The Prairie Spy

Alan “Lindy” Linda

I’ve had two encounters with the DNR—Department of Natural Resources. The first happened at small claims court, a place where I took  disagreements with customers regarding minor bill disputes, minor being seven hundred bucks or less.

A trip to small claims court, more often than not, produced mostly entertainment. Even though the claim might be settled in your favor, you still had to try to wring water out of a stone to actually get the money.

Before the young judge assigned for today’s judicial proceedings got to small claims, first the court went through driving violations. On this particular day, the usual driving-while-intoxicated folks stood up with a lawyer, and got their due process. After those, then DNR violators. On this day, there was a DNR violation against someone I will name Ole Scandihuvian.

Ole was easily in his eighties, but it wasn’t hard to see that he was once a big, raw-boned, tall, strong-shouldered man. He had a full head of white hair, blue eyes, and a proud bearing. The bailiff got him stood up in front, and the young judge said: “I see here that you’ve been cited for fishing with two poles. How do you plead?” And with that, the young judge looked down at Ole.

Ole said: “I’ve been fishing with two poles my whole life, Judge.” He could easily have been twice the judge’s age.

The judge said that, well, you know, that’s illegal, you owe the court $125.00 and costs, and with that, he tapped his hammer and said, “Next!”

Ole stood there. The judge looked up from his paperwork, somewhat surprised to see Ole still there, and asked if there was something else, Mr. Scandihuvian?

“Yes sir, Judge, I’m gonna sit it out!” stated Ole emphatically. I guessed him as a retired farmer, probably getting just a few hundred bucks a month social security, and the fine—to say nothing about the whole principle of the situation—was untenable for him.

“You’re going to what?” the young judge asked, somewhat puzzledly, looking down on Ole.

Ole repeated his “sit it out” declaration. The judge looked at the bailiff, who was smiling. The judge looked down at his paperwork. He looked at Ole. He was, it was plain to see, somewhat flustered over all this. It was doubtful that he had ever had someone who would rather spend some time in the county jail getting three squares a day.

The young judge didn’t know quite what to do. Finally, after a long pause, he looked down at Ole and said: “Oh, for Pete’s sake, go see the bailiff and figure something out.” What that something was, I don’t know. I’ve always kind of wished I did.

My second encounter came as we got off the lake with my boat. To my surprise, there was a game warden waiting for us. Although we had a live well full of slithery northern pike, I had made sure (I hoped) that we were one under the limit for the three of us. But they are difficult to count accurately.

The DNR official came up to the boat, and in a surprisingly friendly manner, she helped us pull a couple of weeds from the trailer, watched me drain everything, chatted with us on how we did, looked at stuff in the boat out of the corner of her eye while all this other stuff was going on, answered a question I had about veterans and deer hunting, and then counted fish. Yup. One under.

I looked at her as she asked for our licenses, and said: “I’m likely as irritated about this as you will be, because I’ve waited for you for forty years and now you’re here and today and I think it’s the first time I don’t have my license on me.”

She smiled, took my personal information, including my phone number, and said: “Well, if you don’t have one, you’ll be hearing from me.” Even that threat was politely delivered. (I did have a license.) She smiled, gave us a “have a good one,” and went about her business.

Game warden from Henning, thank you. If every encounter I have ever had with an official was as nicely conducted as this one, I’d look forward to the next one.

Unless you caught me fishing with two poles.