|By Jack Cawthon|
Big Puf was forever changed with the discovery of an endangered
species living in the waters of Big Puf Crick. The Orange Roughage
Catfish had adapted to massive pollution. Its continued existence
depended on more of the same.
At first feeding on the orange sludge from acid mine drainage it was
soon forced to adapt to other sources of pollution once that supply
dwindled from cleaner coal mining.
Responsibility fell hard on the shoulders of local coal baron Lester
T. Archabald IV as he first mined the dirty coal that brought about
the conditions for the Orange Roughage's existence and then doomed it
when his mining efforts located cleaner coal seams.
An endangered species is an endangered species and it did Archabald
little good to whine that coal barons were endangered also. He could
little change the attitudes of the environmentalists who hounded him
from both directions.
No stronger protector of the endangered fish or fowl-hang the
endangered coal barons!-could be found than the Allegheny Front,
self-proclaimed militant pacifists, who quickly moved into Big Puf to
look after its latest cause, the Orange Roughage.
Led by Alf Vader, the group set up temporary quarters alongside the
crick and soon they were adding their own pollution to the water,
relieving Archabald of some of the massive expense of shipping in
Vader, it was rumored, once held a high-level position with a national
environmental organization. However, he was let go, some said, after
his superiors learned that he went cruising at night, picking up women
of the street, who he paid to talk environmentally to him.
Vader formed the Allegheny Front for just such an emergency as that
which now existed in Big Puf. He was supported in his efforts by the
newly formed Cleanliness Reduction for Utmost Dirt (CRUD) coalition
which emphasized that all parties must understand that
when an endangered species such as the Orange Roughage is threatened
by cleanliness no excuses will be tolerated in providing it with the
necessary pollution for its survival.
Vader spoke with the conviction of the evangelist when he was asked
about the human lives that might be threatened by the polluted waters
of Big Puf Crick.
"What are human lives worth," he proclaimed, "when one pits a natural
rarity against a worldwide commonality? There is only one Orange
Roughage, but far too many people," he cried amidst the cheers of his
One of those affected lives is that of Lester Archabald. He is now a
shadow of his former self, a man who once lived high on the hog with
expensive personal tastes, who provided jobs for a multitude of
workers whose very livelihood depended on his mine, paid burdensome
taxes and who supported civic and charitable organizations.
He now wanders the back roads muttering to himself, with tobacco juice
dripping from the corners of his mouth, as his fortune is consumed by
the government for continued pollution of a watershed now extended
over the whole tri-holler region.
However, through his efforts-and money-the Orange Roughage is
thriving, especially after the recent release of nuclear wastes
approved by the Allegheny Front and supplied by the U. S. government
from the hazardous weapons disposal aid to the former USSR. As a
local wag said, in regard to the long-term effects of radiation,
"better a healthy afterglow than a mushroom pallor."
The Orange Roughage is now flourishing nicely-and evolving. Okey
Hanshaw swears that he saw several of them out of the water and at one
of the dumps up a holler. While some were sucking up fluid from an
old Buick transmission others were gathered around some discarded
refrigerators sniffing Freon gas.
The adaptation of the fish to land may provide support for the
evolutionists but it poses major problems for the environmentalists.
If the dumps, which have existed for decades, are consumed then the
food supply must be expanded to include not only water pollution but
increased pollution of the countryside.
A whole new concept of refuse disposal may take place. What was once
considered a problem commodity may now be considered vital to an
endangered species. Big Puf may become the disposal capital of the
In a way, that won't be new to those who have known the lifestyle of
the holler. Its people have always been considered discards in a
society that is built on upward mobility measured by material
It took an endangered species and some dirty thinking to bring about
an attitude adjustment that trash can be beautiful. In the Latin I
think it's referred to as "sick transit societie."