Grasshopper Soup: Is there a fracking problem?

Bob Sweigert
Special to the Sun

TAHOE CITY, Calif. — When I first heard the word fracking about ten years ago I thought it was a new dance, but it’s a method of drilling sideways underground for oil and natural gas. It saves money by making it possible to drill vast areas with just one drill site instead of multiple drill sites.

It is considered to be a major improvement in drilling technology, but fracking has become the latest controversy. Opponents say it releases gasses into the ground water, and fracking supporters say those same gasses occur naturally in our drinking water, so the fracas is on. Some say fracking causes blindness, mental health issues and even death, and, though the fracking connection to those problems has not been proven, fracking experts are coming out of the wood work who know everything and refuse to hear the other side.

It would be out of character for America if everyone listened to both sides.

Fracking was invented for many reasons, one being to give us something more to frack about. As if we weren’t already making enough of a ruckus protesting things, now some people gripe about every fracking project in the country that helps keep our SUVs fueled and keeps us supplied with yoga mats, although they’re probably made in China.

But, fracking is no joke. People have been filmed (or doctored the videos) striking matches and actually igniting the water pouring from their kitchen faucets.

Recently I bought three boxes of “Strike Anywhere Matches,” made in the USA, 300 matches to a box they say (where is Dustin Hoffman when you need him?). But I didn’t buy them to turn my faucet into a flame thrower. I bought them as an air freshener because gas escapes into my bathroom naturally, without fracking. Since I had nearly 1,000 matches looking for something to burn, and the video of those people was so inspiring, holding matches to their drinking water and running from the flames, laughing as the fire spreads and chases them from the kitchen, I figured I’d try it too.

But my “strike anywhere” matches were on strike. Some of them would not even burst into flame after striking them on the strike pad conveniently provided on the side of the box! I even tried lighting a few strike anywhere matches under the wooden window frame in my bathroom and was only about 50 percent successful.

When we were kids we had great fun with strike anywhere matches. Like everything else, matches were made better back in those days. You could light them on your Levis, on towels, even on your teeth. It took a little while to develop the right touch, but, once you did, they lived up to their name. We even lit them on the zipper of our pants and it worked every time, and we are no less manly for it.

My guess is that the government decided that, since these matches were more dangerous than the ones you can’t strike anywhere, they would have to be made even less likely to ignite anywhere, so, out of our own stupidity, which the government is responsible for, we wouldn’t all become human torches. I also figured that, after forcing companies to reduce the strike anywhere-ness of the matches, the government allowed the match company to advertise their highly flammable weapons of mass destruction as strike anywhere matches anyway, and were taxed heavily for the favor. But I have no proof of this plot.

Now that the U.S. government put a company out of business that made plastic gasoline containers, I’m surprised strike anywhere matches are allowed in America at all.

Every region in the country is different, so what may be true of fracking and naturally occurring gasses in one place may not be true in another. Still, I was a little disappointed when, after finally getting a match to light by striking it on an avocado skin, then turning the faucet on, I discovered that my drinking water was not of the combustible variety.

Strike anywhere matches are no match for good old Lake Tahoe water.

Bob Sweigert is a Sierra Sun columnist, published poet, former college instructor and ski instructor. He has a B.A. and an M.A.T. from Gonzaga University. He has lived at Lake Tahoe for 30 years.

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