Busted Axle Road
Chapter 26: June, 1987

Copyright© 1993, 2001, 2010

After a three day weekend, the new house was starting to show signs of getting into shape for Mike and Kirsten, although there were still dozens of boxes that were strewn around the room, stacked in the front hall, awaiting unpacking. Mike had already had a big bonfire of used boxes, just to clear out some walking area, and they were beginning to see that there was a new home under all the clutter.

The bad part of having a three day weekend to move was that they were bone-tired when Tuesday rolled around. Tuesday was the big day around the Record-Herald, and on any given week they were busier than they wanted to be on Tuesdays. What made it worse was that Webb didn't like to screw up the normal mailing schedule, so normally, the plan was to gut it out and stick to the normal schedule, accepting the loss of Monday. Usually, the staff put in extra time late the week previously to give them a running start following three-day weekends, but Mike and Kirsten had been so busy with preparing for their move, so they were even farther behind than they would have been any other time.

The pile of mail that Tuesday morning was huge; there was a lot to sort through. Kirsten found a stack three times it's normal height, the collection of Saturday, Monday and Tuesday's mail. Only about one in three of the letters involved advertising, and all had to be gone through carefully.

She came across an envelope that contained a check and classified ad copy. The ad read, "Piano for sale, like new, console piano. Excellent condition, nothing down with good credit." There was a 1-800 phone number, and the check was drawn on an out of state bank.

Once upon a time, she would have just pitched a suspicious ad like that; the chances were good that it was a scam. But, a couple of times there had been complaints, and Webb hated to turn down money, so they had worked out a compromise. The classified ad file in the ad department's computer contained another ad, one the paper ran for free following every questionable ad: "Sound too good to be true? It probably is. We urge you to read 'amazing' offers carefully. Never give your credit card number over the phone. For more information, contact the Better Business Bureau in Camden, 1-800-555-1212."

It had made a big cutback in the numbers of questionable ads. Kirsten smiled; she'd seen ads from these bozos before. Apparently, they hadn't gotten the message yet. On the margin of the ad she wrote "Pd -- use BBB ad following", and put it in her outbasket.

The next envelope was marked "Legal Advertising," and came from the Fish and Wildlife Service in Minneapolis. This also was nothing new; they got a legal from the Fish and Wildlife Service about four times a year. She opened the copy and read the cover sheet: "Ad must be at least 4 inches wide, type not less than 12 point."

"Bunch of ripoff artists," she snorted. The ad would have to be charged by word count, since it was a legal, but putting it in a box with that type size would mean that they'd get less than the normal space rate. Before she even looked at the ad, she wrote in the margin of the cover sheet, "2 col, 12 pt. Squeeze." That would help a little. That done, she glanced at the ad itself, and involuntarily cringed when she saw the headline:

Gibson's Water Snake

She really didn't want to read any farther, but sort of wondered why the Fish and Wildlife Service was sending out this ad at all, so she skimmed on:

"The U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service, (Service), has set deadlines for receipt of comments and requests for public hearings concerning a May 27, 1987 Federal Register proposal to declare an interim area of critical habitat in Spearfish County for the Gibson's Water Snake (Nerodia sipendon gibsoni), an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act of 1973. The revised deadlines require that requests for public hearings be received by July 14, 1987, and comments and related information be received by July 24, 1987. Requests for public hearings and comments from all interested parties should be submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Division of Endangered Species, 1 Federal Drive, Minneapolis, Minnesota, telephone 612/555-3267. Additional information can be obtained from the above address."

While Kirsten may have been in the advertising business, she'd been around newspapers even longer than Mike had, and this had the smell of something that he might be interested in. She got up from her desk with difficulty; the baby and all the work this weekend was making her back really hurt bad this morning, but once she was on her feet, it was only a few steps into Mike's office. "Mike," she asked. "Have you ever heard of a Gibson's water snake?"

"I wouldn't know a Gibson's water snake if it crawled out of the bathtub drain in front of me," he laughed. "What makes you ask that?"

"We got this in the mail this morning," Kirsten said, handing Mike the ad copy.

He read it through quickly and commented, "I never even heard of a Gibson's water snake, but that's fast work for the Fish and Wildlife Service. I wonder what's happening?"

"Did you get a release on this from them?" Kirsten asked.

"I got something from the Fish and Wildlife Service, but most of what they send out doesn't concern us much, so I pitched it," he said. "Maybe I'd better dig through the wastebasket."

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