CAWTHONS CATHARSIS - Herald Columnist Named to Prestigious Position (But Don’t Tell Anyone!)

(09/12/2017)

By Jack Cawthon 2004
Barbecuerun@aol.com

For those of you who have missed me, and I’m being somewhat optimistic, I have been in Big Puf handling a rather important assignment. I was named Publicity Director for the Big Puf Orange Roughage Catfish Festival. No sooner was I awarded the prestigious title, than Okey Hanshaw, director of the Tri-Holler Chamber of Commerce, approached me and told me not to tell anyone about the upcoming Festival.

For some reason this sounded much like the job I once had at a leading mental institution in Morgantown, only there I was dealing with chickens and their waste products, but aside from my bosses, I was overly restricted with what could be announced to the public.

I told Okey that I thought the purpose of all the festivals that I knew of, and there is one for about every topic one can name and some I can’t, was to bring in money, especially from tourists, into the community.

Orange Roughage Catfish

He said that was the very reason not to tell anyone. Although, the money is nice, always some of the outsiders viewed the Big Puf region as the good, laid-back place to stay and settle in. He said aside from talking funny, they always wanted to change things, like pave the streets, put in sewers, install street lights, always proclaiming that country life was great if only there were city conveniences. As a long-time resident of the Yuppie Lake community, I knew wherefore he spoke. Although we live six miles from Morgantown, there were recent talks of incorporation with that city, I kid you not.

So, with an important title and nothing to do, I felt I was right back on the Payroll, and I must admit that it felt refreshing back doing what I could always do best.

Okey reminded me, as we parted, “let one of ‘em outsiders move in and there goes the neighborhood!”

He cited, as if I needed reminded, the case of Lester T. Archabald IV who had come down from Pennsylvania in the ‘70s to strip mine coal in the rich Lower Beelzebub seam. He had riddled Big Puf Mountain with scraps and bruises, and after poking around from some deep coal, had gone belly-up. After every major rainstorm, water pours down the mountainside, over-spilling the crick. I have stood many times looking down from the mountain and have seen houses, livestock, and few bobbing heads that looked faintly familiar, sweep down the crick, and thought, “There goes the neighborhood!”

But if Archabald left one redeeming feature behind it was the orange, gooey glob that drained from his mining adventures. The orange goop ran into Big Puf Crick, spawning what is now the famous Big Puf Orange Roughage Catfish, a new species which thrived on the orange runoff.

Biologists were slow in recognizing the new species. The DNR, similar to its handling of panther sightings in the state, claimed they were everything from mottled sunfish to goldfish dumped from pet stores. But at long last, it took an environmental group, the Allegheny Front, to gain the attention of the U. S. government officials, who promptly declared the Orange Roughage an endangered species, although the only danger anyone could foresee was the elimination of the mine drainage. So, Archabald was told to let it flow freely and if he attempted reclamation, he would be fined severely. Of course, being the public- spirited coal baron, he loudly protested.

Looking on the bright orange side, the citizens decided that if you are handed orange-colored water, then make orange juice. They figured there might be a way to turn the water into fine opportunity. The idea of a Festival was considered, and it was discovered that no town yet had laid claim to an Orange Roughage Catfish Festival, although most other subjects were covered.

The first Festival wasn’t much. Big Puf Daddy and his Puf Adders Band were there and the Allegheny Fronters staged a Vision Quest. But the Holy Rattlers brought forth the serpents and upstaged the New Agers with some other worldly visions of their own. The Reverend Les Pedeza, on parole for community service, said a few words and blessed Sister Hannah several times in the rear, as she stood in the back of the crowd crying out “Amen!” That may have been when the thoughts of a Publicity Director were born.

Although I wasn’t able to publicly announce the recent Festival, I did tell a few people I knew in high government circles and who are referred to in news stories as “reliable sources,” and who have been used on occasion by such respected reporters as Dan Rather, that a Festival was coming about, but not to tell anyone.

People from all over the country were in attendance when the event opened. That was when Okey Hanshaw put out the word again for me not to put out any more words.

The locals enjoyed the event even beyond expectations. There were little pint cups of concentrated orange mine sludge that the kids could buy for a quarter and dump into the crick for the Orange Roughage as they danced joyously in schools. The Holy Rattlers had a petting zoo, but a rough winter had befallen them when a power outage caused the engine oil heaters inserted into the bellies of the serpents for all-weather protection, resulted in both the snakes and the congregation going dormant for the winter. They had a big supply of “surprise sandwiches” for sale that taste a lot like a mix of chicken and other unknown fowl. I bought a dozen to freeze and eat later, as they make a good late night bite.

You might say a good time was had by all, except those lousy outsiders who were shunned and, except for their money, made known they weren’t welcome to hang around. I know the dates of the next Festival, and if you don’t tell anyone…


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