What it#039;s like to walk on water

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 5, 2001

In early November, while on our visit to Greenville, my husband and I made a trip to Biloxi, Miss. Although we were married in June, we had not been able to have a honeymoon for various reasons. My father had surgery, his father had surgery and subsequent complications, Steve and I both had already-scheduled medical appointments, and on and on.

When you reach our age many things are higher on the priority list than is a honeymoon. But we finally got our ducks in a row and were able to get away.

The trip was nice, we had some good food and drink, we lost the pre-agreed upon amount of money and came home with the pleasant memories we expected from the experience. But being on the casino boats put me in mind of another idea.

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I wonder why it is that if one wants to visit a casino in the south it is necessary to be either on an Indian Reservation or on water? Now I understand the reservation thing. The Great Displaced of this country deserve any and every legal way possible to better their economic status. Long years ago our forefathers saw to it that they were deprived of every possession, every right they had. After all, they were here first and we wanted what they had. Apparently, our ancestors felt it was their right to assault and rob an entire culture. Even if it was not their right, they did it just the same.

The business of gambling on water is a different suit, so to speak. Why can't we flip cards, throw dice or spin wheels of chance on dry southern land or even on sand like in Las Vegas?

I remember some years ago when I was living in Shreveport, La., when legalized gambling was passed by the people. It was a hard fought battle, but in the end Harrah's was the new kid in town. Other casinos sprang up quickly, and the riverfront area of Shreveport became a twenty-four hour a day, seven day a week mecca for people from far and wide. The highways between Shreveport and east Texas were always crowded. People and money poured into the area as fast as the Red River flowed. Soon, to meet the demand for tables and machines, Harrah's decided to put a larger casino in place of the one already there. Thus ensued many months of labor and expense as the corps of engineers had to widen and deepen the channel of the Red River to bring the boat up from the Gulf. It was a long and apparently newsworthy process that put Shreveport frequently in the forefront of television and newspaper coverage in the southern states. Being on water made the process far more arduous than it would have been had the casinos been allowed on dry land. It's acceptable for the casino-owned hotels and restaurants to be built on land, but not the casinos themselves, for goodness sake!

And perhaps that's what it really is. Maybe it is about goodness. Could it be that all that water will wash away the filthiness of those dollars trading hands? Maybe we Bible Belters need to splash some water on so controversial an activity. We certainly use the reference frequently enough when discussing the matter. If one has bad luck, he's washed up. If one breaks even, it's a "wash." On a bad day the money goes like "water through a sieve."

Maybe we who put such stock in the powers of water like to think that the Mississippi River, the Red River, the Gulf of Mexico can wash away all the negative issues connected to gambling. Could it be that the State Legislature in Mississippi and the Police Jury in Louisiana had that in mind when drafting the statutes governing legalized gambling? Probably not. But on a bright, windy day while taking a break from the slots and enjoying a bracing dose of sunshine and salt air, it was an interesting drift of thought.

What do you think? mcgintcar@volexpress.com