I don’t know about you, but coming up out of the holidays is always difficult for me. The pause of Christmas is over, the new year has sprung. The wild grasses in my yard are coming up like, well, weeds, already ahead of my intentions to keep them mowed. There are things coming up that I should be preparing for or doing, like GSA meetings and pruning my pear tree. And I feel things coming that are as yet unnamed, invisible.
We can see some of what’s ahead. We will try to elect a President this year, and other people in government to represent us, enacting our political desires, attending to our social and economic needs, protecting our hopes for peace and security. We will be asked, or required, to select truths from a barrage of words and images strategically designed to attack our emotions, our fears and loves. We will be mentally assaulted by our own people in the name of Democracy. As citizens, we must respond. Buckle up, friends.
Some of what’s coming is less clear. One post-New Year’s event, however, has me excited because it seems borderline miraculous.
The small church in Porterville I have been attending, Grand Ave. United Methodist, has just received a new half-time pastor, which is a blessing itself after being without one for 6 months. His name is Dennis Hutson, a former Air Force chaplain and minister with deep roots in Allensworth, where he is now engaged in that town’s sustainable farming efforts. Groundwater is their primary source for irrigation as well as domestic supply, and has been a source of that community’s handicaps for decades.
But Allensworth, which sits at an elevation above the normal floodplain of Tulare Lake, is the community that was almost flooded last spring by Boswell’s diversions of Deer Creek had not Jack Mitchell, 83, been out in the middle of the night checking on things. Mitchell, chief of the Deer Creek Flood Control District, found that the creek’s levee had been cut, sending a sheet of rising water toward Allensworth and Alpaugh instead of flowing into the reappearing lake where it belonged. Mitchell’s 2 a.m. phone call to his neighbor Kayode Kadara, one of the principal members of Allensworth, got the community up to start sandbagging, while Mitchell called another neighbor with a bulldozer to start filling the breach.
Under threat of arrest if he messed with Boswell’s flood control measures, Mitchell found another place to cut, relieving the flows temporarily and buying time. “Well what do I do?” he said, “Just let two towns flood to keep this water off the lake bed?” And though they called the sheriff’s office to come see the evidence of who cut the Deer Creek levee, no one responded.
It was this story specifically that pulled me up out of my slumber last March to declare “Time’s up!” for the big boys (see Notes from Home, “Call for Change” March 30, 2023.)
You may be asking yourself “So? What does this mean, exactly?” It turns out that Kayode Kadara is Rev. Dennis Hutson’s brother-in-law.
I don’t know yet what that connection means, but the hope it generates in me has several shoots. To have someone in the pulpit who has invested in the future of one small farm and one small town in a region undergoing serious groundwater challenges means I don’t have to work to convince him of the importance of being involved in the issues that bring me life. Perhaps it means there’s hope for a breakthrough, an opening in the levee that keeps people of faith running in a small channel, thinking that church and politics don’t belong together (unless that means getting laws enacted preventing abortions, of course, and other “ungodly” aspects of our society.)
But most of all, I think my greatest hope is that I’ll find my own straggling faith reinforced as we approach this long-overdue battle for democratic control over our land and water. And after listening to his opening sermon this past Sunday, I feel Rev. Hutson’s faith is big enough to carry us all toward a new day, a real new year in this place we call Home.
Trudy Wischemann is a rural advocate who writes. You can send her your premonitions c/o P.O. Box 1374, Lindsay CA 93247.
This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of the Mid Valley Times newspaper.