Scattershot: What Progress Does Not Preserve

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Maybe everyday is Saturday morning.”
—Drive-By Truckers*

A couple of decades before we declared We Do Amazing, good ole Columbus, GA boasted a fairly fitting slogan: ‘What Progress Has Preserved.”

While still a solid mantra for our small big city / big small town—with genuine historic Southern charm churning inside an economic engine, with bold, visionary civic leaders as conductors—the millions invested in new developments along the riverfront north of 13th Street will of course make push come to shove. Where that’s most glaringly obvious is the construction zone surrounding the Rapids apartment complex and Hotel Indigo on Front Avenue, and extending south to 12th Street and west to Broadway to accommodate the Marriott Hotel to come.

Given so much money spent on such city-shaping projects in a once-abandoned stretch of industrial brick and mortar, something had to give.

Thus, the ‘Wintering Grounds’ had to go.

A organic outcropping of whitewater sports enthusiasts from all over the world coming to Columbus to train in our flowing urban rapids while the rivers back home froze, the Wintering Grounds gathered together kindred spirits living in RVs, grilling meat and sipping dank beers, in a gravel parking lot across from the Rapids development. A parking lot no longer suitable for such people and purposes.

After getting the boot after the 201819 season, the Wintering GroundsSo last year, the Wintering Grounds set up in Phenix City in, yes, a gravel parking lot. Owned by W.C. Bradley Co., the lot is leased by WhiteWater Express, who allows the adventurous snowbirds to camp, chill, kayak all day everyday, and even tap into the outfitter’s electricity.

This year, the numbers are way down from two years ago and even dramatically reduced from one year ago.

Why?

COVID, explains Lee County resident Mason Hargrove, a local kayak king and current World Junior Champion, having won the title in 2019 in Spain. Speaking as he and sister Makinley Kate Hargrove geared up to gnar the Hooch, Hargrove said last year the Phenix City spot was home to 8 RVs with a contingent heavy on kayakers from New Zealand and Canada.

With those two nation’s borders closed during the pandemic—part of proactive measures to stop the viral spread that earned international acclaim, policies certainly not up to swapping spit with the United States, a promiscuous place with Third World infection rates on par with India and Brazil.

“Numbers are going to stay low but we’re still going to have a core group of people come,” Mason Hargrove explains, “because this is the only river the U.S. that I know of that runs 365 days a year.”

Junior World Freestyle Kayak Champion Mason Hargrove (left) & sister Makinley Kate Hargrove gear up to gnar the Hootch in the Wintering Grounds now in a Phenix City parking lot.
Last year, the Wintering Grounds found a home next to Whitewater Express in Phenix City after its exile from the booming construction in Columbus.

This lot is where the original Wintering Grounds developed, a scene cherished for its adventurous RV residents and convivial good times. Construction in this stretch of Uptown between Front Avenue and Broadway with its hundreds of millions of investments now coming on line kicked the kayaking crowd across the Chattahoochee.

SILLY SIDE NOTE FOR THOSE KEEPING SCORE AT HME: Top 3 pictures above show construction site for the coming AC Marriott at Broadway and 12th Street. This caused the demolition of the former BGR Warehouse, home to your trusty Scattershot scribe’s first job, back in 1994, loaded W.C. Bradley’s ‘The Game’ line of apparel into boxes and onto trucks. Another place progress did not preserve.

CLICK YA HEELS TOTO, WE AIN’T IN GAAW-JUH, ANYMORE

Don’t fret — we most def ain’t of any political persuasion when it comes to Scattershot musings. But I will say I feel like an unfrozen caveman, a Bourbon Dynasty relic, a big wooly mammoth stuck in the tar pits, in our current electorate.

Why? Because I’m an independent, a voter with a split ticket this year for Georgia’s senators, choosing Warnock and Perdue. (For various, mostly pragmatic reasons but I will say that Warnock’s win and all it meant for so many in this state caused me to tear up in glorious glee.

The night before the U.S> Senate run-off elections, President Trump left me a voicemail.
I was flattered but also freaked out. Pure comedy though – wort a listen. Politics aside, Trump was a disgrace.

DISCUSSING DARWINISM IN POLITE COMPANY

With champagne caressing loose lips well past midnight and into the first hours of 2021, I let my take on the pandemic and root causes and solutions bubble up to the surface during a robust dialogue on COVID.

It wasn’t PC or based in any real research or scientific acumen and was a far cry from compassion. And it went down like a box of screws.

“The thing about the Universe or Mother Nature or God’s Will—whatever you want to call it, as these terms are interchangeable to me in this regard,” I began to tell two tables of listeners, “is not that it is cruel. It’s just indifferent.”

From here, I segued into God’s Will being divine perfection if for no other reason than it is absolute. In that Alpha and Omega kinda way. No matter how big and bad and immortal by virtue of medical miracles of manipulation we human beings think we are, the truth is we are infinitesimal. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

“Sometimes, you gotta thin the herd. Save the finite resources for those best capable for pushing the species forward,” I said in conclusion to a collective polite muted repulsion. “Mother Nature sees this need every century or so. We’re not special and not stronger than her prevailing providence. COVID is killing millions of people across the planet because that is what has to happen.”

Il-timed and blunt and boozy, yes, but I still stand by those words.

MY WEEK IN SOCIAL-MEDIA SCREENSHOTS

I don’t know if this makes me want to laugh, cry, or sign up.

Social Media algorithms know my struggle to stay afloat weighs on my back like a bag of bricks.

PUT ME IN COACH!

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Much ado about nothing from one man typing high above beautiful downtown Columbus, Georgia, at Electric City HQ of the 4th floor of the Heritage Tower, Scattershot is a weekly feature composed ECL Editor Frank Etheridge. It rambles on while reflecting on the week behind.

Lady Columbus watching over us from Heritage Tower.

**Taken from lyrics in the song, “Two Daughters and a Beautiful Wife” by the Dive-By Truckers, a band that gives me infinite inspiration.

About the author

Frank Etheridge

Native son and veteran journalist Frank Etheridge is Editor of Electric City Life, dedicated to documenting the news and culture of Columbus, Georgia.

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