better-looking than Hillary Clinton, and I want to keep it that way.
Shouldn’t be too hard to do.
Which brings me to the much anticipated chelada season. It really doesn’t, but I had to take a break from writing for about an hour, and I forgot where I was. Oh, yeah, the flood of 1983.
I was filling sandbags when someone called my name. Most everyone there was a Boy Scout and, I assure you, 25 years ago, I was not only a bad example for Boy Scouts but for their mothers, too. Off to one side were a bunch of guys dressed in bright orange. Half of them were black guys. About the only black guy I knew in 1983 was my friend and noted musician/frontman Tommy T, who now runs Q4U. I walked toward the group, anyway. And there, grinning ear to ear, was Victor Fontana, a guy I grew up with in Bingham Canyon and who, a few years earlier, had been sent to prison for murder.
He was filling sandbags with the Flame ’N’ Goes, a prison group that traveled around fighting forest fires. I guess they fought floods, too. Pretty soon, I was filling bags right there with them, laughing and having a good time. The guards didn’t seem to mind, so I joined them again the next day. The only thing I knew about prison life I learned by watching movies. I half expected a shovel to crack a skull at any time, but I guess if one guy did something stupid, they were all penalized. That kept most of the stupid things from happening and allowed them beyond the prison walls occassionally. They were courteous and respectful, too, never once asking me to deliver them some contraband.
Every year since 1983, I think of filling sandbags with the Flame ‘N’ Goes. Every year, I look up at the Wasatch mountains and wonder if it’s going to flood. Every year, it doesn’t. The only thing different this year is my confidence level—this year I’m sure it’s going to flood. I’m sure the waters will flow down State Street again. I’m sure Salt Lake City isn’t ready again. I’m sure all those new houses around the Hog Wallow Pub are in for a surprise.
I think it’s global warming or climate change or whatever, but when your beer doesn’t need a cooler and it’s damned near May, it’s time to think of something. I think the Earth was warmer before Earth Day started. I think the planet’s been Monkeywrenched. I think I’d like to talk to Hayduke about it. I think I’ll put on my mittens, go to my porch, have a chelada and see if he shows up. And watch Big Cottonwood Creek, just yards away, keep on rising.