Sunday, April 06, 2014

Dry America

US 84, Sudan, Texas

The very dry Sudan, Texas
Prohibition is a blight. There’s a thread of consequences that accompanies it.  There are no good restaurants and that’s a nonstarter for me. There’s a dearth of style, vitality and worldview in these loathsome places that are stuck in the 1920s.  And in absence of any forward energy is an aging populous that sees the New York Times as elitist left wing propaganda and thinks Fox News actually produces news.  What’s more these desiccated burgs inbreed like West Virginia cousins and can’t attract educated, well travelled newcomers that would infuse new blood into the community.  It’s a double whammy of reduction and repulsion.

As of November 2013 there were eleven entirely dry counties in Texas, 194 were “moist” or mixed and 49 wet.  As you’d expect the wet counties include all the major metropolitan areas and most southern counties.  The sticks of east and west Texas contain most of the dry counties to the surprise of absolutely nobody. How they vote is a given. They’re as red as Jim Bob’s nose.

84 year old Marian Steich helped make Winona, Texas the first “wet” town in Smith County. The tea totaling, church going great grandmother decided that folks should be able to decide what to drink and where to buy it.  Steich says, “I’ve never understood why you have to leave the county to buy beer to enjoy in your own home.” And she adds,“I watched this town die, she says, “Now I’d like to see it grow.” She made an alcohol to growth connection even I wouldn't have attempted.
In tiny Winona, population 600 and nestled in the buckle of the East Texas Bible Belt, residents finally voted by the slim margin of 18 to repeal prohibition and town tax revenues quintupled with the addition of four package stores. That's nobody's idea of ideal growth but none of the drys’ warnings about crime and littering have come true.

Winona mayor Rusty Smith who cops to the occasional beer reports, “We’ve seen a reduction in speeding on the highway. Cars are stopping in Winona now.” That's opposed to getting out of Winona as fast as possible.

Not to mention drunk driving. Alcohol related deaths are nearly four times higher in dry counties, 6.8 deaths per 10,000 people to 1.8%.  The logic being that people are going to drink and they’ll drive as far as it takes sober or otherwise to get demon rum.

One in nine counties is still dry, but Tennessee communities allowing alcohol sales have grown 55% since 2003. In the same period, 22 more of Texas’s 254 counties and 235 of its municipalities have turned wet or at least moist. In Texas the “wets” have won 80% of alcohol elections in the last eight years. Even in Kansas, where Prohibition lasted from 1881 to 1948, fifteen counties have seen the light since 2002. What's the matter with Kansas? you ask.

Put a cork in it. Prohibition is a lame duck candidate with no war chest, a platform that doesn’t hold wine and whose prospects are evaporating fast. The trajectory toward universal lubrication is immutable but there are still die hards.  So in the public interest, here are the Texas counties not to visit.

Bailey, Borden, Collingsworth, Delta, Hemphill, Kent, Martin, Palmer, Roberts, Sterling and Throckmorton.