CAWTHON'S CATHARSIS - Newspaper Reporter, Waste Sanitarian: Both Jobs May Stink But Someone Has To Do Them

By Jack Cawthon 2013
When I received a message from Arley Cleeter in Big Puf that Burvil, my trusted correspondent, had taken a summer job to earn money for college I become so amazed that I needed to go see for myself.

If ever a kid met the George Junior Bush definition of No Child Left Behind it is Burvil. He had been always left so far behind that a pack of bloodhounds, heat seeking helicopters and perhaps a band of Seal Team Six could not have found him.

When I arrived in Big Puf at Arley's cabin I saw books everywhere. They were in outbuildings, under tarps and spilling out of his doorway. Arley, who burns books for his winter heat, replied to my astonished look that it had been a mild winter and that he now had enough books to last through another Ice Age.

For a time Arley had been deeply concerned that print books would be replaced by electronic ones, or e-readers and that he might be facing the cold with few printed words to describe it or deal with it. Some kind soul, perhaps seeing Arley collecting books, figured him as an avid reader and a poor hill person with few resources and had in turn deposited one of those e-readers, Kindle Fire, in his collection.

Arley, who was once a progressive Pennsylvanian before moving to his backward life in the hills, thought he had found a device for fire starting his stove, but when he placed it inside to kindle his fire, nothing happened. That is, until he poured in some kerosene; then came the explosion. He now views the electronic age as only a flash in the pan.

When I asked where to find Burvil, Arley told me to just follow my nose. I did detect a rather foul odor mixed in with pollutants normally used in Big Puf Crick for conserving the Big Puf Orange Roughage Catfish, an endangered species that requires massive pollution for its survival.

So, I set out on the scent. It became more pungent and as I rounded a bend I saw a parked tanker truck and on its side "Buster's Honey Dip Septic Service" and "If You Are Wasted Call Us." Then I saw Burvil crawling out of one of the primitive pits used in the hills for the most basic of human removals.

"Looks like you have found yourself an excremental job," I said, not standing so as to be shed upon. (I didn't say "excremental," even though Burvil may be college bound and the use of big words, but I spoke in more acceptable hill fashion. But knowing you Herald readers as sensitive sorts to such usage I will let you censor the same from your favorite primetime TV show.)

Burvil grinned and said, yes, he hoped to go to college to become a newspaper reporter like Bob Weaver and me. That news so overwhelmed me that I uttered the censored word as an expletive and had to sit down, but first choosing an uncontaminated space. Just recently a listing of the worst jobs in the country placed newspaper reporters near the very bottom. I knew I had to do something to get this poor kid out of the hole, not the one he was now in, but a worse future one.

I tried to explain that though Bob Weaver had written in the Herald only recently how he had fulfilled his lifelong dream of becoming a newspaper reporter, that this might only be caused by brain damage perhaps from chemicals once used in his highly honored profession, near the top of respect, as a licensed mortician, an undertaking in which people die for and from which he never heard a word of complaint from his subjects.

Why he now would want to trade that honored profession for calls in the night, much different from the past, in which people register complaints about him writing of marriages and divorces, all public record, or who was arrested and why, again public information, and once even getting himself arrested by a state cop by merely covering a story.

Also, why hasn't he written about...or why did he write about... To top it all off he even has the gall to write summaries that belittle our blissful state under the heading West Virginia Knife and Gun Club, exposing the whole world to news that should be considered suppressed even if the nosy dailies scream it out.

As for myself, as a young, irresponsible, floundering college graduate, I, for a short time, pictured myself as a newspaper reporter, even going so far as editing and reporting for a weekly newspaper, serving as a stringer for some dailies, and believing that I might become a noble benefit to society.

But, fortunately, my talents were recognized for what they were and I became enrolled in the top tier of service to society in a prestigious government position in what we in all in awe called The Payroll where I continued to serve, oh the humanities, for many years.

Somehow, though, over the years I began to long, much like Bob, for actual writing and reporting, perhaps brought about by age-related brain deterioration. And, lo, we did have in our department an unfilled opening for a "news writer" which hadn't been filled.

In becoming one, I violated a prime principle of government: I began working below my job classification, as you see, I was classified as an "editor," a position some consider, mostly writers, as a writer who can't but with far better pay.

Worse, I began writing about how much better our researchers were doing than some in other government departments, such as that of King Douglass of agriculture fame and the Game Division of the DNR. (I must admit that at the time I had been institutionalized in the state's largest mental institution for a number of years which may have accounted for my delusions of grandeur.)

But an important reminder: When serving Caesar be loyal to all his divisions, especially those with power from Caesar. I was shortly made an offer I couldn't refuse, and one often made to employees of note, a retreat with honor, labeled in government as "early retirement." With all its rewards and benefits, I must admit I still miss coffee breaks and hanging out with the secretaries.

And so I left Burvil with some deep, but smelly, thoughts. Don't follow the path set by Bob Weaver and me. Although I ended off The Payroll in my efforts to become noteworthy, Bob doesn't even have that luxury to face as he doesn't have one.

I had distracted Burvil's job long enough in my agony, and Buster was yelling to get his excrement moving. But I could tell I had made an impression. As I was leaving Burvil muttered he thought he would check out the college requirements for waste sanitarians.

I was happy that I had save a kid from ending up in...must I say it?