Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Coyotes and Country Crime

by Annette Dashofy

Unlike most of my fellow Working Stiffs, I am a country bumpkin. I’ve lived in rural Washington County all my life. Most folks think that crime doesn’t exist out here. Wrong. Although I’ll admit the frequency of major crime is much less and the types of calls our local police respond to tend to vary from their city counterparts.

For instance, last week a coyote was hit on the road in front of my house. Yes, you heard it right. A coyote. In front of my house. I’d heard they were around. Neighbors on the other side of the hill complained that coyotes take several of their lambs every spring. But I’d never seen or heard one. Apparently, neither had the cops. This road kill drew not one, not two, but THREE squad cars in response. All with flashing lights. It was the light show that caught our attention and drew my hubby to go outside in the darkness to see what was going on.

But some aspects of crime and intrigue span the city/country boundaries. I’ve been following the goings-on in a neighboring township that have the making for great murder mystery.

A resident whom I’ll call Bob (I’m changing the names to protect—well, not the innocent, but maybe me, since I’m adding editorial comments to the case) managed to get elected to the three-man board of supervisors. He then buddied up with a second supervisor, also new to the board. This second supervisor, Hank (not his real name) nominated Bob as chairman and Bob nominated Hank as deputy chairman and they basically took over control of the township. Bob signed himself up for health insurance at the tax payers’ expense and when the township legal eagle stepped in and said he wasn’t eligible for it, Bob fired the lawyer and brought in a crony from outside the township to become their legal council.

Two older ladies who had been secretaries for the township for decades protested. Bob arranged for charges to be brought up on both ladies for stealing township property and had both of them fired. The ridiculous charges were ultimately dropped, but by then, the two ladies didn’t want their old jobs back (can you blame them?) and Bob and Hank had a few more obstacles out of their way.

Township residents rebelled. They raised a ruckus at the township supervisors' meetings complaining about how Bob and Hank were running things. So Bob called the cops and had the “unruly” residents arrested and removed from the meeting. At one meeting things got exceptionally heated and Bob banged his gavel, adjourning the meeting before any real business had been completed and left through the back door. With police escort.

I guess things got to be too hot for Hank. He suddenly came up with a new job that prevented him from attending the supervisors’ meetings and resigned his post. The residents, back in control, replaced him with one of their own who partnered up with the third supervisor and put old Bob in his place. They fired the new lawyer and cut off Bob’s health insurance.

Bob still stirs up trouble from time to time, but now he’s the third man out. The local newspaper isn’t nearly as interesting to read anymore.

I saved boxes of clips from this little fiasco. As a mystery writer, I think Bob makes prime murder victim material. And the entire township population would be suspect.

Lots of us get our ideas from real life drama in the news. What makes this case all the more interesting (to me, at least) is that I am acquainted with Bob and consider Hank to be an old friend.

No crime or intrigue in the country? HA!


Joyce said...

Yes, township shenanigans. Aren't they fun? That's all I can say about that.

That would definitely make a great story.

Believe it or not, we have a lot of coyotes in Shaler. I get a call at least once a week from a panicked resident saying they spotted a coyote (sometimes they think it's a wolf). I have to go through my spiel about how common coyotes are, don't let small pets out at night, any other question call the game commission, etc.

brenda roger said...


The setting for that story could almost be one of the characters. The possibilities for making characters out of the secretaries is endless. I would like to see the old gals get some revenge in the end!

Anonymous said...

I just touched on the higb points of that story. One of the old gals has a neer-do-well son who was miffed because Ma kicked his sorry butt out of the house, so he contributed to the charges against her.

As for the coyotes, I'd been wondering why we haven't had the usual band of raccoons raiding the bird feeders this year. Now I know why.

mike said...

Annette--Thanks for the morning laugh. 3 squad cars for one dead coyote? And the shenanigans of your township "leaders"? Priceless. Brings back memories of my days covering West Mifflin borough council and school board meetings, where shouting, physical attacks, swearing, character assassination and other to-dos were all too common, and disheartening.

About the coyotes: a co-worker told us since a pack of them moved into the woods behind her house in Bellevue the deer have left and there are no more wild turkeys scrounging around for food...guess they became the coyotes dinner.

Joyce said...

Annette, you just HAVE to write that story!

Tory said...

So, Annette, are you still friends with Hank? I always think that's an interesting dilemma, when a friend does something in a group context (be it local politics or folk dancing), do I break off the friendship because I don't morally approve of what they did, or do I keep it because the issue isn't directly relevant to our relationship?

Anonymous said...

Tory, I rarely see "Hank" these days anyway, but I wouldn't write him off as a friend. I think he got drawn into the power game, but eventually wised up, thus the "new job." This is just my take on it, since I haven't talked to him recently. But if I'm going to turn it into a work of fiction, I can write him anyway I want.

And we suspect the three officers responding to the roadkill coyote were arguing over who got to claim the pelt. Hubby says they're worth something.

Judith said...

I love small town politics and yes it makes great fodder for stories. One little town out this way had the same mayor for years and he ran the town like a fifedom. He and the judge (only one) used to sit in the local tavern doing shots. If you ever had to appear before the judge, afternoons were not the best. He just wanted to get out of the office.

Anonymous said...

Where are Bo and Luke Duke when you need them?

Nancy said...

Wait a minute. Isn't this story just Enron with the names changed?

Kristine said...

Fascinating story, Annette. I think small town stories are the most interesting and have the most unique twists and turns because they are so unexpected. Perfect material for a book. I could see you on Court TV someday talking about this experience and how it inspired you to write about it.

Anonymous said...

Enron with the decimal point moved waaayyyy to the left.

kathie said...

Hey Annette, this is great material for you. I love (well, not for real but in the literary possibility sense) that the culprits got those women fired. HOw do people think of this stuff and actually carry it out??? Keep us posted or just have us read the book, I guess!