By Jack Cawthon
A few weeks ago, I reported that Granny Pratlow, leader of the Gray Bandoliers, a militant splinter group disassociated from AARP, had taken Bobby Gene Bubba, state delegate, hostage to a remote location on Little Wheeze Crick. She demanded for his release an explanation of the new Medicare drug benefits.
Now, you are up to date on the breaking news, and unlike those other pesky news media sources I haven't bugged you with frequent bulletins when nothing much is happening, but which is unthinkable to TV reporters. And as I am the only news reporter in the region, as others don't seem able to find the hot spots, I haven't been in much of a hurry to report the rest of the story.
The only news worth reporting is that Granny released Bobby Gene after Sheriff Y. Bob Hickey began negotiations. He felt it necessary, as no one seems to understand the new Medicare benefits, including the government. As a long-time friend of Granny's, he felt Bobby Gene might be in for a long detainment, if he didn't meet with her. The reason he hesitated was that no one wanted Bobby Gene returned, including his wife and six kids, but especially his colleagues in the state legislature. In fact, political leaders insisted that Hickey keep Bobby Gene away until the session ended, should it ever.
In my interview with Sheriff Hickey, he told me he found the couple seemingly unharmed, and, amazingly, Bobby Gene didn't want rescued. He told the sheriff that as nothing ever happened in Charleston as exciting as being spirited away by Granny that he would just as soon stay where he was, and with that he winked at Hickey as if two men could well understand the situation.
However, Hickey said he found Granny higher than a second stage NASA rocket headed for outer space. She appeared to be on drugs of some sort. When he questioned Bobby Gene, he told the sheriff that Granny was on about 10 or 12 different substances, but that they were all legal and prescribed by her doctor.
At this point the sheriff confided something to me that I had long suspected. He said that while the pernicious meth, crack cocaine and pot present major problems among the young people in the hills, little attention has been paid to the drug problem among the elderly. He added that it wasn't uncommon to find old folks on many different controlled substances, all prescribed by their doctors. He called it practicing medicine by prescription pad, and all approved by the medical associations.
At a certain age, variable as to how the doctor judges age, chronic problems such as high blood pressure, cholesterol, arthritis and a multiple assortment of maladies are assumed to apply to all who are "elderly," give them dosages just to be safe. Chances are Medicare or insurance will pay the bill. And the doctor will be clear of liability should he or she miss a symptom. Sheriff Hickey thinks that is a major reason the nation's health care budget grows ever larger, and drug companies grow ever richer, spreading the word even wider by television ads for drugs, the envy of all street pushers.
He cited Granny as a once lively oldster, one who seemed perfectly healthy. He had known her for many years. She had led an active outdoor life, and was able to form a band of "seniors" into a feared militia unit that had terrorized politicians and decision-makers throughout the Tri-Holler region. All had been a healthy lot, but to obtain the prosthetic devices which they then made into weapons of mass destruction, to coin a term in wide usage, they needed to consult doctors, who in turn, loaded them down with "medications" also, just because their ages suggested it.
And when provided the drugs, they took them, as an older generation views doctors with respect. As a result, Hickey mused, they became much like street junkies, addicted to their pills.
"Wonder they hadn't kilt somebody by now," Hickey pondered. He hoped by drawing attention to the Big Puf hostage situation, he might bring the problem before the public, but as I am a lonely news source crying in the wilderness, he didn't hold out much hope. I thanked him for the compliment.
I decided an interview with Granny was in order, as I hadn't forgotten all that I learned in journalism, just most of the good stuff. I learned that she had been sent to a detox center in a city outside the region, but as I no longer had an expense account for travel, a perk sadly missed from my government service, I waited for her return.
Burvil called me one day and told me that Granny was back and was "slugging a bottle of Old Al Hag in the Over Easy." When I found her, she seemed quite normal as I had remembered her and her cherished bottle of Old Al. "Heck, sonny," she greeted me, "them danged doctors about kilt me.
I ain't takin' no more of them chemicals," she slurred, as she took another shot from the bottle. "I'm a goin' back to my old medicine," she burped, "rinsin' out my gut with sassafras tea and cleanin' my innards with doses of ramps, an a chasin' it here with my buddy Old Al."
And, she added, "gonna git bled two or three times a year by a yarb doctor over on Blue Tick. Seemed they got it right after a little practice with George Washington." She slapped her side and let out a hearty laugh. Yes, this was certainly the Granny Pratlow I remembered!
I asked if her if the Gray Bandoliers would still be active. She looked at me as if I were on something myself, and replied that they planned to begin picketing doctors' offices and demanding that the medical profession swallow some of its own medicine.
"Every look at one to them there doctors?" she asked me. "Overweight, smokers, drinkers and probably carousin' with their own kind. They need a dose, and probably some of 'em have it already." She cackled at her own joke, swore an oath I won't repeat here, took another swig from the bottle, and seemed fully on the road to recovery.