Only You Can Save Nebraska
It is weird being looked to as a savior.
Totally inappropriate, of course. I’m not a savior. There are very few things I would even have the power to save. I can save money, I guess. And save room for dessert, though I rarely even do that.
As a child, I once saved enough bubble gum wrappers to form a paper chain that stretched most of the way across my bedroom. It was a big bedroom.
But that is about the extent of my saving graces. So, again, it is weird being looked to as a savior, especially by someone I’ve never met, and on a problem that is global in scale.
I had no idea I had become that powerful. It is a bit frightening. I mean, when I was a kid, my friend* Smokey the Bear went on TV to let me know that only I could prevent forest fires. I don’t know why it had to be me; I wasn’t a firefighter, and I didn’t even live near a forest. I have to admit I’ve failed miserably, since forest fires continue to rage around the world. Similarly, I hold out little hope for the farmers of the western Great Plains, and the millions who depend on them for food. Sorry, guys. Shouldn’t have put me in charge.
See, about a couple of months ago, I received an email. A lot of emails, actually, but only one that is relevant here. The sender was an unfamiliar address, someone I had never heard of before. The subject line was catchy, and I quote: “kingsley Dam OGALLALA NEBR”.
The email began with a generic “to whom it may concern”, and managed to break every basic rule of capitalization in a few short paragraphs. At first glance, it looked like a standard spam or phishing email, such as that letter from a Nigerian prince who still owes me money. However, I couldn’t find any kind of scam here. The letter began:
I'm from Ogallala and I'm very concerned about the water level in our lake it could dry up IF it does it will mean a lot of people will have to go with out water.
with Global warming such a new item in the news the public needs to know just how dangerous it is for the Ogallala aquifer to run out of water.
BIG MAC puts water back into the aquifer with it so low we are taking out so fast it can't refill in less then 20 years.
all of western and central Nebr depends on the aquifer for water for both people and LIVESTOCK.
OK, no requests for wire transfers or PIN numbers so far. It might have been better if it did ask for money, though. Because it did come with a request, and one that would be much, much harder to fulfill:
you were in Ogallala not long ago could you please put on video what it looks like now compared to what it used to be like10 years ago.
we need you to document the damage done to the area from the sever drought. we need for the senators and congress to see the damage via video.
this could could mean the difference between life or death for the farmers and towns in all of central US.
please will you do this?
It was then signed with a woman’s name, with an address of “Ardmore Ok aka OgallalaNeb.”
Needless to say, I found the email to be a bit odd. But the weirdness goes quite a bit farther than what might be obvious to the casual reader. What was really weird was that the email, seemingly by accident, had a lot of coincidences that applied specifically to me.
Though the email was addressed “to whom it may concern”, and the writer did not seem to know my name or much of anything about me, she still wrote that “you were in Ogallala not long ago”. In fact, I had been in Ogallala several months before that. But, I was only passing through, and probably spent all of 2 hours there. Not long enough to make much of an impression.
Ardmore, also, was a town I had ties to, including some relatives who lived there throughout most of my childhood (though I am pretty sure the town had never been “aka”, or “also known as”, Ogallala).
All the talk about the Ogallala Aquifer, and irrigation, and livestock made perfect sense to me, as well, since I come from an agricultural background.
The weirdest coincidence, though, and the one that really caught my attention, were the multiple references to the lake “Big Mac”. The author never used the lake’s real name, opting instead to use a common nickname for it. And, again, it seemed pretty clear that she did not know my name—if she had, she probably would have used the lake’s full name. You see, Big Mac’s full name is Lake McConaughey. Though the spelling was changed back in the 1800s, the name is technically the same as my last name, McConaghy.
The lake is named after my family. The fact that this email was sent to me, apparently by chance, was borderline spooky.
Despite this, the email was still severely misguided. It asked me to make a video, but I am not at all a videographer. Even if I was a filmmaker, I do not have footage of what the lake looked like 10 years ago. And even if I had that, I doubt any video I made would be noticed by a single senator or congressman. I have a hunch that U.S. senators do not spend much time on YouTube. The best I could offer was to attempt to write a story about it, and post that on my blog.
I explained all this in my eventual email reply, and also asked if there was any solid, specific information on the subject that she could supply me. She responded with her own recollections of how it used to snow much more in Nebraska and Wyoming, but that the frequency of big snowstorms decreased throughout the 1960s and 70s. Now, it hardly snows at all, which translates to less melting snow in the spring and less runoff water to fill the lake. That, and something about republicans.
I wrote her back again, asking what her proposed solution was. After all, it doesn’t help much to spread the news about a problem if there is no solution. Basically, it sounded like she was asking me to make it rain. Even if there was a way to dramatically change the climate, it would take years to implement and decades to have an effect, plus the 20 years needed to fill the lake. By her own reckoning, we didn’t have that much time.
Weeks have passed, and she has not replied. I must have scared her off. It’s a shame, since that was definitely not my intent. I guess reality does that to some people.
But, I figured I had to at least try to get the word out, anyway. I would prefer not to have the deaths of “farmers and towns” on my conscience, so I have to make an effort to solve the problem.
So, if there are any senators or congressmen who happen to be reading this, please…make it rain. Or snow. For 20 years. If nothing else, maybe that will at least help prevent forest fires.
And, something about republicans.
* Yes, Smokey the Bear is my friend. But, that is another story entirely.
© 2008 by Kevin McConaghy. All rights reserved.