CAWTHON'S CATHARSIS - Another Routine Christmas in Big Puf; Granny Pratlow Shoots Santa Claus


By Jack Cawthon

Try as I might I can't think of anything to write about this Christmas. Oh, I could tell you once again how as a little boy kid I was isolated up a remote holler in Gilmer County where the snow might keep us penned up for a month, and how my dad went out on the hillside and cut a scraggly pine tree and we put homemade decorations on it with a tin star made by my mom by cutting a tobacco can.

But that would only sound maudlin and make you teary-eyed and you'd feel pity in your heart for a lonely little kid, and besides that I'd be showing my age as most little kids nowadays today don't live up remote hollers or lack electric, and they don't have to go out into the snow and cold to use a Roosevelt outhouse.

That leaves the stories I could tell you about Christmases in Big Puf, how in this time of peace and goodwill there is always a big fight at the community Christmas pageant and how some folks end up in jail or passed out in the snow.

The big problem about Big Puf is that I'm the only reporter reporting all of these news-breaking events and it gets to the place where you may not believe it all without other confirmation. One of the big deals in journalism is credibility.

You see, I attended journalism school. Attended is the key word here. As some wise man, whose name I forget but who I don't think ever served in Congress, once said attendance is three-fourths of completing any endeavor. I figure that 75 percent is a passing grade in most subjects, so take it from there that I am certified.

I learned about the "w" words, such as who, what, where, when, and my favorite, why not that are supposed to be in the beginning of a news story. So, now that you know that I am qualified I might as well go ahead and tell you about Christmas this year in Big Puf.

You would have thought the big story would have made the Charleston Gazette, which calls itself "the state newspaper." But, as far as I can tell, the Gazette has never reported a story from Big Puf, treating the place as if, well, it never existed. No other news agency fills the vacuum either, so it's up to me to be the vacuum cleaner, so to speak.

Wouldn't you think that Granny Pratlow shooting Santa Claus would have made big time news? You haven't heard a word about it, now have you? And you may have your doubts about the story I'm about to report, but recall what I told you about my journalism background. Would I lie and betray the honor of my profession? Did Richard Nixon lie, or did Bill Clinton, or Bernie what's-his-name who took the money?

The telephone awakened me early on Christmas morning. I knew it had to be bad news because I assumed the call centers in India wouldn't be hassling me at this holy hour of this holy day to extend my magazine subscriptions.

No, it was worse, much worse. Burvil was on the phone from Big Puf. Burvil is an impeccable source, as we say in journalism in order to hedge our bets. It took some time to calm him down as he is an excitable kid, but after persuading him to take his Ritalin I finally heard the terrible news: Granny Pratlow had shot Santa Claus and that there was a hostage situation involving her militant band of aged female followers, the Gray Bandoliers.

Granny was inside the Big Puf senior center, the modified offices of Lester T. Archabald IV, coal baron, who headed up the Degenerated Coal Company, but who had fallen on hard times. But that is another story.

There was a standoff with the cops facing the Gray Bandoliers, all armed, and on their all-terrain scooter chairs. Granny was demanding that a Colt 45 be delivered to her. I told Burvil that sounded crazy, that if she was already armed she shouldn't receive another gun. He called me an "egit"—foul-mouthed kid—and said everyone knowed a Colt 45 was a big bottle of malt liquor, Granny's drink of choice.

I was aware that State Trooper Bludsoe always played Santa to the community by altering the siren on his cruiser to play Jingle Bells and draping his lights in red and green, much to the consternation of his superiors, and my fear wasn't that Granny had shot Santa, even the real one, but that she had shot a state cop.

In a follow up call from a much calmer Burvil I learned that Granny had shot Eph Hanshaw who was dressed as Santa and was messing with Granny under the mistletoe. Eph is such a puny little fellow that he required so much stuffing on his belly to fill out his Santa outfit that the bullet had merely passed through the padding. Eph was okay, except for a bad case of nerves.

Granny finally gave up, looped out of her mind and the cops all hung around then and sang Christmas carols. Sounded like a routine Christmas celebration Big Puf style to me, and I figured on going back to bed for some sleep when the phone put that on hold. It was a call center asking me to donate money for the Gray Bandoliers in Big Puf to provide a defense fund for their leader wrongly accused by the justice system. It was too early for Granny's latest run in with law, so it must relate to the shooting up of a Walmart for refusing her senior discount.

I slammed the phone down. I may go down to Big Puf and talk to Granny to hear her side of the story, and, of course, to report it here, as someone has to do it. You can bet I'll carry a Colt 45 with me as a little bribe never hurt in obtaining a good story. Like I said, I attended journalism school.

Eat your heart out, Charleston Gazette!

(Sorry, I don't have a good Christmas story for you, but sometimes the well runs dry of water and all you get is gas.)

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