by Janice Daugharty
Copyright 2010 Janice Daugharty
A few years ago, while my husband was laying fiber optic cable for AT&T, he happened up on a shocking farm-fertilizing operation in progress.
That early soft foggy morning, he and his crew were working along a country road near Greenville, S.C. On a calendar-picture hill of rank green pasture and grazing cattle, two tanker trucks were cruising, spraying cows and grass with an odorous liquid. Terrible stink. Not chemical, but stench of human waste. Treated sewage, the latest in green farming, my husband was later told by the farmer who owned the land. And best of all, the farmer added, it is FREE.
But is it safe? Might our E-colied spinach have been treated with this fertilizer?
All of my stories, set in Southeast Georgia, are about rural characters seeking the safe and the free. There is a mental line they have to cross before they know they’re on the free side. Then they no longer fear that big mean train rumbling down the tracks, about to render them to bones and pulp for the coyotes to pick over. The IRS can send all the threatening letters they like but it’s only mail. A storm can tumble my characters down the hill they’ve just climbed up and it’s okay—they kind of liked it down there in the shade of that old oak anyway. They can rest. They are safe now.
But back to the kind of safe and free I’m talking about concerning treated sewage. Who can resist those free rubber jar-lid grips advertising banks? I’ve even taken cash envelopes and deposit tickets because they were free. Shout the word “free” in a crowd and watch everybody come running for theirs, whether salvation or information. The written word—FREE—jumps out at you in bold print. “Safe” does too.