By Jack Cawthon


For several minutes I waited alongside Big Puf Crick in a peaceful meadow. The sun and quiet had calmed my frazzled nerves from the hustle and bustle of Morgantown and its traffic, constant building programs, often called "progress," and the ever-present hoards of young people who come to the city for mental conditioning—and a few parties—at the state's largest mental institution.

I had come to Big Puf for an interview with my long-time source on issues facing the elderly. I wanted a take on Obama's health care proposals.

Suddenly, there was a gentle hum in the air and I felt movement around me. I looked about and there they were. Granny Pratlow and her troop of followers, known and feared by those who dare to cross them, the weathered band of Gray Bandoliers.

Strangest of all, they were mounted on all-terrain scooter chairs which were equipped with lifters, causing them to ride high above the ground, like those four-wheeled vehicles you see adapted for off-road use with high-rise bodies and big wheeled tires.

All wore red berets. On the front of each mobile chair was a gun rack and within those racks reposed ominous-looking weapons. My knowledge of guns is limited to the .22 rifle I once used for squirrel hunting, but I'm certain there were automatic weapons and one or two looked like grenade launchers I had seen in Rambo movies.

Granny's militant group had recently been expelled from the Red Hat Society, a group of women of a certain age who upon reaching that age feel they have the right to dress as silly as they like.

Several members had been noticed all wearing the same red berets and the club had, rightfully, assumed they represented gang colors. They were asked to leave peacefully, a key word in dealing with the GB, and for once they did feeling they looked out of place anyway.

(Granny had previously been expelled from AARP and her card shredded for advocating firepower instead of lobbying power.)

I was beginning to feel a bit unsettled until I found her at my elbow. Even with prosthetic hips she moves with the stealth of a 75-year-old. "Hiya, Sonny," she slapped me on the back and let loose with an amber stream of snuff juice, almost splattering my L. L. Bean hiking boots.

I expressed amazement at the altered scooter chairs. "Got 'em through Medicare," she cackled, "you know them ads on TV where they say we'll see you won't pay a cent. Had 'em hotted up at Jimmy Joe's Garage over on Little Wheeze. Paid him with food stamps."

I foolishly remarked that maybe all of this wasn't exactly legal what with defrauding Medicare… "You know me, Sonny," she boomed, "illegal and immoral!" She gave me a knowing wink and for a moment I thought that Granny might be coming on to me and I decided I mustn't use sex appeal to lead me astray from my noble calling of journalism.

I was here to talk with Granny about Obama health care and how it would affect her and her loyal band of followers. In answer to my questions, she replied, "Don't need more government help. Got it made with Medicare now," and she swung her hand around, "and we are extra covered with a bunch of doctors in Florida come over from Haiti who do some sort of thing with a chicken from time to time and send healing vibes our way. Think it's called supperment cover."

"Course we don't recognize no government anyway, except from what we kin git frum hit." She laughed and again spit, but this time I quickly danced out of the way.

I looked around at the militant band, all women, I noticed, maybe because they outlive men, and they did look as healthy and fit as one might see in a well-run nursing home.

"You know, Sonny, the only plug they're gonna pull on us old folks is the one hooked to the chargers on our chairs if'n we don't pay the light bill. Right, Bandos?", she bellowed, and there came a wheezing sound in affirmation. In addition, I saw some pat their gun racks.

I couldn't understand how a group of older people could survive in the wilds of the Tri-Holler region, but Granny explained that with the pooling of food stamps her militia band had buying power. She added, "we git 'senior discounts' without asking," and she patted the gun on her shoulder. I knew that she was right in her assumption as I had heard reports of how she had shot up a Walmart that refused to give discounts on a case of beer. I didn't bring the matter up as sometimes discretion makes for better live reporting.

I was somewhat bewildered as to why Granny would talk to me, although a national columnist with an octagonal readership, instead of CNN or Fox News Network. As if to answer my self-questioning, Granny interjected, "You're kinda cute, Sonny," she crooned, "and I was taken by your picture where you ain't aged a day in ten years or so." At once I realized that even with my gray hair my extra-clean living over the years had preserved my youthful looks and now I was cursed by lustful thoughts from a gun-toting woman I respected a fearful lot.

"Come and see me sometime, Sonny, and I'll keep my gun on safety," and she winked. I knew the interview was over, but that the follow up might not be, as I blushed a deep crimson and decided to hurriedly slink bank to Morgantown and hide among the high rises.

I thought I heard the refrain, "Gray power! Gray power!" as the band hummed away. At least Granny and her troop were using clean electric power for transportation, leaving a small carbon footprint, as the greenies would say. I wasn't so certain, however, about the smoke from their automatic weapons.

Hur Herald from Sunny Cal
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