Let’s face it. Being immature about stuff like this is fun. I just read an entire thread of slightly dirty jokes riffing on an image a Facebook friend posted of the weather report for Hurricane Florence in the Carolinas.
That’s what happens when people in the back room at the news room get giggling about the thrust of a storm. Only to Sue and I, the image means we’ll not likely head to Wilmington, North Carolina for scheduled mid-October Half Ironman. She’s doing the whole race and I’m booked to run the half-marathon as part of a Triathlinlaws team with my sister-in-law Julie Dunn.
And I just read a Chicago Tribune and also a New York times story about how that region of North Carolina is known for its industrial-grade hog and turkey farming. Regulations on waste storage were rather loose in the region, and when a big storm hit there in 1999, the first problem was drowned hogs and turkeys. They even had to float dead, smelly hogs down the rivers to dispose of them.
But that’s not the worst part. The massive pits of hog and turkey manure on those industrial farms also spilled over the banks of containment facilities. That meant incredible volumes of hog shit clogged the rivers as well. In one of the most massive understatements of all time, the North Carolina governor at the time admitted, ”We do have a practical problem here,” Gov. James B. Hunt Jr. said.
So we can’t be sure that North Carolina has done a damned thing about its hog and turkey industries. After all, the rest of the states in the deep Southeast United States are not exactly known for their progressive regulatory policies. Excuse the broad categorizations, but Southerners generally do not like to be told what to do either. Consider the lyrics from Lynyrd Skynyrd’s song “Sweet Home Alabama,”
Well I heard Mister Young sing about her
Well I heard ole Neil put her down
Well, I hope Neil Young will remember
A southern man don’t need him around anyhow
So I’m here to suggest that Southerners would rather “dig in” than be told how to manage their “practical problem,” as Governor James Hunt so politely put it. So the hog pits overflowed a few years back? Most likely the farmers just dug bigger pits to hold even more hog shit. Thus we’re facing a situation where the entire five state region, shown here in this National Weather Service graphic, is going to empty its bowels into the Atlantic Ocean like a bout of diarrhea from hell. The dolphins are going to be disgusted.
To make things even tastier, it was reported by the Chicago Tribune the 1999 storm that hit North Carolina flushed all that hog shit into a toxic mix with waste fluids from factories and even gasoline tanks. The overwhelming odor was so strong that cleanup workers were forced to apply Vicks Vapo-Rub under their noses to combat the stench.
Now we’ve all smelled Vicks Vapo-Rub. My mom used to spread it on my chest when I was a little kid with a cold. It’s a treatment designed to penetrate and “sooth” inflamed cavities. Here’s the active ingredient as described online:
A:” The active ingredients in Vicks VapoRub are camphor (a cough suppressant and topical analgesic),eucalyptus oil (a cough suppressant) and menthol (a cough suppressant and topical analgesic). The inactive ingredients in Vicks VapoRub include cedarleaf oil, nutmeg oil, petrolatum, thymol andturpentine oil.”
That’s a lot of chemical weapony called to bear in one substance. It was not reported whether the Vick’s was truly effective in combatting the smell of hog slop Gone Wild.
Hog Slop Alley
But I can relate to that hog shit scenario, because one time while driving through Southwest Wisconsin on my way to Decorah, Iowa, we rounded a broad and gradual bend on a far flung country road somewhere west of Platteville. As the road curved, we saw a three hundred yard stretch of road completely covered in hog shit. The light brown river had flowed over the banks of the farm containment pit to form a hog shit slick so long and smelly we couldn’t roll up our windows fast enough. We almost gagged. Then a little farther down the road there we passed over a dead skunk with our car windows still closed. The power of that nasty combo almost made us puke in our own laps.
Adding insult to nasal injury, that hog slop clung like cement to the underside of my Plymouth Arrow. It clung there for days. So while we were camping, it seemed as if every goddamned bottlefly in Winnieshiek County, Iowa brought its friends to come taste the smorgasbord of shit coating the underside of my faithful auto. The buzz of those insects around my car was audible from fifty feet away.
Finally we could not stand the scene any longer. So despite the fact we were traveling on a classically thin post-collegiate budget, with barely enough money for gas and food for the trip, we took the Arrow to the car wash. We rolled up the car windows as we trundled through the automatic wash. At that point, the undercarriage spray shoved the stink of hog slop right up through the vents, turning the entire car, air conditioning and all, into a strange form of a shit sauna.
So I’m thinking about the scenario down there near Wilmington, North Carolina. The hurricane is supposed to strike full force against the coast, then hang around for several days pumping thirty inches of rain into the landscape. I’m picturing hogs again floating down the river in the company of dead, sodden turkeys rolling like huge, bloated pillows of sodden feathers. The world of all that dead meat will travel up the seaboard and reach migrating turkey vultures all the way up in Vermont. The rush south on migration will be fantastic to watch as th
e birds race the chance to take choose between white and dark meat. In the natural
world, the concept of a Thanksgiving feast is all relative. Road kill and dead things are delicacy in the world of carrion eaters.
So you can picture the sight of all those hogs and turkeys floating down the Piedmont (that’s not a urine pun) heading toward Wilmington. They’ll all be bobbing in the streams of shit pouring down from five states, and aiming for the ocean. It would be a good time to hold the National Carp Festival in case anyone’s listening. Carp absolutely love shitty water.
So I’m not sure I’ll be advising my wife and sister-in-law to go swimming in the ocean come mid-October. The levels of fecal pollution along the seaboard may be equal to those flowing down the Potomac from Washington several hundred miles to the north. Up there the problem isn’t hog shit, but daily torrents of disclaiming bullshit flowing from the White House straight into the Chesapeake Bay. Even the oysters, clams and crabs are talking about moving out of the Chesapeake if the water quality gets any worse.
Alas, there seems to be no way to stop a real shitstorm once it gets started. We’ll have to wait and see what happens in North Carolina, and all over the East Coast for that matter. My advice is don’t hold your breath, but clamp your nose a while. It helps to get through it all.