CAWTHON'S CATHARSIS - I Won a Golden Horseshoe and Never Shoed a Horse!

By Jack Cawthon

When I was in the eighth grade, shortly after the last great geological epoch and the receding of the ice, I won a Golden Horseshoe. Whoopee! You might exclaim and click on over to Suzanne's more exciting column about her battle with postal deliveries and delinquent taxes. (Yeah, we cover important issues such as both death and taxes in our columns here in the Herald.)

Many of you out there in readership land don't know what a Golden Horseshoe is and the rest of you probably don't care, but I'm going to tell you anyway, as if you haven't already guessed.

Back in 1932 someone got the idea to honor the top students each year in West Virginia history classes. The award was patterned after the practice of some English dude, and you'll have to pardon me if I have lost some of my prior winning knowledge as I have had considerable brain losses from some 20 years of high stakes academic poker games, who wanted to see what was on the other side of the Alleghenies and with a merry troop of English gentlemen took a quick jaunt and on the return after everyone had had a few drinks he presented each of his companions with a golden horseshoe which had some sort of Latin inscription on it that I can't read as I was only good in history and not languages, including English-and, of course, journalism.

So, to make a long story short, which I seldom do, a little replica token of that adventure was presented to students who were the top four or so in their counties on a standardized history test. I wanted one of those little horseshoes more than I wanted a smile from the prettiest girl in my class. (I was only 14 and my priorities were to change in a very short time.)

I worked oh so hard on my studies and found with that hard work and dedication anything was possible, except, perhaps, smiles from pretty girls. (However, several years later when I was established on The Payroll I found that once again I had had it all wrong, all, that is, except the smile part.)

Back when I won there was little history to master. Kids today have much more to remember, such as memorizing the names of governors who went to prison. In my time they were too smart to get caught, which says something about the decline in our leadership over the years.

As I was never to achieve any distinction in sports-the coach wouldn't let me play and neither would the cheerleaders, I whined-that little token of achievement meant a lot to me. However, when I approached strangers on the street corner and began to tell them about my honor, they always seemed to have other matters on their minds. Along with the old vets from foreign wars I began to feel unappreciated.

But all that changed in 1996 when then Governor Gaston Caperton let the world know about our accomplishments as part of his Homecoming 96 activities. He invited all of us to Charleston for a special day. Well, he didn't exactly invite me, but I found out about it through a dedicated teacher in Glenville who felt that even Republicans should attend anyway.

It was a glorious day with hundreds showing up, and the lunch wasn't even free as we had paid in advance. Governor Caperton came out to address us informally and seemed to having a great time, and for 15 or 20 minutes I regretted not having voted for him.

We got to mill around and meet people we hadn't seen in year and tour the Capital complex which had changed considerably with several new buildings since I had been there, and I credited it all to Arch Moore.

After that successful day someone got the idea that we should get together now and then, but then nothing came of it until back in December of 2000 Phil Cottrill, a Glenville State professor, called and asked if I would serve on a founding Board of Directors for a Golden Horseshoe Alumni Assn. I had been invited to join other prestigious organizations over the years, such as a couple of automobile clubs, a credit union and Sam's Club, so I needed to consider it for maybe a minute or two.

A year-and-a-half later there are several hundred alumni who have joined up and we are scheduled to meet in a reunion at Glenville State this coming Thursday, June 20, which also happens to be West Virginia Day.

In addition to Phil's hard work to make all this happen, thanks must be extended to Glenville State President Thomas Powell, who had never heard of the Golden Horseshoe awards when he arrived from out of state but who immediately saw the value in it and provided start-up funds. He has now provided a permanent office on the Glenville State campus for the organization.

I hope we aren't quizzed about our current knowledge of the state. When Bob Weaver was recently named Democrat of the Year and was pictured with some political bigwigs I couldn't figure out the identity of the tall dude on the left side of the picture who towered above everyone else. I was told it was Jay Rockefeller who does something in Washington. Back when I studied state history all the Rockefellers were Republicans.