Where there’s smoke…

Published 7:46 pm Wednesday, January 27, 2010

As always, it was a beautiful day on Lake Mitchell—a little cold as I remember.

I was using the Higgins Ferry Park house as a headquarters, sitting there doing some reports as I looked out the window toward the mouth of Hatchett Creek.

I know, you probably have a giant house on top of it now, but I like to remember the little stream as it made its way down to the water. About halfway, it stops and leaps the rest of the way, creating an almost invisible fall. It was a beautiful spot. Like a lot of others, people overlooked it, but there was a time when it was used for another purpose.

I saw black smoke putting up too high and too confined for a woods fire, so I called Coosa County fire tower. She said she saw it but couldn’t make it out. It bothered me. What would someone be doing up there? What is burning? Does someone need help? I was about to get an answer, as my curiosity was to overcome my better judgment. Though I was hardly dressed for the climb, I was much younger and in better shape.

I jumped in my boat and went over where I could line up with the smoke and hope for a better place to start my climb—as it all seemed like a rock cliff. I got out and started, I huffed and huffed, rested, and huffed and huffed some more.

At the crest of the hill, I could make out the remains of a vehicle, some of it still red hot, some still smoldering. How did it get here? Were there human remains inside? If not, where are they? I finally got close enough to answer some of my questions.

There was no one inside the car or anywhere to be seen. I made out the Tallapoosa County license plates and the telltale remains of a little wire antenna on the roof. Was it a law enforcement officer? If so, what happened to him? “Anybody here?,” I kept repeating, until I started answering myself. I went back to the boat and called Montgomery for information on the tag. There was a long hesitation, and he said, “get to a phone, and I’ll call you.”

He told me the tag had been issued to some Alcohol Beverage Control agents. They were investigating some manufacturing of homemade whiskey! That was their car, but they had no report of their whereabouts!

A couple of hours later, he called and said the officers had walked all the way to Highway 22 and got a ride to Rockford. They said when they returned from checking out a site, their car was afire.

A few days later, I was over at the spot, just meditating like I used to do, and I remembered the story Obie told me about years before I came down to the lake. Several people were working their still when the “federal men” raided them and shot Mr. C, a well-known person “in the business.” Most all the folks in the “business” carried their shotguns in their boats.

One of the officers yelled out, “Don’t touch that shotgun,” then a shot rang out and a man lost his life. The officer said he was reaching for his gun; Obie said he was just reaching for his boat paddle.

The sad fact was that a human life was lost. Whiskey still, boat paddle, shotgun, burned car—it matters not! Right here at this spot that God created for us all to enjoy. Was it worth it?