Roy Exum: What The Indians Knew

Sunday, June 16, 2019 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum
‘Flea’ Chambliss, who was a hale-and-hearty friend for my entire life, died at the age of 81 last week and, when the funeral is held at Lookout Mountain’s Church of the Good Shepherd this coming Tuesday (3:30 p.m.), you can bet some glorious stories will be told. After all, ‘Flea’ was indeed a Chambliss – their family Bible proclaiming he was regally known as John Alexander Chambliss III – and in the way Southern families celebrate a bond of sorts, I was blessed to know Flea’s father and grandfather equally well. Today it seems that families don’t adore one another as they once did and it is tragic.
 
“Mr. Jac,” who was Flea’s dad, was cut from a rich and glorious cloth that made him not only one of the best attorneys in Chattanooga but also one of the biggest characters.
One day he was speaking to the Rotary Club, where the average age is deceased, and when he casually said, “You know, I’ve gotten to where I really enjoy pornography,” which really lit the crowd up. My heaven’s above! Of course, “Mr. Jac” was only kidding, but at least two women refused to let their husbands attend any more of the torturous Thursday ordeals.
 
When “Mr. Jac” died at the age of 99 in 2010, fellow attorney Bill Crutchfield wrote the beloved Andy Rooney to tell him – they were great pen pals for years– and Rooney immediately wrote back, professing “Jac Chambliss is the only best friend I have ever had but who I have never met.” So, yes, I have adored the Chamblisses for as long as I have lived on this earth and that brings us to the man who built Reflection Riding and bequeathed it to our Nature Center. (This weekend a big news item was that some louts had stolen a bobcat from the Nature Center -- it was only about two days later did it dawn on me that no one had absconded with an earth-moving machine … but a sharp-clawed, hissing, and biting terror of a live bobcat and, no, there is no on-off switch.)
 
I first met “Mr. John” when I was maybe five years old. That would have placed him in his late 60s at the time. He’d come to our house to talk to my dad about a bunch of things – mostly history. Dad grew up in central Mississippi and, as quite a scholar, knew about all manner of things. I was sprawled out on the living room floor when “Mr. John” explained that in the Great Indian Removal of 1830, there was a certain group of Native Americans that dared not go. Instead, they stealthy hid in the mountains for years.
 
These Indians knew every tree, every creek, and every cave in the vicinity of Chattanooga. They knew there are huge water resources the whiteface could never find. But government’s biggest failure was keeping the Indian Removal Act on the books until 1877.  Between the start date and end, there was an even darker set of days in America – the Civil War. The United States was broke. And the Indians, hoping someday to use the water as a bargaining tool, never used it.
 
Historians confirm “The Trail of Tears” march was the most sadistic, the most inhumane, and the most nauseating event ever recorded within the borders of the United States. From Wikipedia: “The Cherokee removal in 1838 (the last forced removal east of the Mississippi) was brought on by the discovery of gold near Dahlonega, Georgia in 1828, resulting in the Georgia Gold Rush.
 
Approximately 4,000-8,000 of the 16,543 relocated Cherokee perished along the way, the wife of Chattanooga’s founder, Chief John Ross, one of them.”
 
Remember, the Indians were brutally driven and “Mr. John” predicted that one day the white guys would pay dearly. With me clinging to every word, I couldn’t begin to think of what the shattered and battered could lord over the haughty, and then “Mr. John” said one word: “Water.”
 
It is there for the taking. Tennessee government long ago worked a deal that gives Tennessee-American Water all they want for free. That precedent established, any amount of water that flows over Georgia land can be sucked up with some huge straw device and directing the water will be a snap. I am thinking a high-speed train from Atlanta to Chattanooga with a huge pipe within 10 yards on the rail line. We could have several pumping stations to “hurry” and guarantee continuous delivery 24 hours a day, seven day a week.
 
Today there are parts of Georgia clamoring for water. I think it’s going to be a fun story.
 

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