|By Jack Cawthon|
I usually know fall is coming around the first of June when I begin to experience dreary Novembers of the soul. But this only a prelude to the real thing which comes with a windy roar long before Jack Frost's blue cold and carries with it on blustery gusts of blue and gold the chants of "How 'bout them 'eers!" Then, as if there could be any doubts, "it" arrives in full camouflage dress when caravans of "hunters" begin moving through my sacred ground of Preston County.
And by this time, if I'm not drawn into the fall fertility rites myself, and let's not go into how hunters observe those, especially in Preston County, I receive my invitation from Burvil to attend the annual before-the-hunt meeting of the Big Puf Mountain Hunting and Drinking Club ("We're always hunting a drink!").
The meetings are always interesting, in that a speaker is chosen each year to address the club. It's not like the club actually wants to listen to a speaker, but has something to do with taxes, as income produced by the club's various gambling operations through the year can be declared exempt if a literary affiliation can be shown, or so says 1040 Pratlow, a CPA (Certified Practical Adviser), but adds in fine print that his interpretations are subject to IRS audits.
Arley Cleeter was chosen to speak this year on the topic "Burning Books as an Alternative Fuel." In the past Lester T. Archabald IV, coal baron emeritus, spoke on "Mountaintop Removal is Just so Much Water Over the Dam." Attorney Voy Dire spoke on "The Insanity Plea and Game Law Violations" just after he had defended Crazy Ted before a jury, fortunately of his peers. Ted had "harvested" over 200 deer with an automatic rifle, and Dire was chosen to save him, if not from the gallows, then the gallows humor.
Voy chose the unusual defense of "insanity," not for Ted, as it was a given he was several grains of powder short of a full wad, but that the game laws themselves were crazy. After circulating copies among the jury, and after the jury had retired for a verdict, only 12 minutes elapsed, including a break for coffee and doughnuts, before the jury found Ted not guilty of WV Code Chapter 20 violations, according to the Revised Standard Edition of the DNR.
I knew Arley's topic would be of interest, not for literary merit, but as a survival technique for gutsy outdoorsmen who had long before discovered the utility of page- turners for gutsy disposals.
I hadn't seen Arley all summer during my frequent trips to Big Puf. I had assumed he was out on his own hunt for books for his winter heating needs.
When I shook hands with him before the meeting he told me that he had been away attending rehab sessions all summer. Seems he had become addicted to pain killers from listening to Rush Limbaugh broadcasts, which came as a surprise to me as I had always assumed that being from Pennsylvania Arley was a liberal.
He seems surprised as well that I never listened to them, as for some reason people see me as some right-wing reactionary. Just because I voted for Goldwater and have been a long-time member of the Little Wheeze Militia doesn't mean that I should be tarred with a label!
Besides, I told him I had been married more years than I could count and that I didn't need a smart-mouthed talking head know-it-all on radio to fill me in. Arely admitted that he only wanted to be accepted by the natives, as for some reason many people view Pennsylvanians as peculiar. I lied and told him that was nonsense.
As it was time for the meeting to begin-President Art Holecraw had fired a warning shot over the buzzing crowd, or the crowd with a buzz, whichever-Arley was introduced as the speaker. As he began his presentation, he began to shake violently and had to sit down, excusing himself by explaining that his recent pain killer addiction had reacted to his prior exposure in the 70s when he experienced altered living through chemistry.
There was a collective sigh of relief as the club could go about regular business of amending club rules for night time hunting and banning spotlights of over 500,000 candle power except for foggy conditions. There was some dissent from Crazy Ted, and I saw Voy Dire who had been sitting on the back row hastily retreat out the door. I think it had something to do with lawyer-client relations.
The speaker for next year was selected. Moonbeam Sunshine, a member of the Allegheny Front environmentalists, and who is in Big Puf guarding the habitat of the Big Puf Orange Roughage Catfish, will speak on "Pollute, Pollute; Let's go on a Toot!" as the Orange Roughage, an endangered species, needs massive pollution for its survival.
As if in full agreement of next year's topic the club began early. With several kegs of beer on hand, it was unanimously agreed to drink to that.