Monday, March 31, 2008

Disaster in Branchville ?

On March 15 a tornado touched down at Branchville, SC, visiting damage upon that small town as seen in the photos. These few buildings were badly damaged, but most were not including structures very close to the vortex. Torandos are like that: selective, narrow, arbitrary.

Unlike our coastal hurricanes, tornados do not get named, cannot be planned for and you don't know that they're coming until they are gone. Hurricanes are like large armies massed and marching across someone's country. A tornado is like a stinger missile out of nowhere. Another difference is that tornados do not unite people as the hurricane usually does. One family loses their house, but the one across the street hasn't a scratch. The immediate neighbors all pull together, but beyond that narrow radius, few people really give much of a hoot.

If there is not a uniform blanket of photogenic devastation, it's not exciting enough for network news and fails to gain notice, it didn't happen. The big question, of course, is who or what agency will clean up this mess. Some buildings are likely under insured if they insured at all. Declaring this a "disaster area" is a bit complicated.

A law called the Stafford Act defines the process that triggers most federal disaster assistance other than assistance for crop losses. A big news splash is very helpful because the criteria for disaster declarations are vague. The law defines only two categories of presidentially declared disasters: "emergencies" and "major disasters".

Where the costs of a damage exceeds the resources of state and local government, a governor can ask the President to declare a major disaster. If the President determines that the damage is severe enough, the affected area then becomes eligible for FEMA assistance.

That's not likely to happen here

Monday, March 17, 2008

Air Fare

Soon gasoline will be as expensive as air at Harmon's Service Center in Holly Hill, SC. Fortunately they're closed on Sunday or we may have been charged rent while taking this photo. Yes, as the sign says, air is five dollars. We're uncertain whether that's per tire or covers all four. Perhaps the air is imported from the Middle East, but we seem to have an ample supply of nice hot domestic air at the ready.

This sounds a little steep, but it just might be that Harmon's had been giving away its air to motorists who then went elsewhere to buy their gas. Maybe one too many beach bound travelers copped free air for their floats. Maybe the local kook was filling his inflatable dolls here. Whatever the case, it's no more Mr. Nice Guy for Harmon's.

At a time when marketing has come right down to the point of kissing the customer between his back pockets with greeters in his face and a host of allegedly free gifts at his feet, it's almost nice to see a curmudgeon in a carload. We're reminded of a country lawyer of our acquaintance who was told by a storekeeper that if he bought two items the third one was free. He replied, "Mr, I can't afford anymore free stuff." Harmon's must have come to a similar conclusion.

Friday, March 14, 2008

No Beltone for Bowser

We love to cruise the crumbling stretches of tarmac in the forgotten rural areas. These secondary roads have potholes, loose stones, water intrusion cracks and a host of other problems consistent with their senior status. As bad as they are we figure that the people along these pitted paths consider it a fair swap to live apart from metro areas, the interstates and clustered subdivisions. What they lack in snappy fashions or municipally sponsored objets d'art, they gain in peace, quiet and self reliance.

We've learned from someone's experiment that caged rats do funny things when crowded. People are a lot like rats and are likewise odd when crowded. When you give people too little space, too much money and not enough to do, they become mutants with a human form, an imitation of life as it were. Once they amass a wealth of worthless goods they suddenly wake up, freak out and get a dog. Then, of course, they try to turn the dog into a human through which they can live vicariously. Eagerly awaiting every dog owner is chiropractic care, aroma therapy, psychiatrists, pedicures, MRIs, special music, perhaps a K-9 Summer's Eve and countless other imitations of human indulgence for the poor dog.

In the photo we've run pretty much out of road and ended up at modest little house with a clean, neat yard, but no evidence of rat people about the place. Take note of the yellow sign on the post. They have a Deaf Dog. We doubt that they took the dog up to Duke, but probably figured this out on their own. They just nailed up a sign and gave the dog a nice big area in which to enjoy the quiet. We know that such a thing is available, but with these folks there will be no Beltone for bowser. Out here people are people, dogs are dogs and rats remain rats