| By Jack Cawthon|
We've been hearing a lot lately about rolling
California. Rolling blackouts are nothing new in Big Puf.
Only a couple of weeks ago Opie Pratlow, Elrod's wife's son by
Elrod's former spiritual adviser, had been over at the Over Easy Inn
on Little Wheeze Crick.
About the only proof of age required at the Over Easy is around 90
and six months or less, respectively. Happy hour begins at four in
the afternoon and extends into the wee hours of the morning, a
staggering amount of time when time is measured by the hour glass.
Opie wisely doesn't drink and drive, not necessarily from good
sense, but because he is so uncoordinated that he can't chew gum and
drive at the same time. So, he pulled over to the side of the road to
allow his liver to ingest what his brain had experienced.
He failed to set the emergency brake before he dozed off and his
'7l Mercury Comet rolled down Hogpen Hill and demolished Gertie
Hanshaw's chicken house. The sheriff wrote it up as just another
I spend considerably quality time in Big Puf seeking literary
inspiration. Some people have questioned whether there really is a
Big Puf when they have failed to locate my retreat after I have
provided detailed directions for finding it: just yan side of El
Dorado hang a right at Brigadoon.
Those same unbelievers accuse me of have hallucinations from an
altered mind. However, those who have been blessed to find their way
claim that an altered mind can be helpful afterwards. They are my
most devout readers.
When in Big Puf I always attempt to spend some time with Arley
Cleeter, who is the resident intellectual. Most small towns have
tolerance for one town drunk and one town intellectual and quite often
they are one and the same. Arley went for intellectual as he was the
only candidate; the other position would have required competing
He had been a back-to-the-lander who had come down from
Pennsylvania, some say running from a failed romance and some say
running from one that had been a little too much consummated.
He had bought the old Higginbottom farm sight unseen from a realtor
named Honest Abe whose nefarious dealings would never see him become
president but which did qualify him for the state legislature.
Arley arrived in a raging snowstorm. There was no heat in the old
farmhouse and not a stick of firewood available. He had brought with
him few essentials except his VW bus loaded with books. He now faced
an environmentalist's martyrdom of freezing to death in the dark or
becoming enlightened by burning literature. He chose the latter
First to go was his copy of Moby Dick. Arley had never understood
the fuss anyway over what he considered a story of a great big white
fish. And as the book smoldered, suddenly Melville caught fire and
became an inflammatory writer as he combusted up the chimney.
Next went the anthology of great poets. Poets often burn with an
inward passion and now was their hour of liberation. As Tennyson
caught fire there was a moaning of the ash bars and a mystical smoke
arose; Robert Frost began to melt and Emily Dickinson lay prostate in
By the time a good thaw had set in Arley was down to the Good Book
and some L. L. Bean catalogs. He figured he needed the Good Book for
spiritual fire and the Bean catalogs that once were part of his quest
for material upward mobility he now found useful for his frequent
bouts of downward mobility.
By the time spring arrived Arley had given up his aspirations of
becoming a writer of books and now saw a new environmental use for
disposing of doomed trees that had given their lives in vain-and
vanity. He would burn books instead of write them.
Thus began Arley's crusade as a burning bibliophile.
More and more people who had achieved their l5 minutes of fame were
expounding on it in book-length fashion and were leaving behind not
only memoirs but stacks and stacks of remainders that could be bought
by the pound. In addition to these by the truckloads, Arley visited
flea markets, yard sales and even libraries. He became the
librarian's answer to poor circulation.
Ever since, he has stayed toasty warm in the winter and well read
at the same time. "Better read than frozen dead," he chuckled as he
related to me how he beat the high cost of energy while doing his part
environmentally to dispose of wasted words.
When he asked if I had written a book yet, with a sly smirk on his
face, I told him no, that I had found a new outlet as a writer for an
online newspaper which circulated by computer only.
He turned ashen. When I left him he was sobbing uncontrollably, his
tears dripping down upon a Dan Quayle biography, rendering it
There is nothing more disheartening than an intellectual whose fire
has gone out!