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Saturday, July 09, 2005

Coonhounds, Cash, Auto Parts and Guns

Let me make one thing clear. I'll never be bribed with an offer of free coonhounds. Or auto parts. Not even guns or cash.

But offer me all of the above and I'm yours, baby.

From the Bristol Herald Courier:

Adkins to be first sentenced in Operation Big Coondog case
BY Matthew Lakin, Bristol Herald Courier

ABINGDON – A former Buchanan County road inspector could spend less than a year in federal prison for cleaning the kennels of ill-gotten coonhounds.

Ricky Allen Adkins, 51, pleaded guilty in October to charges of program fraud. He and 15 other officials and businessmen were rounded up last June as part of a racketeering investigation by the FBI and Internal Revenue Service code-named Operation Big Coondog.

Federal prosecutors said the men exploited a deadly flood that nearly washed away the Hurley community in 2002, swapping bribes and kickbacks for nearly $8 million in federally financed flood cleanup contracts.

The bribes included coonhounds, cash, auto parts and guns. (link)

Personally, I favor leniency. I have difficulty blaming these guys, what with the bribes including auto parts and all. From what I hear, Ricky turned down offers of hookers and meth. But coonhounds? By God, no heavily armed, heterosexual male living in Southwest Virginia is going to turn down coondogs.

If I was going to work up his legal defense, I'd go for entrapment.

Who'd 'ave Thunk It

People in Wise County are calling the local police with reports of seeing snakes in the area.

Snakes. In the mountains.

The shocking news from Coalfield.com:

Snake sightings seem on rise

By JODI DEAL, Staff Writer
July 05, 2005

While it's not necessarily uncommon to glimpse a snake slithering across a road or spy one lurking in the backyard, people this year are reporting reptilian encounters in such numbers that it's stirring talk.

More reports of snake sightings already have been called in to the Norton Police Department this year than the department typically gets in an entire summer season, according to Interim Police Chief Kenny Jackson.

Over a two-week period in early June, Jackson said, four snake sightings were reported from various spots around the city and then a copperhead was found in the alley behind the Norton Social Services Department.
Wow. Five snakes. In a two-week period. Time to panic.

Hell, I'll come across five snakes in my pasture on a slow day. Paula and I have to deal with so many snakes, we keep a rake by the back door just to move them out of the way so that we can get to the barn. We have so many snakes living with us here on Big Walker Mountain that we give them names (Slinky, Smarmy, Boa, Tim Kaine, Mark Warner ...). I don't know for sure but I'm of the opinion that we have species that have never been catalogued. Snakes, snakes and more snakes.

Okay, I exaggerate.

But I did find it odd that people in Southwest Virginia would call the police to report a snake sighting. What next? Bugs?

A No-Brainer

Politicians here in Southwest Virginia are in high dudgeon, let me tell you, over the fact the Federal Department of Transportation has pulled funding from a local highway construction project, a four-laner that was intended to link Dickenson, Wise, and Buchanan Counties to Southeast West Virginia. Apparently the road work is behind schedule and over budget.

The Dickenson County Board of Supervisors has asked state and federal officials to "undertake all necessary steps" to secure funding for the Coalfields Expressway.

In identical resolutions passed last week, the board requested Ninth District Rep. Rick Boucher and Sens. George Allen and John Warner to ask the Federal Department of Transportation to reconsider a decision withdrawing future funds from the public-private partnership that was preparing to build the Coalfields Expressway. The 51-mile, four-lane road would link Wise, Dickenson and Buchanan counties to the West Virginia Coalfields Expressway. (link)
This is a worthy project. It deserves the immediate attention of our political leadership.

In fact, I think Representative Boucher could pull some strings in Washington and have those funds he's seeking for his horse path be rerouted to the Coalfields Expressway (you may recall, he made the New York Times with his bizarre Transportation Bill request - and ludicrous explanation - for $750,000 to be spent on a riding trail to be carved out of pristine Jefferson National Forest land). It may put a crimp in Boucher's plan to turn Appalachia into Disneyland East, and his thoroughbred-riding, tea-and-Camembert pals will be disappointed, but the local folk will appreciate the opportunity to get to the new Wal-Marts going up in Ben Hur and Norton without risking their lives on treacherous mountain roads.

We'll be waiting with bated breath for Boucher's announcement.