Liquid gold

Published 7:57 pm Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Anyone even remotely my age could name the song containing these words: “Black Gold, Texas Tea.” The song was from The Beverly Hillbillies, a wildly popular television show in the 1960s and ’70s.

Almost 50 years after its first episode was broadcast, it is still shown in syndication on television. Everyone knows that Jed Clampett discovered oil on his swamp land. He moved to Beverly Hills with Granny, Jethro and Ellie Mae, where they entertained the country for years with their city versus country antics.

Granny was an M.D., or Mountain Doctor. She used white lightning instead of anesthesia before pulling teeth with pliers. She called herself a “dunked” (rather than sprinkled) Christian and was quick to show her double-barreled 12-gauge shotgun when angered. She could tell time by a sundial and predict the weather by watching a beetle.

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Today, we predict weather a little more scientifically. For more than a decade people in Southwest Georgia have listened to Yolanda Amadeo, the chief meteorologist on WALB in Albany, predict the weather.

I have often thought that she has a beautiful name; it rolls easily off the tongue sounding intriguing and somewhat exotic. It is much different than the Dothan weatherman that I grew up listening to on WTVY. His name was Cletus Youmans and he was just as well-known and followed in his time.

Yolanda predicted rain for this past weekend. Given the record-breaking drought we have been enduring, her prediction was welcomed by all. However, most could remember the sounds of the past few weeks as the scattered thunderstorms teased the farmers and their city cousins alike.

An inch might fall on one field only to leave the crops bone dry just down the road. Many crops were already lost and others were struggling to survive. The creeks had dried up and the water table was dropping. Coffee shop talk often centered on dry wells, even over the aquifer that supposedly would never run dry.

No matter the denomination, the faithful and some not-so faithful prayed for rain. Old-timers talked about the droughts of the 1950s and some compared it to the dustbowl of the 1930s. The drought spread all the way across the southern United States. It was made more unbearable by the unrelenting heat, breaking its own records across the same area.

Yolanda predicted up to 4 inches of rain throughout her viewing area. I thought to myself that she could not possibly be right. Short of a tropical event, nothing brings that much rain in the middle of the summer in Southwest Georgia.

In fact, Yolanda was wrong. Instead of the 4 inches predicted, my rain gauge indicated 6 inches or more fell during this past weekend. Where we live, rain is more precious right now than black gold. It is the liquid gold that nourishes the crops that feed our local economy.

It was the first time since the retention ponds were built near the Presbyterian Church that the water rose up to the front steps. The ditches were full as the rain started Friday, then Saturday, before finally tapering off on Sunday.

The temperature dropped and we got a reminder of just how wonderful a place this is to live when 70s are the daytime high and not the nighttime low.

The gray skies refused to let the sun peek in, even for a moment. I sat on the patio at my house and the front porch at the lake, just savoring the sight, sound and smell of the rain.

Before our eyes, the water turned things brown to green. The thirsty plants soaked it up like a sponge.

You could almost see it in the people’s faces as the dust and pollen were washed away. This liquid gold was making money for us all. No matter your livelihood, a good peanut and cotton crop benefits us all.

And then Monday morning came. The sky was brilliantly blue. The nearly full moon was still visible in the west. It was only 70 degrees as I began my walk with my old dog, Harry, even having an extra bounce in his step.

Just like that, in the space of a few days, we briefly are reminded that it won’t always be hot and dry. Our brilliant fall season will be here before we know it.

We are also reminded that prayer, sincere and honest prayer does work. Yolanda Amadeo may have predicted the rain, but I believe that God delivered it. In doing so, he nourished not only the plants, but the people that depend on them.

Give thanks for the rain like you mean it. It is the liquid gold that sustains us all.

Dan Ponder can be reached at