30 June 2010

Robert C. Byrd, RIP

Robert C. Byrd, senior senator from West Virginia, departed the observable universe on June 28, 2010, aged 92 years and change. I'm surprised. I thought he was too ornery to die before the age of 125.

The Wikipedia article on Byrd mentions his having steered federal money to West Virginia, and makes a polite allusion to "pork-barrel" politics. That might refer to certain federal office buildings that you would expect to find in Washington, DC, but had somehow been built in Morgantown, WV. Or maybe the monorail in Morgantown that goes from the WVU campus to the downtown area. Or my favorite, the road that goes from Beckley to Sophia, WV. When Byrd first had it built, it was called "the four-lane," because it was the only four-lane road in the area. It was even wider than the nearby West Virginia Turnpike, then listed as "a modern two and three lane highway." It was a remarkable piece of engineering that went from pretty much nowhere to nowhere else. But Beckley had an airport, and Sophia was Byrd's hometown. About 20 years ago, it was re-named Robert C. Byrd Drive.

The Beckley city fathers even floated the idea of raising a statue to Byrd somewhere along his namesake road. I would love to see it. I recommend that it be patterned after a statue called "the Bacchino," which adorns a fountain in the Boboli Gardens built by Cosimo de' Medici in the 1500s behind the Pitti Palace in Florence, Italy. It looks like this:

Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
I'd make a few changes, of course. I would have him ride a hog instead of a turtle. I would place a bag of coins and cash in his right hand, a skillet of sausage links in his left, to commemorate the money he raised for the state he loved, and his having risen from working in a butcher shop in Sophia (so the local legend says). And I would put a crown on his head. He was the king of pork politics, if ever anyone was.

And I suppose he could spare two fingers to hold his fiddle and bow. He was a multi-talented man, and my shallow lampoon of one aspect of him captures only a fraction of what he was about.
But, as far as that fraction was concerned, nobody did it better.

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