A bicycling friend of The Observer’s teen was ever so happy to load her wheels in our van and head to The Observer’s air-conditioned home. She’d been riding her bike on what was a glorious April 1, peddling all about the neighborhood. Then she realized, boy it’s hot. It’s really hot. It was, in fact, 87 degrees at 4 p.m. Spring? April Fool’s!
She’s 14, so she probably wasn’t influenced by “big crusading journalism” when she noted the unusual heat, as columnist George Will would have us believe. Will, see, thinks the National Academy of Sciences and all those other weather experts around the world who are anxious about the effect of carbon dioxide on the planet are just being silly, and so are the 85 percent of laymen Americans who buy into their science. Have our fellow Americans really noticed a change in temperature? he asks. “Of course not. They got their anxiety from journalism calculated to produce it,” Mr. Will said.
Call us crazy, but The Observer thinks if anyone’s calculating, it’s Mr. Will. We’d guess he hasn’t spent much time outdoors. You’ve got to spend lots of time indoors, years really, reading the Wall Street Journal, etc., to become a big shot columnist. He’s worried about the oil companies and the coal companies and all the other industries that we would call upon to sacrifice a portion of their profits for cleaner air. Heck, he reasons, if China ain’t-a-gonna do it, why should we?
Now us small shots — like teen-aged bike riders and Arkansas duck hunters and thirsty farmers and 50-somethings who recall having to wear winter coats from November through March in the middle decades of the 20th century — we don’t really need newspapers to tell us stuff about the weather. We’ve always paid attention to it. Our grandfathers turned the radio on last thing at night and first thing in the morning to get the weather report. The success of their crops depended on it.
And when our noses sniff happily at fresh air when we’re walking around town or hiking in the Ozarks or fishing in the Red River or sitting in the back yard with friends, when the sky is as blue as a blue jay’s wing, we’re grateful. Nary a moment is wasted being pissed off at China.
Even when the mosquitoes are out in full force in January and the trees look like hell and the Smokies are shot thanks to acid rain and the sky is orange with toxins, even then we don’t think about China. We think about pasty pompous ivory tower-twits like George Will, making fun of us American dumb-asses who, unlike him, aren’t privy to The Truth.
What about our children? All those 14-year-olds of the future? Too hot to ride a bike in April. Weeping Jesus.
That child of The Observer — she returned Saturday from a week on Mississippi’s coast where she and other kids spent their spring break doing what little they could to help people dig out from under piles of mud and clear debris that Hurricane Katrina blew up and around. She and some others were enlisted to dig out from a marsh at Ocean Springs the remains of a replica of Fort Maurepas, whose timbers were blown 41 feet off their base.
Fort Maurepas was built in 1699 by the leader of the French expedition that claimed the land that became the Louisiana Territory. It was lost long ago; the coast of Mississippi has had a hard time holding on to its history, all the way up to Aug. 29, 2005.
The Observer’s daughter recorded in her diary a list of some of the things she and others found in the mud:
Teddy bears, an agenda book for 1979, “Starwars: Episode V” DVD, high-heeled shoes, an old family photograph taken in front of a cabin, buoys strung together, child’s rocking chair parts, a videocassette about classical musicians, a dictionary, an old disposable camera with nine shots left, candles, a wooden mask, a wooden lighthouse, a wooden pelican and a wooden asparagus.
She brought the latter home. It turned out not to be an asparagus, but what was left of a wooden palm tree that must have adorned someone’s yard or was perhaps restaurant decor. The fronds had broken off, leaving only the green trunk.
No one claimed it, so now it’s The Observer’s.
The people of Ocean Springs started thanking the kids the minute they arrived, which struck The Observer’s daughter as weird. Someday, she’ll understand that seeing help arrive — even in the form of teen-agers — can help soothe survivors of any storm.