Carroll Electric Cooperative Corp., which serves Benton, Carroll, Newton and Madison counties, has for several years now been riling folks over its practice of spraying herbicides to manage right-of-ways. It's cheaper than using real people to keep nature back, but many folks say the practice is harmful to the plants and animals that get in the way. So when a seat on the cooperative's board opened up, concerned citizen Marcie Brewster decided to make a run for it.
That required, The Observer learned first hand, hoofing it all over the Ozarks to get 750 signatures, 250 of which had to come from the district Brewster was to represent.
We departed reporter mode to make the trek to Carroll County to help Brewster get names in District Six, which includes such bustling metropoli as Kingston, Osage and Boxley. Finding folks wasn't easy; most folks have to drive at least an hour to work, so their hours at home are limited. Kingston was a ghost town. Osage had six houses; no one home. The Observer did pick up 23 signatures in the Boxley Valley.
When folks did come to the door, we learned that few knew about the herbicide spraying. But there were those folks who were personally affected. There was a rancher who said he lost 12 cattle after his cows ate brush that had been sprayed with herbicides. An organic farmer lost her certification for three years after her farm was accidentally sprayed.
Some didn't even want to talk about it, scared their power would be shut off. One woman even said we should be thanking the cooperative for providing electricity.
Two weeks ago, Brewster turned in 1,300 petition signatures to CECC. Of those, signatures from her district numbered 242 — just eight John Hancocks short of being nominated for the ballot. The cooperative's reaction: "Close, but no cigar."
It kind of makes you wonder. Will the little guy ever win?
One of the benefits of living in the urban jungle (other than a 5-minute commute in an era of $4 a gallon gas) is that the services rarely go kaput. Maybe once a year, always during a storm, the lights will go out at The Observatory, bathing our little empire down in Capitol View in an unfamiliar substance we hear is called "Dark." The Observer grew up out in the sticks, so we know all about the dark — the velvety, near-perfect dark of a moonless summer night, miles away from the perpetual blue-white dome of the city. There's nothing like it. A few years back, sitting on the porch during a similar power outage in muggy June, we noticed for the first time that there were lightning bugs in Little Rock. Up until then, we had no idea.
The dark came back to our block last week during the line of storms that set the tornado sirens howling. After the threat of twisters was done, we welcomed our old friend back as we always do, with lit candles and plenty of porch-sitting. Before long, we got around to regaling Junior — emerged from the electronic cocoon all kids seem to be wrapped in these days — with tales of the inky nights of our youth, making him imagine, I'm sure, his Old Man doing homework by hurricane lamp with Abe Lincoln as a study partner. It wasn't that drastic, my boy. But oh, wasn't it lovely?
The air after the storm took the electricity was perfect: a bit muggy, but not unbearable. The Observatory, lit by a nasal cacophony of Spouse's collection of scented candles, smelled like a French whorehouse. But that was a small tradeoff for everything else: the yellow candlelight flickering up the walls; the darkness in the street out front, the houses turned black boxes where other candles glowed. Lovely, lovely dark.
After a few hours, the lights came back on. It's always startling when that happens; the whole house going, in a split second, from black to blinding light, from silence to the whispered din of a modern home: refrigerator and television, clock radio and air conditioner, ceiling fan and coffeepot, all coming on simultaneously.
On the corner across the street from our house is a streetlight that keeps our yard and porch wrapped in a constant glow. The Observer, no stranger to civil disobedience, has pondered more than once on how easy it would be to buy a pellet gun and douse that light — to give our yard and porch and the street out front over to the night. We won't though. It's there for a reason, we know. We know this, too: We love living in the city, and our divorce from the dark is part of that. We might not like it, but we will abide.
Until the next storm, sweetheart.