(08/21/2018)
By Jack Cawthon 2001

I have often been asked why don't I write a book. Actually, it was more in the challenge as if you are so smart why don't you write a book? I've had the same challenge involving "rich," but I have failed to carry through on that also.

One reason I haven't written a book, other than lack of talent, is that nearly everyone else has already. I find many of them in their final resting place, the dollar bin in those numerous dollar stores, so cheap to my heart. It is always a race between Arley Cleeter and me, as he is an avid hunter and gatherer of burning prose and poetry for his winter heating needs.

Not long ago I beat Arley to a classic that I later donated to his cause. It was written by a fellow who was driving Rt. 50 every day and who saw a sign in Ocean City, Md., that Sacramento, Calif., was only 3,073 miles away. He is sick of his job-is this fiction or what?-and decides to take Rt. 50 all the way across the country. Why? Because it's there, stupid!

Granted, before the interstates, roads such as Rt. 50 were the way, and only way, to go. And if you want to see the country, and often the insides of some hospital emergency rooms, they still are. I just wouldn't advise riding along with the author I met. For one thing, he drinks a lot and hangs out in taverns. And like most authors, he is trying to find himself, a task not unlike trying to find his appendix with both hands in a lighted room.

My ire was irked over his treatment of West Virginia. When the Wall Street Journal and other prestigious publications do a story on us they spend months of investigations and intensive interviewing before calling us poor, dumb hillbillies.

On Rt. 50 the aforementioned author hardly starts out before he makes the mistake of badmouthing Oakland, Md., and my kind of people and he continues right on through to Romney.

But know where he stops and expounds for pages? The Shotgun Tavern. Friends, I may look redneck, I may talk redneck, and some people have declared me redneck, but this is one redneck you ain't gonna find in no establishment called the Shotgun Tavern!

I don't like bars of any kind, unless they are Hershey or Milky Way. You know who hangs out in bars? Drunks and bad women. But once in a while, admittedly, one finds a fine sensitive woman in a Harley Davidson tee shirt with "DAD" tattooed across her neck, and I know I've missed some outstanding bonding experiences, but I've also lived to reach my golden years.

Some things are done in moderation, like the ads request, but not in the Shotgun Tavern.

Speaking of bars, however, I once worked with a man who I was close to and who dearly loved bars. He had received a law degree from a prestigious university, and although he had never practiced, the stigma was still evident, but I liked him anyway. He delighted in putting on bib overalls, growing a three-day stubble of beard, and walking into the seediest redneck bar he could find. Like a fool, I sometimes tagged along.

He chose the kind of bars where the locals all know each other and the next of kin. A stranger can be mistaken for a narc, a bill collector, or, heaven forbid, a lawyer.

And Bill was not just content to sit and listen to the conversation. He wanted to start his own. He generally struck up talk with the guy sitting surrounded by empty beer bottles with that Jeffery Dahmer look in his eyes. He didn't begin by talking about the weather either. He asked historical questions, such as how did the West Fork River get its name?

You know this guy doesn't give a Corps of Engineers dam about the West Fork, but he slurs a reply that it was named for the west (expletive) fork. Sounds reasonable to me, but not Bill. He would grin and wag his finger, like I've seen Perry Mason do on TV, and say, no, it was named for a man called West.

So what if he was right? People have been dead right. The place would grow silent and the air become so heavy you could cut it with a knife, and you just know that one soon will.

Many a time after such an encounter I would grab my stomach and run for the door yelling it's that bubonic virus at me again!

But back to the book, before I digressed. Our author staggers on from one bar to the next but only gives three paragraphs to the road from Clarksburg to Parkersburg through Doddridge, Ritchie and Wood, my sort of country as I am a loner and you can't get much loner than that, until he reaches the Ohio River and finally passes, I hesitate to say out, in Ohio.

Like an investment I once had in Magnet Bank I hang on hoping to see how it all ends, and like with Magnet Bank we end up following the sinking sun to the end. By golly, the sign was right. The road ends in Sacramento, Calif. So does our author.

Come to think of it, I may have a book in me, but my mother always suspected tapeworms.


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