Boomer Winfrey 

Varmint Co. Correspondent

Doc Clyde Filstrup was the unofficial benevolent ruler of the Varmint County Good ‘Ol Boys political machine. Those old coots are mostly harmless, and I cannot image they will cease to plot and scheme during the Friday night poker game at Doc’s clinic.

Doc Clyde Filstrup was the unofficial benevolent ruler of the Varmint County Good ‘Ol Boys political machine. Those old coots are mostly harmless, and I cannot image they will cease to plot and scheme during the Friday night poker game at Doc’s clinic. 

It doesn’t seem like its been two decades since I first started reporting the goings-on here in Varmint County, but as they say, time flies when you’re having fun. Varmint County hasn’t always been fun, but always interesting, to say the least.

When I first moved to Lower Primroy as a junior reporter for the War Whoop & Exterminator, this place was one of the last great bastions of good ol’ boy politics.

We had County Judge Hugh Ray Jass (they call ‘em county mayors nowadays) who had inherited the office from his pappy, Cornelius Jass. The office had been in the family for the better part of the 20th Century. 

Sheriff Smoky T. Bandit likewise had followed in his father’s footsteps to the job of County Sheriff. Actually, old Sheriff Bandit had intended that his older son, Connie, follow his lead and prepared younger son Julie Thaddeus Bandit to be a lawyer instead.

The elder Bandit’s practice of sticking his sons with girl’s names to toughen them up worked too well, however, and Connie ended up in prison. The powers that be instead endorsed Julie for the job but he didn’t care for the name, preferring to go by the nickname he earned by smoking smelly cigars.

Somewhere along the line, the middle initial got added when female voters couldn’t read the name “Smoky T.” without thinking of Burt Reynolds in the movie Smoky and the Bandit. The prospect of winning over the entire female vote of Varmint County led Sheriff Smoky to adopt his permanent moniker.

Both Sheriff Smoky and Colonel Hugh Ray Jass were part of a good old boy political system ruled over by Doc Clyde Filstrup, who held court every Friday night at a weekly poker game down at his clinic. 

Road Superintendent Pothole Perkins, Criminal Court Judge “Hard Time” Harwell, Doc’s son Clyde Junior and various other notables were also part of this group who decided who to endorse for political office, what policies the county commission would be bullied into approving, and so on.

The county’s social life revolved around such manly pursuits as fishing out at Mud Lake, where Ike Pinetar operated the Mud Lake Marina, drinking at the Dead Rat Tavern run by Corky “Little Poison” Haig or distilling and consuming moonshine, which was the principle pastime of most members of the Haig and Hockmeyer clans.

These two clans had been embroiled in a blood feud since shortly after the Civil War, the Haigs being Rebels who migrated up from the Louisiana bayous while the hillbilly Hockmeyers had sided with the Union. The fact that the two clans were competitors in the moonshine business simply added fuel to the fire.

Elijah “Big Poison” Haig served as patriarch of his clan while Caleb Hockmeyer ruled over his family. When I first arrived, the two patriarchs had just settled on a truce to bring an end to the blood feud, agreeing to instead sponsor an annual July 4th free-for-all between the combative young men on both sides at the county fairgrounds, with no weapons allowed.

This is the Varmint County I discovered when I arrived to take the job of political reporter back in the 1990s. One small hiccup occurred when the War Whoop & Exterminator’s  publisher, H. Harley Hamm was convicted of income tax evasion and the IRS seized the newspaper. For a year I made do pumping gas at Smiley’s Gas & Tobacco Mercantile until H. Harley’s daughter stepped in and saved the paper. 

Virginia, or Ginnie Hamm as she preferred to be called for obvious reasons, bought the printing press at an IRS auction for nearly nothing and purchased the rights to the name for less than nothing and we were back in business.

It’s hard to set an exact time when things began to change, but I believe it was when Sheriff Smoky decided to retire. He had no sons, but his attractive tomboy daughter Stephanie decided to run for Sheriff. Smoky, feeling that the rough law enforcement life was no place for his little girl, secretly campaigned for his chief deputy Hiram Potts.

Hiram won but the plan backfired when the new Sheriff ended up marrying Stephanie Bandit and making her Chief Deputy. From that point on, the domino theory took over. The county’s long roll of high school football stars and boy basketball stars had to take a back seat to 6-foot 6-inch Penny Haig, who led the Lady Vipers to two consecutive undefeated seasons and state championships.

Then Toony Pyles, a popular grocery clerk at the local Stop ‘N Shop, was elected to the State Legislature. Finally, when Colonel Hugh Jass finally decided to retire, Penny’s former coach, Gabby Aslinger, was convinced to run for County Executive against poor Clyde Junior, whose own wife even campaigned against him.

Gabby also carried several female candidates into the county commission along with her. Camilla Clotfelter, long reputed to have inherited her granny’s witch powers, won when her opponent dropped out of the race. Seems that every time he got up to speak in public, he would suffer a nosebleed.

Finally, just this fall, Corky “Little Poison” Haig shot himself while in a drunken brawl with his pet bear, Beer Barrel. 

Corky pulled out a pistol and fired several shots. They missed the bear but one ricocheted off a brass mirror frame and struck Corky right between the eyes.

A frustrated Elijah Haig broke with precedent and handed control of the iconic Dead Rat Tavern over to his youngest granddaughter, Penny Haig’s feisty kid sister Chloe. When last we visited Chloe, she had B.B. the Bear eating out of her hand, and the two of them were running a tight ship at the one-time final refuge of red-blooded Varmint County manliness.

Last week Ginnie Hamm called the various reporters and other employees into the office for a staff meeting. I knew something ominous was in the air from the look on Ginnie’s face.

“You know I took over this newspaper when my poppa got into trouble because I saw so much that needed to be changed here in Varmint County and felt the newspaper could help that happen,” Ginnie began. “We never made any money here and that wasn’t my intention. There just isn’t enough money in small town newspapers anymore to keep them afloat.

Without the War Whoop, Varmint County will have to rely on the internet for their news, Lord help them.

Without the War Whoop, Varmint County will have to rely on the internet for their news, Lord help them.

“Well, thanks to all of your efforts, I think we’ve succeeded beyond my wildest imagination. The good old boys no longer rule this county with their drab, petty political agendas and all the good women that we’ve helped gain access to power have made Varmint County a gentler, kinder place.

“I’ve accomplished what I really wanted to see when I first took over daddy’s newspaper,” Ginnie continued. “I feel it’s no longer necessary for me to pour my limited money into a losing business, and so next week I’m shutting the doors and we will publish the last edition of the Varmint County War Whoop & Exterminator.

And so dear readers, with those few words, my time as your Varmint County correspondent is coming to an end. I have no intention of landing a job at Smiley’s Tobacco Mercantile this time around but must seek employment elsewhere, most likely far from these hills that I’ve long called home. It’s been one heckuva ride, and I hope you’ve enjoyed taking it with me.

Next month, a final look: Meet the real Varmint County