CAWTHON'S CATHARSIS - Behold! I Saw a Sign…


By Jack Cawthon

I saw a sign in the Morgantown Public Library down in the basement where the used book sales are held. It was placed on top of a box of paperback books, but it caused me to think that if the sign were placed on billboards, shown on TV as a public service, and, most of all, printed in bold type on marriage license applications, the divorce rate, which runs about 50 percent of marriages, could be cut significantly. "Don't mix mysteries with romance," the sign proclaimed. Intriguing, huh?

An announcement I heard on radio put me on guard. It was a warning issued by the National Weather Service. "If flood waters rise, move to higher ground." I wondered how much the Federal study behind the warning might have cost, although I really shouldn't have, as I once received a paycheck based on such government studies. But I have never bragged about my work background, now have I?

I consider myself a conservationist, and as most conservationists nowadays would qualify as liberal-hmm, let's see, what am I boxing myself into? In my Institutional therapy I once worked with some people who called themselves "land use specialists." To simplify, but not much, they believed that if I didn't manage wisely land that I owned, then it should be taken from me and allotted to those who would, of course, meeting standards set by-guess!

I once helped prepare a publication for a government economist who proposed making all of West Virginia one vast government preserve. By the time I had finished editing the manuscript, I was almost in agreement, proving the power of the written word if the right writer and right editor team up infiltrate your power of mind. What won me was his suggestion that all old folks now living on the land would be given a life estate, but after death Uncle Sam would be the beneficiary.

I keep looking for my copy of the report, figuring the Charleston Gazette might like to claim it as a personal project, one way to eliminate the coal companies, workers compensation, too many colleges, and in my own personal choice, the West Virginia Legislature. Who says the government never comes up with good ideas and that my life was wasted on working on them?

But back to reality, as provided by the Constitution. You may have seen where a strip of land along both Cheat and Big Sandy canyons has been placed on sale by Allegheny Energy, the current owner. I haven't heard the outcome of the bids, but the state was in on bidding. The land was acquired, I think in the 20s, for a hydroelectric project which never materialized.

You can't blame Allegheny Energy, except for some unwise energy decisions that placed the company on the verge of bankruptcy. The company needs the money, but it didn't know how valuable was its holding until the acquisition interest developed, brought about mostly by conservationists.

I have land in Preston County (not managed too wisely, I'm afraid) that is within sight of fog-shrouded valleys of both waterways, and I can hear the booming of the waters at high-rise as it wildly churns over the falls and rapids.

I have walked many times the strip of land from the Big Sandy merger with Cheat up to Rockville, once a thriving Preston County settlement, but now deserted except for some summer cottages. I would guess the distance as three or four miles, but not as the crow flies, as most crows would make it 20 or more, but along the twisting old tram road above the stream.

I have never been out West to view the mountains and wild rivers; I don't feel the need because the Cheat and Big Sandy can hold their own, at least in my provincial view. (Hey, I want to be one of the old folks living out his life estate in West Virginia when Big Brother comes to claim his own.)

I can see the economic value of the land, especially for timber removal. Most mining has been eliminated, again by conservationists, and the land isn't suited for condominiums or time-share apartments of any sort, although some Yuppies might try to build on stilts which when they slipped into the river, would apply for government assistance to rebuild.

Some of the conservation groups are saying there are some rare plant and animal specimens, but things I have never seen or heard of and probably many that I have stepped on in my hikes. Whatever happened to Darwin's survival of the fittest? We can't protect everything, although some conservationists, most of them, I've discovered, from affluent backgrounds who never have had to make material sacrifices, and wouldn't ever as long as their air conditioners and SUVs keep running, think that society should come to a standstill for a multi-eyed, seven-toed sloth.

I contribute to the The Nature Conservancy, the one group that doesn't always whine for government money, but uses private funds to purchase endangered sites. I don't know whether that agency is in on the bidding, but hope so.

Only some long-distance hikers and kayakers, and one such recently lost his life trying to float Big Sandy, until all the hoopla arose knew and respected that wildness.

Yeah, guess I'm a liberal, just maybe. I hope government money buys the area along both canyons. But I have a selfish motive. Most liberals won't admit that they have one. Maybe that still qualifies me as a conservative?

Hur Herald ©from Sunny Cal
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