Talking Back 

Some responses for riled readers

Some responses for riled readers

Since summer of ’95, when this column first appeared in the Nashville Scene, I’ve only riled up a few people that I know about. That’s not part of a master plan; it’s just the way things turn out. When I sit down to write this column, I do ask myself sometimes, “If I write what’s in my head right now, will anybody get steamed?” If the answer is no, then I go ahead and write the thing. If the answer is yes, well, then I go ahead and write it anyway.

I bring all this up because I now have a clear favorite riled-up reader, and I want to share the details. Last week, a woman from Kingston Springs wrote the Scene complaining that I had gone way too easy on her hometown when I recommended it as “the best refuge for people who want to live close to town but avoid rush-hour traffic jams.”

She wanted y’all to know that I had failed to mention two whopping-big problems in Kingston Springs: 1. animals running loose, and 2. not enough fire protection.

Well, let me do my duty right now: Attention, people who might want to move to Kingston Springs. The townspeople are up to their asses in other peoples’ dogs and cats, and, for all I know, ponies and pigs. Worse yet, if your house catches on fire, it just might burn to the ground. Have a fire-escape plan and keep your insurance paid up.

I must say, though, that during my dozen or so visits to Kingston Springs in the last year, I haven’t seen or heard about any roving packs of hobo animals. I can’t say the same for any neighborhood in Nashville.

Let’s use Sylvan Park as an example. It’s a very nice neighborhood. But a few years back, my buddy Lester had trouble with feral cats breaking into his garage and peeing down the air vents of his beloved old Chevy. The cat pee stunk up Lester’s car, his clothes, and Lester himself. It was ruining his life. Lester couldn’t cat-proof the garage, so he built a cat trap. Every night, for about a month, he caught a new kitty. If it had a collar, or if it was a known neighborhood pet, he’d turn it loose then and there. If it was a derelict cat, he’d drive it out to the west side of Bellevue and turn it loose. Could be some of the cats wandered out to Kingston Springs.

Or it could be that the loose-animal threat in Kingston Springs is misinformation. I know that a few years back, when Hurricane Hugo slammed into the South Carolina coast, the locals put out a story that a surge of swamp water had dropped a plague of snakes on Sullivan’s Island. The local news was telling people to stay off the island; you couldn’t take two steps without landing on a snake.

Well, here’s the inside dope: There weren’t any new snakes on Sullivan’s Island. The story was hatched to keep looters off the island. The story worked. I wonder if the Kingston Springians are up to the same thing.

Now, for the runner-up in my riled-up reader competition: Back in November, somebody accused me of being “against energy conservation” after I wrote that I wasn’t so sure that government-mandated washing machine standards would actually result in energy savings or cleaner clothes.

First, let me say that I have a long-term habit of figuring out the lifetime cost of things before I buy them. So if an appliance manufacturer actually comes up with a useful washing machine that’s stingy with water, I might just buy one myself after the family Maytag wears out.

That doesn’t mean I want to trust the feds with America’s plumbing. So far, their record is poor. The federally mandated 1.6-gallon-flush toilets, which are notorious for leaving Americans with clogged toilets and unsightly skid marks, have created a thriving black market for the old, outlawed 3.5-gallon units. And now that low-flow showerheads are the law, we Americans are learning how to take out the flow restrictors, and we’re adding multiple nozzles to our showers.

I freely admit: I worry a little about water conservation, but not a lot. I worry a whole lot more about somebody in the Department of Energy getting up every morning and making my plumbing decisions for me. Call me paranoid, but I have visions of federal agents kicking down my door one day, waving a plumbing warrant. If my commodes, showers, and washing machine are a little too thirsty, I guess I’ll be busting rocks at Leavenworth. In the meantime, I’m paying for gas and oil to go into Sequoia, the presidential yacht. Just the thought of it makes me swimmy-headed.

Finally, let me offer this: To any of you whose fur I’ve rubbed the wrong way, I’m just as sorry as I can be. If you feel yourself getting too wound up when you read Helter Shelter, remember this: It’s not an asteroid on a collision course with earth. It’s not a flesh-eating bacteria. It’s a once-a-week newspaper column. It can’t hurt you.

Visit Walter’s Web site at, or e-mail him at


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