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Laugh Lines

Maggart County Politics Really Is a Rat Race


For 27 consecutive years, Hoyt Fallows, lifelong denizen of Maggart County, Okla., had been awarded the county's pest control contract.

Shrouded in small-town political intrigue, the Fallows contracts had long been considered virtual gifts of the county, being that no one, other than Fallows, had ever sought consideration.

In June of 1996, Ray Jinkers, a newcomer to Maggart County, announced his intention to submit a bid in an effort to bring a new vision to Oklahoma pest control.

Jinkers commenced a long uphill campaign against Fallows--a man credited with the extermination of over 9,000 rodents since 1974 (when this statistic was first kept).

Several reporters from the Maggart County Turnip-Statesman were invited by Jinkers to accompany him during the final 96 hours of his campaign to unseat Fallows.

The following is an excerpt from the Turnip-Statesman's coverage of Jinkers' 96-hour marathon:

"Jinkers is a man on a mission. Before delivering his standard stump speech at the Delb City McFrugal, he consults Jack Penzor, his trusted pollster. Penzor implores Jinkers to ram home his disdain for the tomato fruit worm but to skirt all wood rat references, citing Fallows' distinguished and unassailable record.

"The speech goes well. Several shoppers stop rummaging through an enormous bin of thongs as Jinkers bellows his signature line: 'I'll kill every last critter!' "

"Pleased with the response, Jinkers and Co. sneak out the back into the awaiting beige Cordova. Penzor immediately turns on the radio to hear Fallows' 3:30 spot. The ad is negative, yet effective:

"On June 14, 1994, a radish maggot was found thriving on the property of Ray Jinkers. Would you trust this man to spray your baseboard? Hoyt Fallows--a man who says NO to cockroaches and domestic rodents!

"Jinkers grows despondent. He is now 35 points behind in the polls. A new, daring strategy is needed. It is now 4:30; we pull up to Quik-Gas Mini-Mart. A disappointing crowd of six is there to greet Jinkers. The exterminator-wannabe's temper is now in evidence as he yells over to speech writer Roger Dozier. 'Dozier!' he cries. The message isn't getting out! Make these people understand that "pest management" isn't an elitist conceit of renaissance weekend extermination jocks. They need to know that I will KILL their fleas, ticks and roaches. They don't know I want these pests killed! That misconception will bury me.'

"Dozier scribbles frantically then hands Jinkers a revised version of the stump speech. Jinkers pokes his head out of the sunroof, then delivers the words that will immediately change the complexion of the campaign: 'Fallows is afraid of spiders!'

"There is stunned silence, and for one remarkable moment, there are no airborne sunflower shells in Maggart.

"Jinkers, now elated, sits back down in the car. He and Dozier exchange high-fives as they head off to Haskin's Self Car Wash--a meeting place for Maggart cognoscenti.

"Moments later, a call is received. It's from Ernie Scherneger, Fallows' top advisor and handler for several of the state's pest controllers.

"Scherneger informs the Jinkers camp that Fallows will not debate. This is a crushing blow to the campaign; most figured it was Jinkers' final chance to close the gap and appeal to the critical voting bloc that has electricity.

"The roller-coaster ride continues. Still stinging from the debate news, a weary Jinkers answers another call. This time it's good news: The spider strategy apparently worked. One undecided voter is quoted as saying, 'Hell, I don't want no exterminator who's afraid of spiders.' Jinkers' message had finally registered.

"It is now the final stop of the campaign. The 96-hour marathon has exhausted all but Jinkers himself. Poll numbers showing him closing the gap to 25 points--or in the words of any pollster clinging to his job--a statistical tie.

"Word is received this evening that Fallows will win. Jinkers concedes and phones Fallows. He tells the incumbent, 'When you get a chance, there's this deer mouse under my sink. . . ."

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