The rest of the country always thinks of Californians as strange people. It isn't really their fault. There is something in the water out there that does it to them.

Walpole, who lives in Marin County, just wrote me a letter explaining why people in Northern California are going off their rockers.

"We were told," wrote Walpole, "that there was a drought up here and we had to conserved on water. So we did exactly what they asked us to. We rationed our bath water, we stopped watering out lawns, we even thought twice before flushing the toilet. When it came to water conservation we rose to the challenge.

"We were a dirty, but proud, people. We had ring around the collar, but it was a small price to pay for saving the most precious liquid known to man.

"Our wives hung up their luundry with tattletale gray but the neighbors never told them they were using the wrong detergent. We drank wine instead of water, we swam in swimming pools filled with algae. Our children wore stains on their clothes to school, and learned to brush their teeth only once a day. We learned the true meaning of the war-time slogan, 'Take a shower with a friend.'

"So what happened? The first thing they did was raise our water rates.

"When I called up the water department to find out why, the man replied. 'Because people are using much less water and our revenues are down. We had to raise our rates to compensate for the lost income caused by the conservation measures we put into effect.'

"I said to him, 'You mean to tell me the less water we use the more we have to pay for it.?"

"That should be obvious to anyone." he said in a huff. 'Somebody had to pay for the water the people don't use.'

"But that's crazy." I yelled at him. 'You people told us to cut down on water and we did. Now you say we have to penalized for doing without it.'

"We didn't expect everyone to turn off their spigots. You people are all over-achievers. We asked you to cut down on the use of water, but we didn't plan on you saving so much water that we would lose money on it. The water department can't run without revenues.'

"I said, 'Well, why didn't you tell us how much water to conserve.?"

"He said, 'We wanted you to conserve as much as possible.'

"That's what we did." I screamed at him.

"He replied, "Then you have to pay for it. The only way the rates will come down is if you start using water again. You have to use up your allotments, or we may have to take drastic measures, such as fining and penalizing you for not watering your lawn or taking enough baths. I hate to say this, but we're ashamed of all of you.'

"Well, it hasn't been easy on any of us," Welpole continued in his letter, "Once you're hooked on water conservations it's hard to get off it. I've got the lawn hoses going all day long, the water is now running in the tub, and we're washing our clothes three times a day. I doubt if it will be enough to use up our allotment in time for our next water bill. But we're doing the best we can.

"The last thing I want to do is be fined for saving water that the district has to sell if it wants to stay in business."