Arley ended the winter with l,363 unburned novels, some of them recommended by Oprah herself, especially those writers of non-fiction turning to fiction. His stockpile of War and Peace, reserved for extremely cold nights, went untapped, as well as hundreds of Readers Digest condensed books set aside for intense heat for short periods.
Arley is a sensitive person, else he wouldn't love books so much, and he is concerned that he may contribute to global warming by blowing smoke. (I think he was referring to book burning.) I assured him that he was helping the environment by ridding it of polluted writing. This touched him, as he had tears of gratitude for my reinforcement of his efforts, and to show it he tossed into his stove a vanity publication from a print-on-demand computer site. It relieved the slight chill in the air, and we both expressed joy at how comfortable a good book can be on a cold night.
I had visited Big Puf to attend the annual Rattlesnake Toss and Ramp Festival, which somehow never makes it into the schedule of state events distributed by our Division of Culture and History. In addition, the Charleston Gazette, which prides itself on covering state news, has never so much as mentioned this exciting annual event in its pages.
I had placed myself in an awkward position by lying and bragging that I knew Tara Tuckwiller personally, the Gazette's answer to TV's evening news anchors. I was certain, I proclaimed, that she would be at this year's event. When she didn't show up, I was left with the only alibi I could muster: she had been assigned, along with all other media reporters, to drive around checking the pump prices of gasoline, a story that has competed with Tom Cruise for major news coverage, and increased gasoline consumption while doing it.
This year, Burvil was the snake toss winner with a half loop swirl around his head, achieving 73.4 yards to his catcher, a mentally challenged Pratlow from over on Blue Tick Crick. He won the toss with Hillary, an especially less than congenial rattlesnake which has an annoying trait of striking when least expected. She and the other snakes are provided by the Holy Rattlers congregation with the intent of limbering up the reptiles in the springtime rites, making them more keenly attuned to internal ceremonies.
Burvil received the Golden Ramp trophy, the first win for him, as for many years the cherished award was bestowed upon Hershel Umbarger from Little Wheeze Crick. Unfortunately, Hershel is no longer with us as he became careless with Hillary in a false trust last year and sustained a fatal bite in a fleshy part of his anatomy after he let her dangle for a moment too long in his windup.
Ramps have been the order of the day, or odor of the day, in many parts of the state where festivals have been held, all, I might add, receiving their share of publicity, even without the addition of the rattlesnake tossing. Perhaps it is better that Big Puf is off the map so far as publicity is concerned so that its bucolic setting won't be trampled by tourists who may eventually over consume our ramps.
But speaking of ramped up zeal, Bill Jackline, ex-Pennsylvanian by way of West Virginia to Washington state, has set up and proclaimed himself King of the Ramp over an empire in the Pacific Northwest. (Hey, stranger cults than that have formed in that part of the country.)
Bill orders his supply each year from the commercial ramp farm in Richwood. I have perceived a devious plan he has hatched to take over state government: he has been sending samples of his stash to government officials in a method used many times over by nefarious drug dealers to get their subjects hooked to additive substances. Then, the dealer has them at his mercy. Mercy! I would alert government officials in Washington state had I not an underhanded purpose of my own. Bill has promised to name me public relations manager for his coming reign. I am well qualified for such a role, as I once served as a promoter of chicken wastes as part of my therapy at a nearby mental institution. I am well-versed in jobs that stink.
I wish Bill good luck in his efforts to take over state government. However, I think too highly of the ramp to circulate it in our Charleston legislative halls, as the stench of West Virginia politics would certainly overwhelm the pungent aroma of our culinary treat.
Our ramps don't stink. At least when compared to our political atmosphere.