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Larry Penkava: Government shutdown hits Gopher Woods

Dear Uncle Ambrose and Aunt Victoria,


Gopher Woods is shut down.


But hardly anybody has noticed.


The Gopher Woods Hardware & Garden Center/New Wave Salon hasn’t missed a beat. In fact, a campaign promoting free bags of potting soil for every perm was a big hit.


Lenny Yankowitz had the grand opening of his Harley Davidson sales lot and, to celebrate, led a motorcade of bikers to the summit of Billygoat Mountain.


Meanwhile, Town Hall is locked up. Not that it matters that much.


There’s no water service since everybody depends on private wells and septic tanks.


Fire protection is provided by the Gopher Woods Volunteer Fire Department. 


Recreation is the result of a loose partnership of the school, local churches and Gurney Lawhorn Oil & Gas. The school provides the facilities, churches offer volunteer coaches and Gurney chips in uniforms with more advertising than a NASCAR driver’s uniform.


Maintenance isn’t necessary since the town owns no property. Even the Town Hall is leased at $1 a year from Mayor Smitty Jones.


There’s no street department because Main Street is a state highway and under the responsibility of the DOT. Residential streets aren’t built to state standards, thus the town fathers refuse to maintain them.


That leaves police protection, and there’s the rub. The Gopher Woods Police Department is comprised of Horace “Barney” Moffitt, who latched on to the job by virtue of being first cousin to a friend of the mayor’s brother-in-law‘s great-uncle.


That Barney is dedicated to his job isn’t in question. He regularly mans the cross walk in front of the school, mornings and afternoons. 


He’s faithful in citing folks for jaywalking, double parking and spitting on sidewalks.


His downfall was writing a ticket for Lula Swarthmore, mayor pro tem, after he espied her depositing a bag of garbage in a town trash bin.


“What’s this for?” Lula asked as she perused the ticket.


“That’s for illegal dumping of household trash, ma‘am,” Barney informed her.


“But this is a trash can,” she argued. “It says so on the side.”


“Yes, but it’s for casual trash,” said the officer. “I saw you remove the garbage bag from your car.”


“It’s still trash,” Lula exploded. “Trash is trash.”


“Just doin’ my job, ma’am.”


Done with debating with Barney, Lula decided there was more than one way to skin a cat. She took it up in the upcoming Town Council budget hearing.


“What are the expenditures on this year’s budget?” she asked Smitty.


“Well Lula, as usual the entire budget is Barney’s salary,” he said. “We have no other expenses except for garbage disposal.”


“Then I move to pass the budget with the stipulation that Barney’s salary be removed and trash collection suspended,” said Lula.


“But then there’s no budget and, therefore, no town government,” mewled Smitty.


“And no mayor,” Lula smirked.


“We have a responsibility to the citizens of Gopher Woods to provide police protection and garbage disposal,” Smitty said forcefully. “We can’t vote on the budget with that stipulation.”


“In which case, no vote means no budget,” said Lula.


“I didn’t hear a second to the motion, so it fails,” said Smitty. “Is there another motion to pass this budget?”


No motion came forward. Smitty adjourned the meeting and everybody went home.


Leaving Gopher Woods shut down. 


Barney has since found work at the MaxiMegaMart as a security officer. His duties include straightening up the toy aisle, directing traffic in the produce section, rounding up loose shopping carts and cleaning up spills.


So he’s pretty much doing the same things as when he was Gopher Woods’ only law enforcement officer.


And Lula continues to dump her household garbage in town receptacles, which the mayor dutifully empties.


Yeah, Gopher Woods is shut down and everything is pretty much the same.


Love, your nephew


Larry Penkava is a writer for Randolph Hub. Contact: 336-302-2189, larrypenkava@gmail.com.