“Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink.”
Thus starts “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” With my apologies to Samuel Taylor Coleridge, I am going to borrow his line for my article.
I have lived in Hancock County for four decades. I have become very astute when it comes to farm fields. I joke that I can now tell the difference between corn and soybeans.
However, to my many farmer friends, farming is no joking matter. It is their livelihood. Whether it is Richard Walker and Maj. Brad Burkhart in the eastern part of Hancock County or Marlon Corwin in the southwestern part or Dr. Paul Klink somewhere in the middle, they all have the same common problem: Water! Too much water.
All of the above will readily admit that this is the most rainfall that they have ever seen. Marlon farms about 4,000 acres. His Lantz/Corwin farm has been designated by the state of Indiana as a homestead farm. What that means is that it has been in the family for at least 100 years. It also means that it must produce at least $1,000 in agricultural products per year.
When I asked him about the rainfall, this season, he remarked that not only was it the worst he had ever seen in his life, it was the worst that his fellow farmers have had to endure in more than 65 years.
So what can be done about the problem? Richard Walker told me that when it comes to the vocation that he has chosen, not much.
One thing that the Hancock County farmers have in common is a nasty detail called replanting. The majority of the grain farmers have replanted at least three times this season — some four or five times.
This is not only time-consuming, but it is expensive. It cuts into the farmer’s bottom line. Some farmers do carry crop insurance; others do not.
In talking with all of my farmer friends, they all seem to have one thing in common: they take it in stride.
In talking with Steve Long, CEO of Hancock Regional Hospital, about this problem, he had a novel idea. Due to the topography of Hancock County — i.e., flat — he wondered why no one had ever purposed that we build a reservoir.
The problem, of course, is where do we build it?
The logical place would be somewhere in the eastern part of the county. This would be complicated but doable. It would take a Herculean effort to unite everyone in Hancock County to get on board — but it’s doable.
Man has been irrigating, storing water and controlling floods for centuries. We in Hancock County can do it. We could get the Army Corps of Engineers, the politicians, the farmers and city/town folk together on this project.
The benefits would be phenomenal. All of Hancock County and its surrounding counties would benefit. First of all, we could control the flooding.
We would ensure safe drinking water for future generations.
The economic boon would be great for our county.
A by-product would be the recreation that it would provide us.
I think it is doable. We could alleviate the farmer’s plight. We could see our beloved county be a leader in the midst of the other 92 counties across Indiana. We could gain full employment for our populace. I think it is doable. In my lifetime, I kind of doubt it.
Getting back to my original premise. We then could change the Ancient Mariner’s Rime to, “Water, Water everywhere — with plenty of water to drink.”
C.O. Montgomery of New Palestine is a former teacher, Sugar Creek Township trustee and co-director of the Hancock County Character Council. Send comments to dr-editorial@ greenfieldreporter.com.