The in-laws had retired to a posh, gated community in South Carolina; my father-in-law was very active in the Republican Party. One of the lakes formed when Duke Energy dammed a series of rivers made for the centerpiece of the community. A golf course, along with its attendant structures — clubhouse, restaurant, bar, pavilions, etc. — seemed to extend everywhere.
The circuit of paved roads as well as the scattered neighborhoods had names based on a nautical theme; Captain, Commodore, Harbor Lights, Spinnaker Cove and so on. I get it; the lakes set the theme, but it’s almost laughingly pretentious.
I toured this area back in the early 1970s, driving and camping in a ten-dollar 1956 Chevrolet panel truck. The towns now under the lakes had it hard enough then — just pines and red clay and the occasional tobacco farm. These were still the pre-Interstate highway days there.
Thus there was considerable commercial activity along the roadside serving tourists and those heading for Florida as I was doing then. I can still smell the sweet fragrance of the ’56 panel engine burning cheap 30-weight oil as only a comfortably worn Chevrolet “Stovebolt” engine can.
Of course, some of the small highways I traveled then are still above water. Driving in an air-conditioned rental car sometime in the ’90s, it appears that things didn’t get any easier after Interstate 85 went through and took away the traffic.
The once bustling bait shacks, farm stands, bars and catfish eateries are now just piles of boards, some with faded signs still readable; “Beer” “Boiled Peanuts” “Jesus Saves —Watermelons $1.”
Crossing into Georgia, there are no people moving along the sidewalk in Taccoa. No cars feed the parking meters; display windows are empty. The only life is a sign proclaiming this the hometown of Ty Cobb.
Generally, I don’t like to see rural land “developed,” but the lakes and the wealthy communities that surround them may be the best thing to happen to this area. There was certainly nothing you could do to hurt it (and let the kudzu have the rest). Anyway, these recreational retirement communities are where Republicans get to go if they’ve been really good.
After about 30 years there, my father-in-law developed severe back pain.
He threw his back out golfing — or so he insisted. Repeated warnings from knowledgeable types (including me) that he might actually be having a heart attack went ignored.
His doctor, likely accustomed to dealing with these stubborn old bucks, just prescribed increasingly stronger pain medication until he succumbed — of a heart attack. Age 79.
My mother-in-law hung on for another few years, playing bridge and reading her Kindle until she passed away of an aortic rupture, also 79.
In the glory days of their retirement, we were annually invited to occupy an attached residence, swim and boat on the lake, enjoy excellent food and adult beverages and shake hands with visiting governors and a senator or 2 — GOP, of course, you betcha.
So here I was about 20 years ago, alone, watching the news on TV. This part of South Carolina is far from the coast. Our weather was mild and the Old Hippie, aka wife Stephanie, and her folks had gone shopping. The Atlantic Coast with its many coastal islands was being battered by a hurricane passing offshore.
After a video showing the bending palm trees and flying debris, the gray-suited newscaster looked directly into the camera and said; “It’s time for those people to repent and come to Jesus, in my opinion.”
“Good grief,” I thought, “This really is the Bible Belt.”
What could he be referring to that specifically brought the Wrath of God to these coastal communities? Oceanside nightlife? Skimpy swimsuits? Could the presumably backward and innocent South Carolina coast possibly be any wilder than my own Jersey Shore, which produced stars from Sinatra to Bon Jovi?
“They got theirs.” I can imagine him saying in reference to Super Storm Sandy. It’s a funny thing that they named the storm “Sandy” — all the sand on the beach at Seaside Park washed out to sea.
Jersey being Jersey, they simply dredged it up and put it back all the while declaring “New Jersey-stronger than the storm” on the many makeshift signs around the shore neighborhoods.
Well, I guess that a few souls may have repented, but it sounds more like hurling defiance to me. Least likely to repent were the dredge operators as they walked — or floated — or whatever away with those immense Garden State checks.
When it came to a specific direct hit from God, Nineveh was all set to go.
God even sent the prophet Jonah to make the announcement. Instead, the whole city repented of their violent ways. Accounts say that even the dogs were dressed in sackcloth and ashes, a display of repentance popular at the time.
Perhaps that is the example that our southern newscaster had in mind.
Though God allows these unfortunate things to happen, He doesn’t cause them. (See James 1:13, Deuteronomy 32:4) By disobeying God in Eden, Planet Earth voted to live apart from God’s rulership. God, in effect, said “give it a go, then.”
When God voluntarily abdicated at mankind’s request, the devil simply stepped in to fill the void for the duration of this experiment in human rule — an experiment that is soon to end.
Thus the devil is doing everything he can to draw our attention from God.
He may use meaningless religious ceremonies and traditions. As if the stresses of everyday life aren’t enough, he adds things like war, economic pressure and, yes, crazy weather. See Revelation 12:7-12. And so here we are. But the best is yet to come.