By Jack Cawthon 2007 |
I'm tooling down the Interstate in my old Dakota pickup, headed south for Big Puf. Over in the other lanes heading north is a mass of vehicles of all descriptions. Some are flying strange flags, and I wonder for a moment if it is a political caravan with George Junior Bush touring the state again to remind us to stay the course and complete the mission.
Then it dawns on me. It's just another football Saturday in Morgantown and the trickle up economy is about to drop kick in again. Kindly old President Reagan, bless his heart, was criticized by some, notably have-nots, when he proposed his trickle down economics. Give the rich tax breaks, the thinking went, and the extra money from them would trickle down to the poor like water dripping from a leaky pail. You can bet I was out there with my tin cup in hand hoping to catch some of the dribble.
But it works differently on football weekends in Morgantown. Morgantown, which is one of the fastest growing sprawls in the state, ain't poor by a long pass down the gridiron. You can bet, without legalized gambling, on it being a lot richer after the old jocks leave both their money and town.
Here we are, the second poorest state in the Union, never seeming to make No. 1 in anything, with a coach who looks like a million dollars. No, that was last year. Make it two million this year. And if he wins a major bowl this year, he may look better than Donald Trump next year, as he has nicer hair. Keep in mind, the local action takes place in a stadium named for a man who made a fortune from manufacturing and selling drugs.
Ah, yes, ain't football fun? Not quite so for me. Sometimes I have the grandiose notion that I am the Antijock, foretold by sports writers of old, who will wage war with fanatic sports fans in the final days of the Great Bowl playoff. But, then, again, I spent 20 years here in Morgantown in the state's largest mental institution and you can go with this anyway you wish.
But today I am on the way to Big Puf, again. I noticed long ago that most of the Big Pufers are not to be found at home on certain Saturdays. As I quietly sat with Arley Cleeter as he tossed a book now and then into his stove to take off the chill of a dreary day, he explained the Morgantown effect on the local economy.
As you no doubt know, Arley burns books for his winter heating. Alas, however, with all those books around him, he has deteriorated into somewhat an intellectual as he has picked up the bad habit of reading many of them.
As a result, he has almost frozen to death a few winters as his love of books has interfered with the spreading warmth that only a thick volume can provide on a cold wintry day as it crackles up in flames.
Big Puf has long been a pocket of poverty in the hills. The discovery of the Big Puf Orange Roughage Catfish, a one of a kind species found only in the waters of Big Puf Crick, has brought some money into the community from the tourists who have followed my promotions and found the place, and the environmentalists from the Allegheny Front who have arrived to protect the quaint little creature.
Most ardent protectors of the environment are not among the poor, but are those who have the money to buy substitutes for whatever it is they don't want the poor to exploit.
Arley has been doing a lot of thinking lately about global warming. But as I have mentioned, by reading books he has begun the long slide downward that leads to various degenerative disorders, the final stages of which result in terminal liberalism.
As Arley handed me some old football programs with the picture of a long ago coach whose name I could never get right, allowing me to toss them into the stove, providing a friendly hand for a coal substitute as it were, he expounded on his theories of global warming from greenhouse gases relating to the football crowd in Morgantown.
Arley had considered the effect on the environment of all those 50 thousand, or so, packed together for a Saturday game. He asked if I had ever considered the amount of greenhouse gases expelled by such a crowd.
By golly, I hadn't, I replied. Just think (he knew that I read a book occasionally and paid me the tribute) what happens when the home team scores, he said. A mighty cheer goes up, and, whoops, there goes those gases up with it. And then when the ref makes a controversial call, the boos provide even more. And, he added, there are all those hot dogs and beers, along with the excesses of pre-game tailgating that can disrupt the digestive system. Whoa, I said. I get the crack.
Arely continued with his observations, this time about his Big Puf neighbors. Remember, however, he is an outsider from Pennsylvania and what he told me I accepted with a grain of salt, as Pennsylvanian have been saturated with political activism ever since William Penn set out his social experiment.
But Arley was on a roll. He explained to me that in order to make the trip to Morgantown and football madness, all expelling greenhouse gases both coming and going, that Big Pufers would sell their souls, including their children. He cited the case of Arlo Pratlow who has six kids divided among his, hers, theirs, and God only knows, and who has been down in his back for years, drawing The Check. Well, he's a football fan and to rake up enough money for the pilgrimage to The Shrine he was going around selling his food stamps.
Isn't that illegal, I asked. Arley looked at me as if I had been na´ve enough to assume what Bill Clinton did didn't involve sex (did it really?), and continued. When Arlo was shamed by someone, not a football fan, of course, he exclaimed that "the little buggers get two free meals a day at school," and that he was only trying to prevent childhood obesity.
All in all, it is always a delightful day for me when I visit Big Puf, picking up wisdom from Arley Cleeter, but most of all shaking the noise and confusion of Morgantown for a spell. As I headed back north, the bulk of the traffic was headed south, expelling more greenhouse gases on the way. Flags were flying, horns were blaring and the multitudes were satisfied once again. Who am I to go against the flow? How 'bout them 'eers!!!