Statehouses, Governors, and Snakes
You may be surprised how those three things fit together. Stick with me!
I am currently writing a second book capturing more of the adventures Jenni and I have experienced in Wanda, our van. I’m sure two or three people out there are thrilled with this news.
In thinking about our last major trip through the northeast, I was looking at the photos of five different statehouses we drove beside. With each one we visited, we were amazed at how close we could get and, in some cases, the access we had inside. We often expected a swarm of law enforcement officers to descend upon our non-descript white cargo van and yank us from our seats. But other than one feisty street preacher, we were able to park near all of them without resistance. That trip was in September and I do remember thinking that all state governments must have been on some type of coordinated hiatus because there did not seem to be much legislating or governing taking place. We took pictures of the capitol buildings in West Virginia, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, and Pennsylvania.
After I had written several pages for the new book, I realized I had better research the correct use of the word capitol vs. capital. (I once knew all this stuff in Seventh Grade, just as I once knew all the state capitals.) The city location is referred to as the capital (with an ‘a’) while the statehouse building itself, where governance takes place, is the capitol (with an ‘o’.) I had a lot of corrections to make.
In my musings, I realized that in all my sixty years I had only met ONE active state governor. It was 1999 and my South Carolina Driver’s License was still less than a year old, having just moved to the state the previous fall. I was a Division Controller for a branch of Waste Management, Inc headquartered near Florence, SC. With only about 24 hour notice, the leadership team was meeting a group of politicians at the Florence County airport to kick off a Palmetto Pride campaign aimed at reducing trash on public highways. The entourage meeting us included the late State Senator Hugh Leatherman, one of the most powerful state senators, and Governor Jim Hodges. Hodges had just been elected the previous fall as the state’s first Democratic governor since 1982 (and there hasn’t been one since.) Hands were shook, speeches were made, pictures were taken. But that was not to be the last time I would see Governor Hodges that year.
I suppose the odds of running into a governor are better in a sparsely populated state. In 1999, the population of South Carolina was less than 4 million compared to the 20 million in Texas which I had just left. Throw in a natural disaster and the odds improve even more.
In September of 1999, Hurricane Floyd skirted the Low Country area where we lived in Conway, just outside Myrtle Beach. We escaped serious wind damage but received huge amounts of rain, causing the swamps to back up into many neighborhoods including our own. My family and I had evacuated ahead of the storm. While Jenni and the boys remained at her mother’s house in the Upstate, I returned home, driving past National Guardsmen to enter my neighborhood. When I arrived, I could not park in the driveway because it and the street were under water. In fact, water was lapping at our front steps and the homes across the street had major water infiltration. After I had been home for a couple hours, I heard voices from the street-turned-canal. I stepped out on the front porch to see Governor Hodges being helped into a boat that slowly cruised to the neighbor’s house and loaded a chest-of-drawers. Of course, it was a great photo opportunity for him, but heartbreak for my neighbor. I did not think the Governor would remember me so I did not wade out to the throng of people gathered at the temporary boat launch. But I did wave to the camera crews.
Over the next few weeks the water level acted as if it were controlled by the tides. It would drop a little but then the floodwaters from North Carolina reached us and it would rise again, once to the top of our second step at the front door. In the following days, our young sons learned they could scoop tadpoles while sitting on the front steps. We were more fortunate than many and did not suffer any physical damage worse than a few trees that drowned on our temporary lakefront property.
We did not see any more politicians during that natural disaster but one Sunday morning leaving for church, as we walked through a flower bed to reach our car parked at a neighbor’s house, Jenni did have to jump over a snake!
And we are Methodists!