Busted Axle Road
CopyrightÂ© 1993, 2001, 2010
Don Kutzley kept a scanner going in his office, not because he was any particular fan of the Spearfish Lake Police, but as city manager, he needed a way of keeping a finger on what the police department was up to. He heard the call, "Base, Six-Two out on a traffic stop," but it didn't have any particular significance; he never gave it a second thought. His attention was more on the mail, anyway.
There was always a wad of mail, some days worse than others, and a fair amount of it came with his name on it, so he couldn't leave it to the office girls to go through.
This Friday, though, the mail wasn't too bad, but it had already brought bad news. The first letter he'd opened was from the Farm Home Administration, giving flat denial to the request for assistance with construction of the storm sewer separation; there wasn't even a suggestion to reapply at a later date. That was fast work on the part of Farm Home; he hadn't expected a reply, good or bad, for at least another six months. Don had already made a note to bring it to Council the next Tuesday night, and council wasn't going to be very pleased.
It sure would be nice to finesse this one, some how or other, he thought. A big project, successfully funded and completed, would look real good on the resume, and it wasn't too soon to be thinking about getting a few out.
Kutzley wasn't a Spearfish Lake native; he was from Nebraska, in fact, and his last job had been as assistant city manager and city treasurer of Clearwater, Florida. Once, he'd wanted to be a politican, run for office, but back when he couldn't even get elected to student council in high school, he'd realized that being an elected official was a precarious way to make a living, at best. Still, he'd had a real interest in government, so had taken to public administration, instead. It had proven to be the right choice for him; it provided most of the joys of being a politican, but few of the pitfalls.
To Don, Spearfish Lake wasn't a lot different from Clearwater, from Muscatine. They were still all small towns, and they all took a bit of learning. There was a hidden power structure, no matter what the voters said; every town had a couple of loudmouthed old women that came to all the council meeting and bitched ignorantly about everything that happened; any town like Spearfish Lake had their own agenda, one where government was rarely high on the list, except maybe when tax time rolled around, but most of the time it was easier to get up a discussion about football than it was to come up with one on property tax equalization.
Don could take football or leave it, but he preferred to leave it. Though he stood six foot three, and weighed over 300 pounds, he'd never played football in his life, at least since throwing a ball around on an elementary school playground. It was, at best, rather primitive and brutal, and there were more important things to do.
He brushed back a hair on his prematurely balding head, and opened the next letter.
It was from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and it was short:
"Having received no public comment, or request for public hearing, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hereby declares an area within a radius of ten miles from the city of Spearfish Lake, including the city of Spearfish Lake, as an interim critical interest area for the species nathrex sipendon gibsoni, Gibson's Water Snake."
Sheer gibberish, as far as Kutzley was concerned. What did that have to do with anything?
He reached for the next letter. It was from the Environmental Protection Agency, and that was hardly ever good news.
It wasn't. It was hardly longer than the letter from the Fish and Wildlife Service, but Kutzley understood what this one meant, every word. This would have to go to council, too, and council wouldn't be pleased, one bit.
His attention was drawn by a knock on his open door, and a deep voice that could only be Jack Musgrave's: "You in for me, chief?"
"Yeah, sure," Kutzley said in a grinding, high-pitched voice. "How's things down at the plant?"
"Oh, pretty good," Musgrave replied. "We steam-cleaned the basement yesterday afternoon, and it's not too bad in there, now."