The other day I ran across this article [Link] about the town of Big Spring, Texas recycling water by treating urine. Obviously the name of the metropolis is inaccurate.
But the thought chain that resulted took me back to the recent unpleasantness when the old Confederacy found itself sadly lacking in manufacturing capacity of all sorts but especially weaponry. Arsenals of all sorts sprang up. A cannon manufactury was started in Nawth Alibam’s Shining City on the Hill, predating its eminence as a leading laboratory of boom rockets. A gunpowder (propellant) factory was set up in Selma which was one of the larger metropolises in the state at that time.
The problem with manufacturing gunpowder was obtaining adequate supplies of saltpeter. Because the South was agrarian there were lots of compost heaps but these were only short term solutions. Once they had been harvested, the resource was depleted. So the approach adopted was to extract saltpeter from human urine, it being easier to collect than animal urine.
Normally this would not be a great ado, just a matter of installing containers in the privies and obtaining natural production from the men. Unfortunately, most of the men were off in service so it became necessary to obtain urine from the women and this collection has both social and plumbing consequences. Accordingly the activity was a bit of a gossip and a song was written about the matter: [Link]
John Haralson! John Haralson!
You are a funny creature;
You’ve given to this cruel war
A new and curious feature.
You’d have us think, while every man
Was born to be a fighter,
The women, bless the pretty dears
Should save their pee for nitre.
which is the first, least risque verse. Nitre was the Southron term for saltpeter. And John Haralson was the patriot who devised the program.
So we shall hope that Big Spring Texas has a John Haralson.
Yesterday was a smooth day. FD SCP and I managed to get our rear-end-of-SUV load of electronics: monitors CRT and LCD (the latter dead, the former still capable and thus a pain to part with after good service, archetypes of human affection for material things, sedentaryness and civilization, even our sweet-and-sour love-hate relationship with change and stagnation, growth and deterioration;) an old printer of the daughter’s, who from our perspective has the technoambivalence of the young, consuming and discarding without thought or feeling and apparently achieving nothing but self-gratification at the expense of humanity and society; odds and ends of wireless networkage; telephones that still have wires; and old CD and DVD drives whose McGiverness is inadequate is hence dated.
Our reception upon arrival at the drop site was definitely joyous. In retrospect we arrived at that happy boundary between wondering if anyone will come and the whole matter being reduced to drudgery and wonder of when will our time be up? What had taken me the better part of an hour to waddle out to the vehicle, mostly because of the bulk of monitors and staircases that challenge my inner ear, were removed in something like two minutes: many hands not yet cleansed of eagerness by too much of the same. Even my offers to pay television fees for my monitors – are tuners really the seat of toxicity? – were cheerfully declined.
We drove off to MalWart with the aura of content that comes from the perception of doing good for the species and the nagging fear that the moment is already shattering. The latter was not far off. As we entered the parking lot of Greater Metropolitan Arab’s temple-of-Mammon, the skies congealed and desultory rain began. We quickly puddle plopped into the squeaky linoleum mausoleum and did our dirt: vitamin C; potting soil; assorted foodstuffs ranging from dinosaur descendant stem cells to the marvel of vegetable pseudo-lactation. I marveled at the cosmetic engineering of vegetarian mamalianness and the asentience of my fellow citizens, of how many people can be simultaneously ugly, tattooed, and obese, and judging from their behavior and converse, deficient in intelligence as well. Da Vinci and Sturgeon would both have been at ease in this marketplace, no matter what fears we may have of culture shock.
Out again among the drops and off to the emblem of Yankee government steadfastness, the local seat of the USPS, sometimes pronounced to associate we-the-people and urine and thence past the recyclage point at one of the city’s citizen amusement edifices to note the presence of two large rental transporter truck being unloaded of hundreds of commercial electronics boxes and the already bedragledness of those manning the position. The reality of Amerika had not be slow in intruding on our technological idyll and I motored down the street happy to return to my personal “protection against the envy of less well favored nations.“