How the dog made me a township clerk

Published 10:09 am Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Column: Tales From Exit 22

It was a dark and stormy night.

Or it might have been a stormy and dark night. I can’t remember if the storm started before dark or not.

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Either way, I was slaving away in my office, leaning one word against another on paper in the hopes they would find worth.

I paused in my endeavors and looked out the window just in time to see a pickup truck turn into the drive. As the vehicle crossed into the area illuminated by the yardlight, I could see it contained three shadowy figures. I knew immediately who they were. They were township supervisors. Townships in Minnesota have a layer of grassroots government called the “township board” that oversees good things like the maintenance of roads and bridges, fire protection, the voting process, etc.

Not only did I know they were supervisors, I knew why they were there. Kernel Knudson, who’d been clerk for 39 years, had moved to town. This made him ineligible to continue the job. The supervisors were on the prowl for his replacement. They smelled blood.

I knew why they wanted me. My mother had told me that I was put on earth to help others. I wondered what all the others were here for, but I was a proven leader. I once tried to chase some turkeys home. I quickly discovered that the big birds could outrun me and everyone like me. I gave up and walked home. The turkeys followed me home. That’s leadership.

I didn’t want the job. I knew I’d be underpaid and not worth that. Besides, I was much too busy. I had dirt to scratch and eggs to lay. I acted fast. I turned off all the lights in the house hoping that my visitors would think I had a security system meant to puzzle trespassers by turning lights off instead of on. I dove behind the sofa. The dog, which was half pit bull, half poodle and a vicious gossip began to bark. The pooch wasn’t the least bit phlegmatic. I grabbed the dog, pulled him behind the sofa with me and held my hands around his muzzle, which nearly muffled his barks.

There I was, on the floor behind a sofa in a darkened house trying to subdue a canine companion intent on barking up a storm. Not a normal night, even at my house.

The doorbell rang. The dog went into a frenzy of stifled barking. One of the men leaned his elbow against the doorbell. Supervisors are supervisors because they don’t give up.

Ding, dong! Ding, dong! Ding, dong!

It sounded like an Avon convention.

I didn’t care. I was safe in my sanctuary behind the sofa.

Or so I thought. There was a fly in the ointment. My wife. I’d forgotten that she was in the basement. I heard her hollering upstairs, wondering aloud if I was going to answer the door. Then, sighing the sigh that only a wife can sigh, she trudged up the steps. I heard her open the door and say, “Yes, Al is here somewhere.”

Four people walked into the room where I was cleverly hidden. The room became lit.

Eight eyes looked down at me, curled in a fetal position, and the apoplectic dog that I was keeping from uttering a single arf.

“What are you doing?” asked my wife, rolling her eyes a record distance.

It would have been hard to explain what I was doing even if I’d have known.

The supervisors tried to talk to me as if I had good sense. “We’d like to talk to you,” one said.

“It won’t do any good. Ask my wife,” I replied before adding, “Besides, I’m pretty busy.”

“We can see that,” said another, with more than a hint of pity in his voice.

“You know that Kernel moved to town. We need a new clerk. Will you take the job?” asked the third.

I couldn’t come up with a good reason not to become a clerk. I think better on my feet, but I didn’t want to stand up for fear that I might have become light-headed enough to agree to take the job. Instead, I released my grip on the dog’s muzzle. His eyes were bulging and my hands were cramping.

The dog tried to bark, but had apparently strained his barker. It sounded as though he said, “Yup.”

The supervisors thought the dog spoke on my behalf.

They thanked me and left.

I was elected to a job that the dog wanted.


Hartland resident Al Batt’s columns appear every Wednesday and Sunday.