“Boomer” Winfrey

Varmint County Correspondent

CRIME was in the news here in Varmint County last week. I’m not talking about the usual run of busted meth labs or the burglaries and break-ins out at Mud Lake by addicts trying to finance their drug habits.

That’s old news in most rural areas of Appalachia, as are incidents of domestic violence, or drunken brawls and assault at the various bars and taverns.

No, this was crime as only Varmint County can experience it, a tale so outrageous that it will entertain the codgers down at the Arby’s Breakfast Club, the poker crowd at Doc Filstrup’s and the loafers at Smiley’s Pool Emporium for months to come.

You may recall some of our more famous crimes of the past, such as the time Bert McCracken attempted to rob the Varmint County Savings & Trust at knife point. Of course, Bert brandished his knife at the clerk behind the drive-in window and demanded all her money.

The poor girl was laughing so hard she almost forgot to push the silent alarm, and if Bert had been sober enough to drive off, he might have escaped the twenty-three deputies and two city cops that surrounded his pick-up truck.

That was a crime that kept on providing entertainment for several months, as Bert’s trial for attempted bank robbery filled the courtroom daily. Bert pleaded not guilty by reason of being drunk and unconscious at the time of the robbery.

“Your honor, it must have been my subconscious robbing that bank. I don’t remember a thing after finishing off a quart of Haig Hollow Spring Run moonshine that morning,” Bert told Judge Hard Time Harwell.

“Well, Bert, I can sympathize with you. A quart of the Haigs’ most powerful liquor would definitely make most folks unconscious.” Hard Time commented. “Tell you what, I’m going to drop the charges against you, and sentence your subconscious to eleven months and twenty-nine days at hard labor.”

Bert was still trying to figure that one out as the deputies led him back to his cell.

Another crime that turned out not to be a crime, occurred some years back when the disappearance of Cordelia Clotfelter, Varmint County’s infamous witch, was solved.

Cordelia, in addition to dabbling in hexes and potions, also sold her special brand of moonshine, that had a bit of added kick to it and was quite popular with a certain crowd. One summer, the fellows in that crowd, about half a dozen strapping young men that worked in the mines in Upper Primroy, vanished, along with Cordelia.

Rumors flew that Cordelia had turned them all into turkey vultures or rat snakes and fled the county. Other rumors flew around that the old gal had put a spell on the young men, making them believe she was a raging beauty, and eloped with the bunch.

Cordelia’s run-down house remained empty for a couple of years until her granddaughter Camilla donated it to a local church, and it was remodeled and turned into a shelter for abused and battered women.

In a short time, close to a dozen abused wives were staying at the shelter, trying to avoid their worthless menfolk. One of the men, Curley Pinetar, found out where the shelter was located. One night, deep in his cups at the Dead Rat Tavern, Curley talked several other abandoned wife beaters into storming the shelter, with the idea of dragging the women home by the hair of their heads, caveman style.

Eight burley drunks marched up the hill to the old Clotfelter home and began raising a ruckus on the front porch when the ladies refused to open the door.

Suddenly, the porch collapsed, dumping the men twelve feet into a hidden cellar. Curley regained his senses first, lifted his head and found himself staring into the face of Cordelia Clotfelter. Cordelia was a frightening figure in life; what Curley saw was even more frightening – the mummified remains of Cordelia, preserved by her potent corn liquor.

Arranged around a table were the remains of the six missing men, all victims of a batch of bad moonshine that had poisoned them while they drank. The abusive husbands, convinced that they had seen the Devil, or worse, clambered out of the cellar and vanished over the hill.

But I’ve gotten off my subject, as I often do when spinning tales of Varmint County. Our most recent crime story should be a good rival to anything that has happened in the past.

Arlie Hockmeyer runs Arlie’s Wrecker Service on the outskirts of Lower Primroy. As with all members of the Hockmeyer Clan, Arlie also dabbles a bit in a certain agricultural pursuit that is frowned upon by the DEA and law enforcement agencies. The Hockmeyers used to be the Haig Clan’s chief rivals for the moonshine business in these parts, but the Haigs went more or less legitimate when the Air Force purchased their “Spring Run” formula as a rocket fuel additive.

The Hockmeyers discovered that growing a certain illegal weed proved much more lucrative financially and involved less work than making “shine.”

So, one evening a couple of weeks back, Arlie and his cousin Tobin Hockmeyer set off on a run into Burrville with the remains of last year’s harvest. Normally Arlie would have driven his car, the one with the secret panels that lift up to provide hiding places, but his teenaged son blew the engine last week while drag racing.

Arlie and Tobin loaded their crop in the front seat of Arlie’s oldest wrecker and set off, when a couple of miles out of Burrville, they ran into a routine highway patrol roadblock.

Now, nothing sets off suspicion among state troopers as much as someone executing a U-turn at the approach to a roadblock. Two squad cars set off in hot pursuit of Arlie and Tobin; one drew alongside the wrecker while the other followed close on his tail.

Suddenly, Arlie decided it would not be a good idea to get caught with ten kilos of pot on his front seat. He made a sharp right turn onto a gravel road, causing several things to happen simultaneously. First, the hook on his wrecker cable slipped loose and began swinging around in the air. Second, Tobin’s knee accidentally hit the cable release knob and around thirty feet of cable unwound before Arlie had time to stop it.

The third thing is predictable: the hook, swinging wildly on the end of thirty feet of cable, caught under the front bumper of state trooper Curtis Buckman’s patrol car. Arlie tried to wind the loose cable back up, but as he did, he merely lifted the front wheels of Buckman’s patrol car in the air.

Trooper Buckman now knew the true meaning of “close pursuit.” His car dangled helplessly on the end of the cable while Arlie tried to outrun the other trooper on the winding gravel road. Fortunately for both, Arlie’s old wrecker couldn’t do more that 55 mph, so it wasn’t exactly a high-speed chase, more like a slow motion chase.

Arlie finally came out on another paved road and cut sharply into traffic, pointing his wrecker eastward toward Varmint County. By this time, six highway patrol vehicles and a Burr County sheriff’s deputy had joined the pursuit.

Hoping to shake the captured patrol car loose, Arlie tried several maneuvers, including letting out more cable and swerving sharply. Trooper Buckman watched helplessly as his car first took out a pop-up camper parked at a roadside picnic table, then crashed into the “Welcome to Varmint County” sign on Highway 93.

Arlie tried one last maneuver to shake the trooper off his tow cable, cutting off the highway at Elmo’s Truck Stop and sliding through the parking lot. The highway patrol car collided with a pick-up truck loaded with crated chickens, driven by Elmo Small, but without the desired results.

Instead of shaking Trooper Buckman loose, the patrol car’s rear bumper hooked the front bumper of Elmo’s truck. Tobin Hockmeyer, looking back at the chaos , simply said, “Look’s like we got ourselves a convoy, cousin.”

As crates filled with squawking hens flew through the air, Arlie and Tobin were able to accomplish one thing – they dumped all of the marijuana out the windows of the cab. With so many feathers and pullets flying around, the pursuing deputies and troopers didn’t notice a few pounds of pot in the mix.

Finally, the pursuit blasted through the peaceful streets of Lower Primroy, where Sheriff Hiram Potts had set up a roadblock on the edge of town, consisting of two concrete trucks from P & D Concrete Products. Hiram was not one to mess around with half-baked roadblocks.

Arlie saw the concrete trucks as he approached, now slowed to around 40 mph while towing a highway patrol car and a pick-up loaded with chickens. He swerved at a 90-degree turn down a side street, and Elmo Small and his pick-up finally dislodged, sailing directly through the front window of Smiley’s Tobacco Mercantile.

Meanwhile, the eleven highway patrol cruisers and three Burr County deputies who had been following Arlie, also saw the concrete truck roadblock and tried to stop. One state cruiser stopped in time, only to be rammed into the concrete truck by a pursuing deputy’s car. The rest of the vehicles piled on top of each other in a mound of twisted chrome and smashed blue lights.

When Elmo’s truck dislodged, it caused Trooper Buckman’s car to lift sharply, and Arlie’s tow cable finally came loose from the bumper. The vehicle then sailed through the open bay doors of the Lower Primroy Volunteer Fire Department, crashing into Water Truck # 2.

Arlie and Tobin, in all the confusion, vanished, tow truck and all, and have still not been seen around Varmint County since the incident.

The final indignity, at least from the pursuing lawmen’s point of view, came an hour or so after the pile-up at the concrete truck roadblock. Sheriff Potts called in wreckers to clear the debris when Burr County Sheriff Buford Gill noticed that the three wreckers towing his smashed vehicles all had “Arlie’s Wrecker Service” painted on the side.

“Call another wrecker service. Damned if we’re going to pay out money to the fellow who caused all this,” Sheriff Gill insisted.

“Sorry, Buford. Arlie’s is the only wrecker service we have here in Varmint County. His wife, uncle and son didn’t have nothing to do with what went on tonight and they’re towing your patrol cars. Besides, when we finally do catch up with Arlie, he’s going to need the money to post bail, hire a lawyer and pay for all the damage.”