Hill Country Living
Lord have mercy, can this town ever have a chill stretch that lasts more than a few weeks? We were on a good roll there with the football team winning state and all. But, of course, that comes to a screeching halt when we are forced to learn a new thing about ourselves: The one thing Water Valley hates more than beer is Water Valley getting torn down.
Although pretty stressful for everyone, the threat of the old Wagner buildings getting demolished has actually been uplifting, in a way. Most everyone is truly concerned. And many people who have disagreed on various town related topics for years have come together under one roof, so to speak.
The threat that buildings probably built during Reconstruction (most likely on top of the pre-Civil War Era wooden version of themselves) that go on to survive everything the 20th Century had to throw at them, from the Depression to the railroad leaving, would finally meet their demise in the form of demolition over a temporary and barely-enforced beer ordinance only a few years old is beneath us. The threat is insulting to all of us who live here and to the history of this town. I imagine it was meant to be.
We had incredible buildings that some of us will never see except in photographs because they were sadly lost to fire. We had buildings that were leveled in horrific tornadoes and damaged severely in floods. And, here we are, in a situation where someone would INTENTIONALLY tear more down? And not over a natural disaster or a dire situation that was beyond control or even to build anything new. Over a beer law. A petty, fluid beer law (pun intended) that was already on it’s way out.
I have rented the building directly next to the Wagner Building for a decade now. The bookstore (formerly Wade’s Barbershop) is really just a covered alleyway between the BTC and the Wagner Building. What would the bookstore become if the Wagner Building were torn down? An open air market? What if it were still Wade’s? How does one give a decent haircut with the wind blowing all which-a-way?
I don’t have a lot of “folding money” but I can say that if I owned the Main Street buildings I rent it would never, like EVER, occur to me to tear them down to save money. That would just be a non-option. And I’m definitely poorer than the guy who’s threatening to do it, so you can’t say I don’t understand financial risk, insecurity or loss. The value of one of the hubcaps from his fancy car could cover my household expenses for a month.
Another lesson many of us have learned already but doesn’t hurt to re-remember every so often: Never make a deal on promises. Get it in writing and get that writing in the books. Then do your thing.
I am glad Water Valley had a sudden change of heart (that was surely happening soon anyway) on the beer ordinance. The fact that it took this over-the-top, hyperbolic, sudden threat-out-of-nowhere for us to change the beer law could remind one of the most epic lines of all time from the final scene of Flannery O’Conner’s “A Good Man Is Hard to Find.” It’s the line about character in the face of danger. Maybe Water Valley’s antiquated stance on beer consumption is The Grandmother and maybe the building’s owner is The Misfit. Who knows.
But what I do know is that most of us are Pitty Sing, the cat, and just wanna get out of this dang forced car ride and go back home. And maybe have a saucer of milk…or saucer of beer. Whichever. And we want to know that our pretty, century and half old town will be around long enough so we can do it again tomorrow. And that last part’s not about us. We owe that part to our kittens.