|By Jack Cawthon|
As we age, we gain in wisdom and knowledge. Or so it is said. At some point, however, we reach a peak in age when our brain becomes filled up and new knowledge may slop over. (I trust you won't confuse this condition with what we fed hogs on Barbecue Run.)
Unfortunately, I have learned more and more about things I would rather not have learned. This uses up space, and I haven't learned to defrag, or whatever it is that helps a computer. As I have little room for new knowledge, I must depend more and more on the direction of others. I have come to rely on Arley Cleeter down in Big Puf to lead me. (Any reference to the blind leading the blind can prove hurtful to me. At least have respect for my age!)
Arley, as you well know by now, burns books for his winter heat. During a mild winter, such as the one we are experiencing, the books accumulate, and, as a result, there is little use for them except for reading. This may be a novel idea to some, considering that many of the authors are much better suited as page burners instead of page turners so as to better feed the bonfires of the vanities.
Arley may spend hours perusing books before tossing new fuel into his stove. Over the years I have known him, I have found out much about Arley through my prying and snooping, which may be labeled as underhanded and invasive by some, but under the protective guise of journalism considered admirable traits for learning the truth and keeping the world safe for democracy.
I have learned that Arley attended a prestigious small college in Pennsylvania that was never accredited because it didn't have a football team. He began his studies in sociology, but could never master the second language outside English that his research findings required. He also had trouble drawing graphs, with many of them resembling a Rorschach test, which may have aided in better understanding sociologists, had his teachers allowed it.
The pay was less than desirable, and the public didn't understand sociologists. Some people mistook them for astrologers. As a result many of them were forced to moonlight to survive.
So, Arley switched to economics, thinking that if only he could understand money and its roots he would roll it in much as a frog's tongue flicks a fly. But a funny thing happened on the way to the bank. Arley couldn't balance his checkbook, and he found no help in the textbooks or his class leaders. When he took the problem to the chairman of the department, he was told this wasn't necessary for an economist to know, and that the wife could handle that nicely. Arley didn't have a wife, and not much of a checkbook either, so he was left with reading Karl Marks and Adam Smith, figuring the market would take care of itself.
Arley soon decided there must be a better approach to life elsewhere. He loaded up his VW bus and headed south, ending up in Big Puf. Well, there wasn't a need for either a sociologist or economist in Big Puf, so after Arley settled in he decided on back-to-the-land agriculture, calling himself an herbalist. He has been highly successful at that vocation, growing some sort of ornamental with serrated leaves that is purchased by the kilo.
From time to time, I tap into all the knowledge Arley has acquired, with the exception of agriculture. I figured what better person to explain the budget George Bush promotes of two and a half trillion dollars, as when I attended school we didn't have that many zeros. I, therefore, had trouble understanding the figure, but Arley explained that it was simple if one just visualized it as distances to stars in the solar system. This sounded logical to me, as many people consider Bush to be in outer space anyway.
My other discussion with Arley concerns the election in Iraq. Why must we feel obligated to export freedom? Wouldn't it be better to paid in export dollars instead of American lives?
Arley merely smiled at my ignorance. "It's the American way," he replied, and added that it is our destiny, leaving off the "manifest" which seemed to harm the Native Americans. He explained that until the rest of the world equals our use of fossil fuels for a better standard of living, we must continue the struggle. He feels that the lessons learned in the Iraqi election may someday prove useful in southern West Virginia.
The only area of knowledge that I have found Arley lacking, is in the subject of "women." He is striving for that at the present, with Sister Hannah serving as his private mentor. When the "eureka" moment comes, I expect him to explain it to me.