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Committee stirs bitter memories of election lost

“The whole town stinks!” exclaimed Einar Stamstead as a he led 12 electors into the community hall for another cold meeting of the Homeland Security Committee.

“That’s why we’re here, I guess,” added Old Sievert as he pulled up his face mask and headed for his overstuffed chair under the sunny south window. He tucked his sheepskin coat around his legs.

“Let’s get going,” Holger Danske shouted. “I don’t have enough wood to keep the stove going for a long meeting”

By this time, Chairman Ork Dorken was situated behind his hollow core door table fitted with wobbly iron legs.

“Meeting will come to order,” he announced as he rapped his Coke bottle.

“Alert Officer Garvey Erfald will give us a situation report.”

Garvey gathered some loose papers and stood up.

“Tell us why this town stinks,” demanded Orville Jordan the retired depot agent who stayed when the train left.

“When that northwest wind picks up, we need goggles,” exaggerated Madeleine Morgan, a newcomer five years ago from Montana. Rumor had it that she was on the lam from some bar fight in Billings.

“Let’s get the facts,” suggested Dorsey Crank, fresh from the big snowmobile event in Deadwood.

“The facts are that last night Dawg met a family of skunks – three of them – in the Puckle culvert and they gave him a warm welcome,” Garvey explained.

“Well, I don’t know if I would call it warm,” Einar Stanstead offered.

That’s when Holger got up and scolded as he interrogated.

“What was Dawg doing there in the middle of the night? Who is in charge of Dawg this month?”

The electors took monthly turns caring for the dog that no one wanted to own.

“January is my month,” Dorsey confessed, “but I took three days to go to Deadwood and he escaped while I was gone. It was supposed to be warm so I left only the screen door open so he could see out.

“How did he get through the screen door?” grilled Garvey.

“It didn’t have any screen but I thought it would take Dawg more ‘n three days to notice,” Dorsey added as sheepish as Old Sievert’s coat.

“Why do we keep calling dog Dawg? Shouldn’t he have a name?” asked Madeleine innocently

Everybody in the room bristled. Bad memories of an election gone wrong filled their minds. The hard feelings never got soft.

“Well, I’ll tell you, Maddy, before you came to this city, we had an election…two names for Dawg were offered…Rover and Fido,” explained Orville slowly as the heat rose up the back of his neck.

Orville continued. “Garvey counted the ballots and said the vote was a tie – six to six – but us Rover people know the election was stole by the Fido people. Garvey didn’t read well without his glasses and we know that Rover got seven votes.”

Ork rapped his Coke bottle.

“Not so!” he exclaimed. “We had three recounts – even one by the county auditor – and they came out the same every time – six to six.”

The room temperature elevated rapidly. Ork could see that crowd control was in the balance so he quickly changed the subject.

“So the town stinks,” he noted. “What are we going to do about it?”

“Quit smelling!” Madeleine suggested. Everyone laughed. It broke the tension.

Little Jimmy, the only person in town with a Hewlett-Packard, stood up.

“We need to get one of those disaster grants from the government,” he suggested.

“Or abandon the economic development committee ’cause no industry will come to a town that smells like this” Holger volunteered.

“Okay, I’ll do a disaster grant request,” Little Jimmy offered.

Problem solved, the 12 other electors pulled up their face masks and dashed for the door as the last embers in the stove died.

Lloyd Omdahl is a former lieutenant governor of North Dakota and former political science professor at the University of North Dakota, Grand Forks.

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