essays and articles by david g allen

Dead Cows Don’t Wear OSHA Orange


The state that boasts it is “Open for Business” recently made headlines in national and regional newspapers for giving the “business” to its citizens. The laughable folly that is known as West Virginia state government proves once again that it cannot solve even the simplest problem.

In late April, a dead cow floated down the West Fork River and got snagged at the West Milford dam in Harrison County. Had Elsie died a week earlier, when the river was higher, she’d have floated through unnoticed. After a few days in West Milford, however, Elsie began to smell. And that’s when the town of West Milford called for help.

The town found out quickly that no office of state government wanted the job of removing a dead, bloated cow from the West Fork River. Every agency that the town called had its reason for not being able to help.

The Clarksburg Water Board owns the dam. But since the cow was actually stuck on a tree snag upstream of the dam, they weren’t the responsible agency.

The Department of Natural Resources said it was responsible only for wild animals.

The Department of Environmental Protection said the dead cow did not pose an environmental issue and declined to help. (Pray tell. What is an environmental issue?)

Experts proclaimed that the decaying carcass wasn’t a threat to the drinking water of downstream cities. (Translation: We’re adding extra chlorine instead of removing the stinking beast!)

The governor was busy practicing NASCAR flagging, but his aides referred the town to the Department of Agriculture. The Department of Agriculture said that dead cows were a local issue. Apparently, this agency only regulates livestock!

Finally, in desperation, the town called the Treasurer’s Unclaimed Property Division. But they said that the only unclaimed properties they handled were cash, bearer bonds, and fenceable jewelry.

This is West Virginia—the state that shuts down elevators in state-owned office buildings rather than inspect them according to state law. This is West Virginia—the state that financed a movie piracy studio run by state employees in the capitol basement. This is West Virginia—the state where you can embezzle tax dollars at will!

Good grief, West Milford! What did you expect?

Fortunately for West Milford, their volunteer firemen were up to the task. With help from the Nutter Fort VFD, the firemen pulled the dead cow to shore. The Division of Highways (an agency with absolutely no reason to be involved in the matter) then hauled the carcass to the landfill.

The national government is telling us to expect a bird flu pandemic in the near future. The national government has spent millions of homeland security dollars for the protection of drinking water supplies. In spite of the fact that we are facing threats from a natural disaster as well as a terrorist attack, West Virginia is not even up to the task of removing a dead cow from one of its major rivers.

We laugh about a dead cow rotting in a river. Even West Milford’s Fire Chief punned, “Someone had to take the bull by the horns.” But our fellow Americans laughed at us all the harder as the cow rotted for three weeks while state leaders passed the buck.

There is a valuable lesson to be learned from this latest fiasco by state government. In the end, it was a group of volunteer firemen who had enough pride in their community to get the job done.

To this end, we all need to volunteer. We need to hold our noses and clean up state government once and for all. Otherwise, we’ll continue to get nothing but “West Virginia excuses” for our tax dollars.

David G. Allen 

Clarksburg, WV 

"Dead Cows Don't Wear OSHA Orange" originally appeared in the May 26, 2006 issue of the West Virginia State Journal and was reprinted in the Clarksburg (WV) Exponent-Telegram (May 28, 2006).





Copyright 1990-2006  David G. Allen