Good ole American ingenuity missing

Published 2:27 pm Tuesday, June 8, 2010

I’m still thinking about the giant oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

It’s still on my mind because Donna Sue and I will be going down to Mexico Beach for a few days at the end of this week. We will be joining my family as we continue what has become one of the few times, during the year, that we all try to get together.

In normal times, I would be thinking about all the laughing and eating and card playing that will be going on. I cannot mislead you. All of those activities will continue with great relish, however, it will be impossible not to think about the ecological disaster that has occurred in that great body of water that is so familiar to most of us in southwest Georgia.

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How many of us have not spent a few reckless weekends as high schoolers as we celebrated the nights and days after our junior-senior proms?

I even wrote a song once called “Panama City Blues” and really thought that it was worthy of the Billboard chart. Still do!

But today, the only Panama City Blues I can think of concerns hundreds of thousands of vacationers and millions of dollars of lost summertime “moolah.” Plus, the ruination of one of the world’s most beautiful and fruitfully fishable coastlines. I am looking forward to traveling to the coast tomorrow and will be interested in seeing just what is going on firsthand.

I also have been following the disaster sort of wondering what I or anyone else could have done to have lessened the impact of the explosion and the resulting escape of who-knows-how-much crude oil. The lack of identification as to how bad the spill was seems to be at the center of the battle.

British Petroleum, either, did not realize and publicize just how big the spillage was or they wanted to keep that information to themselves for public relations reasons. Neither of those scenarios would release them from complete responsibility, but the latter, in my opinion, would be criminal.

The United States government has admitted that they were not aggressive enough in the pursuit of their own appraisal of the event and have been on the defensive ever since. The government’s response seems to be reactive instead of proactive.

Know what? It doesn’t matter at this point. At this time, we know what we face and there is no time for finger pointing and adversarial attitudes. The only appropriate action, now, is an all-out effort to stop the flow and diminish the damage to the Gulf waters and creatures and our Gulf states’ precious resources. A cooperative effort between business, government, and the American people is the only way to fight this problem.

What we need is the best of that good, ole American ingenuity, know-how and spirit. I am not sure that BP and the U.S. government have given the creative minds of all Americans their due. All ideas from all places should be on the table.

Here’s what I mean. In little Pelham, Ga., there was a metal machine shop that was owned and operated by Gifford Flynt. He was a diminutive man in stature, but he had a huge reputation for being able to solve the most complicated problems, particularly when it came to metal and machinery.

One might not have thought so highly of his place of business as it looked from the outside. It was just a building of tin with a poured cement floor. Scrap metal of all kinds and shapes were outside the building and it looked sort of junky. Inside, he had all kinds of metal working machinery and he was a master at all of them.

A farmer might bring by an old, worn-out piece of equipment. I know that to be the case because that’s all most of the farmers had back in the old days; worn-out equipment that had seen better days. The farmers couldn’t afford to buy the newer pieces, so they kept on patching up the older. Mr. Flynt and his band of welders were very adept at keeping the equipment together and working.

In addition to the old, there would be some new and expensive pieces that didn’t seem to do exactly what it was meant to do. The farmer might point to a part of it and say, “Mr. Gifford, I just don’t think those engineers knew what they were doing.”

The farmer might point at some part of the equipment and tell Mr. Flynt that “I need this part [without naming the part] to do this and I wish that would do that.” I know that sounds confusing, but Mr. Gifford would listen and look and ponder and say, “Give me a day to see what I can do.”

In a day or two the farmer would return and Mr. Flynt would have put his creative genius to the task and it might not look all that good, but somehow and someway, that piece of machinery would be better. Plus, when the farmer went to pay the bill, the price would have been very reasonable, much more reasonable than the original and nonworking new piece of shiny material. I don’t know where Mr. Gifford went to school, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t Harvard or Yale.

So what am I saying?

That Mr. Gifford Flynt could have stopped the oil leak and built some kind of contraption to prevent the pollution of the beautiful Gulf of Mexico?

I’m not saying that exactly, but I am saying that the solutions to our problems don’t always have to come from big corporations and government.

There used to be an American spirit that would not just sit back and accept defeat. It was called American ingenuity and it was free to work. We’ve either lost it or quenched it. If we’ve lost it, we’re in trouble. If it has been quenched, we need to find a way to loosen it. Our way of life depends upon it.