CAWTHON'S CATHARSIS - "Firein' On The Mountain" At Big Puf

(04/04/2001)

By Jack Cawthon

For some time I had heard rumors of a militant right wing group operating in the vicinity of Big Puf. I decided to investigate. After several weeks of pestering Burvil for information he finally relented and told me to come on down and that he would take me to an armed stronghold. First, however, he demanded that I bring some "necessities" of life for him, which I won't detail here as he is still a minor and I don't want to be accused of corrupting a source in my role as professional journalist.

We set out one morning up a tortuous trail on the side of Big Puf Mountain. Along about noon as we rested a shot rang out, then the whole mountain seemed to explode with machine gun fire and with what sounded like mortars with a few grenades thrown in for good measure.

All of the commotion didn't faze me in the least as I had gone through numerous Preston County deer seasons. But poor Burvil lay on the ground whimpering like an uprooted groundhog.

I thought the kid had been hit. As he lay there he was violently jabbing his hand in the air, motioning over my shoulder. As I turned, there she was, dressed in fatigues and brandishing what looked liked a flexible cane.

I was facing the notorious Granny Pratlow who I had heard so much about, leader of a splinter group broken off from both the NRA and AARP and known as the Gray Bandoliers. As I eyed her she pointed her cane in my direction and a high-powered rifle shot rang out. A twig was clipped just above my ear.

As I jumped she cackled with glee. "How'd you like them apples, sonny? Bought this here cane through Medicare and modified it a mite with a kit off'n the Internet." Again, she cackled, I thought a little too hysterically.

Then, as if on cue, I heard the sound of revved-up engines and four or five all-terrain wheelchairs zoomed over the ridge. They looked as if they were armed with miniature rocket launchers. Behind them came a column of bedraggled oldsters all with walkers or canes.

"Meet my army, boy," and Granny waved her hand and the group clicked to attention with the clack of aged bones, dentures and prosthetic devices. I knew that I had a story here provided I lived to tell it, but to a trained professional like me fear was the last thing on my mind as I had learned years ago at a major university to publish or perish.

I looked Granny in the eye and asked her to tell me her story. Why had she been driven to this remote mountain to take up arms? "It's the rotten, stinkin' Govmint!" and she spit an amber stream. In addition to violence, Granny rubbed snuff, which I hesitated to tell her might shorten her lifespan afraid that it might shorten mine as well.

"Don't you read the Constitution, sonny?" she asked with vehemence. I told her I couldn't understand oil and gas leases, my homeowners insurance, or the DNR hunting regulations let alone antique government documents.

"Don't get smart with me, you young whippersnapper!" she yelled, and I promised I wouldn't if she would just lower her cane. Burvil still lay on the ground trembling and moaning in sequence.

But I felt the question needed answered, so fearlessly through trembling lips I asked it: What is it about the government that you don't like?

She spit again, wiped her lips on a sleeve, looked me in the eye with a tic in hers, and said "We don't want no government messing in our lives. Just give us more Medicare, Medicaid, more, more, more…" and she seemed on the verge of apoplexy. I thought it was time to move on.

But, living dangerously, there was one last question. I asked her if she didn't feel that maybe the young were being shortchanged by all the resources channeled for her purposes.

She replied with an expression that I have heard used only by teenagers and by seasoned deer hunters in regard to the DNR's regulations and landowners who post their land.

I felt that I had pushed my luck, so I dragged Burvil off the ground and started down the mountain. Granny yelled after me, "Tell George W. Bush he can go_______," and she said some awful words that I had never heard from a senior citizen. She punctuated them with an upraised gesture that I assume meant victory.

Burvil asked if I thought I might win a "Wurlitzer" with my story. I told him I would see how it played first in the Hur Herald.


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