Here in Pennsyltucky local politics boil on the front burner. Folks here proudly wear the American flag, agree on everything wrong with the State and Federal government, and then use political officials and public meetings to tenderize and roast their neighbors. We celebrate a rich history, dating back to the original European settlers, of in-your-face politics, behind-your-back planning, and stab-you-in-the-eye at the most perfect moment in front of the gossip hounds that will surely proclaim your demise to everyone they know. This isn't for the weak-of-mind or faint-of-heart. If you can't handle the heat, get out of the dutch oven.
I was young and had just been hired by an elected Board of Supervisors to help out with their zoning. Their officer, Frank Selense had broken his hip when he was pushed over a wall by an angry property owner named Robert Depue Jr. Frank had refused to issue a permit for a wall DePue had already built without permits. Perhaps there was a way to resolve the issue without lawyers and Hearings, Perhaps in California, I don't really know. But not in Pennsyltucky. In this state, we go to war. Zoning officer Frank Selense was bound and determined to make Robert Depue's life miserable.
According to Ruth May, our local historian on all matters having to do with local families- the zoning officer's Great Uncle Bill (on his father's side) had impregnated DePue's Great Aunt Ada (on his mother's side). She was fifteen years old at the time. There was a shotgun wedding and later a nasty divorce and custody battle. All of this occurred before Mr. Depue and Mr.Selense were born. But the seeds had been sown and the two families have been feuding ever since.
Robert told Frank that the township could kiss his farmer butt before he would ever get a permit for a wall. Frank pulled out a citation book and threatened to fine Robert a thousand dollars. Robert told Frank where to stick that citation. Frank told Robert to take a flying leap through the hole of a rolling doughnut (clearly someone in Frank's family had read Kurt Vonnegut Jr.). Robert responded by making certain that Frank the Zoning Officer took a flying leap off his illegal wall. The following week I was hired to "run things till Frank returned" and "don't piss anyone off".
A week or two later, one of our elected officials, Bob Branson- a tall and lanky man with a huge tuft of thick blonde hair, angrily told me that some troublemaker opened a Feed Store without any permits. I printed up a few "Stop Work Orders" and raced over to "Green's Feed and Eggs Farm Store" that was an empty barn the last time I had driven past it. The property was owned by Old man Barker, a crotchety, opinionated, argumentative farmer with an unusual gait and deep, haractersdeep pockets. I plastered the building with notices.
I went inside and I told the cashier to close the store. I told her "if Barker wants a store he will have to get permits for it", A few weeks passed by and still the store was open. I then called Barker and threatened to file charges against him in our local court. He hung up on me.
At the next township meeting, the entire room was filled with the local farmers, old man Barker, and a nice fellow from the PA Department of Agriculture. At a public meeting, in front of a packed room, I was schooled on a small, arcane section of the state zoning law, a section that was added a few years later, buried deep in a budget law. The new law read something like this: "Farm stores are legally exempt from the law and local agencies may not issue permits or deny permits for farm stores."
At the meeting, one farmer after another hounded, pounded, beat my soul and body down, while old man Barker sat in the back row and laughed out loud. The next day I drove to Greens Feed and I took down the notices, my tail hanging between my legs, I also bought a dozen eggs. They were the best eggs I have ever eaten,
Welcome to Diffle County, friends.
All characters are fictional and not intended to be confused with real people anywhere in the world.