Partial to Home: Downtown in the pouring rain


Birney Imes



Saturday afternoon, just after three o'clock, I made an ill-timed decision to walk around the corner for a coffee. I had been in my office at The Dispatch struggling with a column on books about rivers -- a favorite subject of late -- and it just wasn't happening. 


It had started raining, so I retreated to look for one of those famous Dispatch cartoon umbrellas or a raincoat. 


In the intervening minutes, the hard rain had escalated into a deluge. I crossed the street and, rather than pressing on, took refuge under the balcony of The Southern. In seconds, the slanting rain had drenched my jeans. Violent streams of water spewed from the downspouts of the Rosenzweig Arts Center. For a few minutes, the fa├žade of The Dispatch across Main Street grew faint. I watched, awed by this powerful display of nature in such an incongruous setting, the center of town. 


The day had begun mild and almost sunny. Shortly after 8, Ross Whitwam and I dropped our kayaks in Catalpa Creek where it passes under 45 Alternate between Mayhew and Artesia. Our destination was Old West Point Road near Ed Phillips' place. 


The water was moving fast, but the levels and flow were nothing like we encountered on that same stream several weeks ago. Ross hypothesized the now-fully leafed-out trees soak up groundwater reducing the runoff and thus the lower water level. 


As we paddled under a thick canopy of green, we saw snakes; soft-shell turtles, one almost the size of a manhole cover; all manner of waterfowl and a deer that looked like she was posing for a portrait. As we approached, she popped up and loped off. When we rounded the bend, she was fording the creek. 


At the take-out, two men sitting on white plastic buckets fishing for catfish with earthworms, complained, "They're not doing anything." 


Later, on the way to Ronnie Clayton's Brother's Keepers Barbecue, Jacob Dickey, the weekend meteorologist at WCBI, phoned. Earlier in the week I'd left a voice mail at the station asking for year-to-date rainfall totals. 


We've had 35.27 inches of rain since the beginning of the year, Dickey said. The average for that period is 21.94 inches. In the past six months we're had about 50 inches, almost our annual average of 55.6 inches. 


Kerry Blalock, who along with his vintage Toyota Land Cruisers was the subject of this column a few weeks back, was at Ronnie's picking up pulled-pork sandwiches for him and his dad. We visited as I worked on my rib-tip plate and Ronnie served a steady stream of customers. 


Afterward, acting on a tip picked up at Military Hardware earlier in the week, I stopped by Sunflower for tomato plants. Several I planted before the rains are looking anemic. As I was perusing the selection, Joe and Carol Boggess pulled up. 


"You just planting your tomatoes?" Joe admonished. I told him these were substitutes. Joe said he had 13 plants of differing varieties of tomato in the ground at Whitehall.  


Hope springs eternal in the spring, I suppose, at least when it comes to tomatoes. 


As for the column about books, maybe another day. I'll only mention the one I'm presently reading, "The Wind in the Willows," written by Kenneth Grahame and published in 1908. 


So far it is pure delight, and like many classics disguised as children's books, (e.g. "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland," "The Little Prince," the Harry Potter series) it grapples with larger truths, in the case of "The Wind in the Willows," the value of friendships, the joys of home and the sentient qualities of the natural world. 




"On either side of them, as they glided onwards, the rich meadow-grass seemed that morning of a freshness and a greenness unsurpassable. Never had they noticed the roses so vivid, the willow-herb so riotous, the meadow-sweet so odorous and pervading. Then the murmur of the approaching weir began to hold the air, and they felt a consciousness that they were nearing the end, whatever it might be, that surely awaited their expedition." 


-- "The Wind in the Willows," Kenneth Grahame 



Birney Imes III is the immediate past publisher of The Dispatch.


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