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Mack Williams: From the sublime to the ridiculous

The recent 3 days and nights of rain (still 37 short of Biblical proportion) made many impressions upon me.

The Dan River rose to over 25 feet, its surface marked by miles-long, “zig-zag” white froth contrasted with milk chocolate background. If the late Bob Ross were painting the flooding river, he would not have said: “Happy little river!”

I imagined those bubbly surface churnings hinting at unseen river bottom topography, sort of like “foaming braille.”

A curved tree limb protruded from the water, resembling that classic picture of “Nessie” used in the trailer of the old “In Search Of” series hosted by the late Leonard Nimoy.

School groups still came to our science museum in the strong, steady rain. While escorting them to their bus, I saw a pale, alien-looking “monster” squirming and slithering along the inundated brick walkway. Not as co-ordinated as a snake, the front half of its body moved forward,then seemed to pull the rest.

Of course it was an earthworm (Annelida), one of many flooded out of the overly-saturated soil.The creature looked to be as alien to the earth’s surface as those earth virus-stricken Martians in H.G. Wells’ “The War of the Worlds.” I thought of Cthulhu’s wriggling tentacles, and the pale, sightless fish of Linville Caverns. Nearer the river, Canadian geese consumed scores of them whole, the way a child sucks up spaghetti.

I garnered a laugh from one teacher by gesturing towards a pile of ground-dumped cooler ice from the students’ lunch and saying: “An ice storm!” A student said “look, a worm!” There in the ice, an earthworm slowly wiggled, almost still. I thought of “tequila on the rocks,”(but didn’t mention that to the kids).

Now, a change in the nature of this week’s column. My father, Bernard Williams loved to say: “From the sublime to the ridiculous,” hence, the following:

On the last day of three-day rain, the sun appeared as I drove home from work. A work-friend called, saying a giant pool had developed in a strip mall parking lot ,and that “rednecks”(his term) were gunning and spinning giant pickup trucks in it, spraying water into the air and generating waves. By the way,”rednecks” are not just a Southern phenomenon; I’ve met Yankee rednecks! In fact, every country has them!

Wanting to see for myself, I drove there. The pool was about 200 feet in radius and 3-4 feet deep. Pick-up trucks thundered through it and splashed like monstrous metal birds in an asphalt bird bath! Another thought: not much chance for frogs or tadpoles in that vernal, “infernal” pool!

Seeing the fun, and being a Southern boy too , I traversed the “asphalt pond” once in my little red Oldsmobile Alero, going slowly, daring not to take my foot off the gas. At such a strange sight,the truck guys were probably too startled to laugh.

Instead of thinking about my arthritis, I thought about death (death always trumps arthritis). I said to myself :”This is just like driving an old German amphibious jeep in World war II!” Then, about halfway across, I said: “No, this is not like driving an old German amphibious jeep in World War II!” But I made it through without flooding out (a different kind of “flooding out”).

I think I even said “Hot damn!”( the Southern boy’s method of avoiding damnation for taking the Lord’s name in vain by only substituting one letter).

One big GMC truck spun around- and- around in the middle, generating ocean-like waves , lapping onto the asphalt “beach.” A man, toting his toddler son, set him down at water’s edge to see the “waves,” and I thought: “Shouldn’t this touching scene be taking place at Holden Beach or Emerald Isle?”

The next day, the shrunken pool revealed part of someone’s bumper evidently lost through collision with another truck during the aquatic joy-riding.

And so the transition “from the sublime to the ridiculous” is complete!

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