Drought-parched Georgia got a "cool wet kiss of friendship" Wednesday from neighboring Chattanooga, Tenn., in the form of a truckload of bottled water delivered to lawmakers at the state Capitol.
Dressed in frontier buckskins and a Davy Crockett hat, an aide to Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield ambled into Georgia's statehouse to hand out 2,000 bottles to curious legislators trying to deal with a historic drought.
Both chambers of the Georgia Legislature passed a resolution last week asserting that a flawed 1818 survey mistakenly placed Georgia's northern line just short of the Tennessee River. Its flow is about 15 times greater than the Chattahoochee, on which Atlanta depends for water.
Tennessee hasn't taken kindly to Georgia's bid; lawmakers there have reacted with a mix of scorn and humor. The water stunt Wednesday was firmly in the spirit of the latter.
"It's just a friendly gesture, poking fun at the idea," said Littlefield aide Matt Lea. "But we feel it's a serious issue and there are more serious ways to deal with the problem, like controlling urban sprawl."
Jack Daniels next?
The gift was complete with a lighthearted resolution questioning the "irrational and outrageous" actions of Georgia lawmakers and declaring Wednesday Chattanooga's first "Give our Georgia Friends a Drink Day."
Littlefield's proclamation compares Georgia leaders to "Children of Israel in the desert" and adds that "tomorrow they might come for our Jack Daniels or George Dickel," both brands of Tennessee whiskey.
The proclamation also declares "it is deemed better to light a candle than curse the darkness, and better to offer a cool, wet kiss of friendship rather than face a hot and angry legislator gone mad from thirst ..."
Lea brought along a powderhorn but no musket, opting for a Blackberry that fit neatly into one of his pockets. "I didn't want to offend the Georgia Legislature," he explained.
He came with backup from his home state: A bank of Tennessee media and Chattanooga City Councilman Manny Rico, who offered his own explanation for the publicity stunt.
"We're trying to make light of a situation that's become very serious," said Rico, who joined the water wagon on the trip to Atlanta. "We're not trying to rub salt in their wounds."
Bottles accepted as 'down payment'
Georgia lawmakers have said the boundary has been in dispute for almost two centuries. Some Georgia partisans used the stunt to turn their own rhetoric up a notch.
State Sen. David Shafer, sponsor of the border proposal, said he accepted the water as "a down payment on the billions of gallons of Georgia water that feed the Tennessee River from the creeks and streams of northwest Georgia.
Another supporter, state Rep. Harry Geisinger, took one of the bottles to the floor of the House, and held it aloft for the 180 members to see.
"Our first installment of water has arrived from Chattanooga."