CAWTHON'S CATHARSIS - Columnist Goes on Rampage!

(04/03/2003)

By Jack Cawthon
Barbecuerun@aol.com

I appreciate the concern of three or four of you who are always worrying about my health-although you never come right out and say it, I sense it is my mental health-whenever this space is vacant too long, vacant meaning void of words when absent or voided words sometimes when they are present.

As I feel a closeness to you readers, a far-flung group of poor souls who must have time on your hands and space in your heads needing fulfilled, or better yet, sedated, I have a confession: for the past several days I have been smashed on ramps.

I realize that this column also serves as an educational advancement for some of you and an intellectual stimulus for others, and if some unfortunates among you know not what a ramp is then allow me to enlighten you with the breath of knowledge. The ramp wherefore I speak is NOT an entrance or exit to the Interstate, but an endowed plant growing in the fertile soil of the prime evil forest. Its properties so far have evaded the watchful eyes of the DEA, an agency which may be more attuned to what it perceives as a greater threat in other wildwood flowers. In fact, the Feds may be completely ignorant of what some of us practice in the privacy and greenery of our own woodlots.

The ramp should not be called “wild garlic,” as that is an insult to all who cherish the sweetness of that gentle herb. It is not a “leek,” nor is it a “wild onion.” It is unique all to itself, and it comes with springtime on its little stinky roots.

Growing up in sheltered childhood in Gilmer County I was protected from the ways of the outside world, and it was only when I entered the sacred pagan halls of journalism did I learn of worldly wiles. Little did I know that I would be led down a path of addiction and after 20 years of institutional confinement still find my head both bloodied and addled.

I must, as males of the species often do, place much of the blame on my bedmate of, lo, so many years. She was not a native of my homeland, but an outsider from far off Nicholas County where strange rituals are performed much in the manner of the Green People of pagan worship. Growing in that strange, unfamiliar land was The Weed.

My first encounter, which was to lead to my downfall, occurred in a small basement classroom in the Nicholas countryside. I had 35 students of assorted talents and dispositions compressed on a warm spring day who I had agreed to shepherd until I could obtain more suitable employment. As I walked into the pandemonium on that fateful day I was greeted, or more appropriately, overwhelmed, by an overpowering smell the likes of which I had only experienced when our New Deal gift out back from President Roosevelt was bucking a homeward bound wind.

When I complained to the principal about a busted sewer line in the basement, he only smiled and explained the annual ritual of the rampson.

Did he expect me to actually swallow anything like that? But through the influence of the Little Woman, much as with the story of the forbidden apple, I did partake. (Here I have the theory that Adam and Even when expelled from the Garden were commanded by The Lord to “take thee that weed with thou,” and that I would soon experience Original Sin to its fullest.) Her grandmother served up the first plate to me along with fried potatoes, brown beans and cornbread. From then on I was hooked on the Woman, the Grandmother, and, gasp, the Weed itself.

Only those of you who have succumbed to the devilish lure of addiction can know the torment of withdrawal. When I moved to Morgantown I would prowl the streets looking for a source. I would approach bedraggled, bleary-eyed strangers, many of them professors of English, I am convinced, and I would palm a 20 and bemoan my craving. They would often provide me with a Baggie with some sort of vegetation in it, but when I frantically tore it open I saw my hopes go up in smoke.

Only when I found The Promised Land of Preston County did I find, hallelujah, small patches of the greenery that I knew with proper conservation and care would sustain me in my hour of need and trials among the Philistines.

And now each spring I sally forth to my own private Eden. I carefully harvest each little stem, not by digging it out by the roots, but by cutting it off at the roots and the little stinkers have rewarded me by going forth and multiplying.

A few years ago I sold off a portion of land to a young couple needing a home site. Within that parcel lay my private patch of ramps. I considered a “ramp clause” in the deed allowing me and my heirs, or airs, if you prefer, to harvest beyond now and the hereafter, but after taking a sworn oath from the young wife that she would never allow the taint of that obnoxious weed within her new house, I closed the deal. However, I was troubled by the look of defiance in the eyes of the husband who I knew viewed me with ramp envy. But so far, the marriage has survived, and so has the ramp patch.

This year I took my first harvest on March 16, and I have continued the orgy daily since then. I have devoured them straight up, bacon-fried, in soup, in cornbread and inhaled from the container, and at times have experienced visions and voices, both seeing voices and hearing visions. Sadly do I relate this terrible affliction, but by now, dear readers, you surely must have deduced which way the wind is blowing.

My major concern is that someday I may overdose. I doubt that even the most dedicated of EMS attendants will dare give me mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.


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