CAWTHON'S CATHARSIS - For (Mental) Health Reasons Read This Salted Liberally…


By Jack Cawthon

We've been hearing a lot lately about how West Virginians lead poor lifestyles which result in obesity and related side effects. I say baloney! (Some health experts will immediately decry this as a fat-laden exclamation.)

The only method to assess the matter scientifically is with a survey, as I learned long ago undergoing book therapy at the state's leading mental institution (which eventually led to a degree of skepticism.) And, naturally, the only way to go and avoid chemical additives which is sometimes difficult as big-city dealers invade the hollers, I chose Big Puf as my study focus.

But before setting out on my quest I felt the need for a hearty breakfast as breakfast has been recognized as the most important meal of the day. I found a couple of pieces of leftover pizza from a night or two before, loaded with six kinds of cheeses and meats, including anchovies and some ingredients I couldn't identify such as a funny green coating but which I assumed came with a pizza loaded with "everything." Come to think of it, that may have been one we ordered a week or so before but after I had zapped it in the microwave I figured it had been revitalized. After all, that's the treatment for the mail nowadays.

After I had washed it all down with a couple of cups of black coffee I hit the road. One doesn't travel to Big Puf by the Interstate or other regular thoroughfares. I won't divulge the route I take as too many tourists might upset the ecosystem. I'll just say that Jack Weller was a bit hip when he labeled "yesterday's people." It's more like "return with us the thrilling days of yesteryear…" as the introduction to the old Lone Ranger radio program began.

Long before I reached Big Puf I was beginning to feel hunger pangs even with the fulfilling earlier meal, so I stopped at a well-known eatery which features the Humongous Burger, a favorite of mine which has three burger patties, six slices of cheese slathered in a wonderful sauce and loaded with lots of condiments, which a fellow I know keeps calling "condoms" much to my considerable embarrassment.

I needed the double rich chocolate-banana shake to rinse all this down and as French fries came special with the meal I "supered" it.

While I was slowly chewing my food as my mother had advised me years ago as a health benefit, a woman who appeared familiar-I mean one who LOOKED familiar to avoid you giving double meaning to it-walked, or more correctly waddled, through the door. I would have guessed that she might tip, or more likely break, the scales at 250 to 300 pounds.

She made a beeline, or duck line, to me and it suddenly dawned on me that this was Sudie Mae Enlow, a former cheerleader who was noted in her day for doing the split, a maneuver that caused me to dwell endless hours on its anatomically preciseness. She had never favored me with intimate details of her specialty, however; she had never favored me with anything at all, I recalled.

"Oh, is that you?" she gushed, as if I were a James Bond of disguises. "You look so, so…healthy!" she exclaimed. I explained that it resulted from clean living, but didn't add that it wasn't by choice but from neglect by women like her before I had acquired journalism ethics and began a life of purity.

She told me that she had put on a "few pounds" since school days. I lied and told her she hadn't changed a bit, a line I learned, alas, too late that can attract the favor of women better than a stretch limo. Ah, the tortures we who serve the profession nobly must endure!

Sudie Mae told me she had been on a diet and had come in only to order from the salad bar. I invited her to join me and when she returned she had two plates loaded with what I assumed was salad as I couldn't see under the dressings. "I just love this super bleu cheese with extra cream sauce," she sighed.

She said she just couldn't understand it. She had been dieting like this for months and kept putting on the pounds. I told her that maybe exercise would help. She said that she had an exercise bike that she rode faithfully every evening. But it had become such a drag just sitting there pedaling that she had had Elrod, her husband, hook up an electric motor to it. That way she could sit there and watch the Jane Fonda exercise tapes and enjoy a bowl of chip without becoming all sweaty.

With regrets-I lied again-I said farewell after she had given me a wink and offered to demonstrate the split just special for me. I hastily suggested some other time as I figured if she got into that position it might require a tow truck and a couple of hydraulic jacks to raise her back to plumb.

When I finally arrived in Big Puf Burvil was outside smoking a cigarette and swigging on a beer. I have never figured out his age, although the truant officer calls regularly to take him back to school. But, hey, kids mature fast in the hills.

When I went in Homer Bob was rubbing snuff and spitting into an empty pop can. He told me he planned to fry up a mess of ramps in bacon grease with fried potatoes and gravy on the side and invited me to stay and eat. What the heck, I thought, I can always do a survey another day, but a man can't go without food.

So, the next time you hear about poor health habits in the hills take it all with a grain of salt. As for myself, I prefer to salt liberally to improve the taste.