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Lloyd Omdahl: Disappearance rattles Homeland Committee

"Where is everybody?" called Madeleine Morgan, as she stumbled out of a foot of snow and a howling, 30-mph wind into the old ZCBJ Community Hall for an emergency meeting of the Homeland Security Committee.

"We're back in the kitchen," shouted Holger Danske. "The wind is whistling too loud out there, and we have no wood for the big stove."

"Well, you can bet it isn't whistling Dixie," complained Madeline as she stomped the snow off her boots and joined the town's 13 electors, who were huddled in two circles around a gas stove with two flickering burners.

"It better be something pretty important to call us out in these arctic conditions," Madeleine said skeptically.

"Dawg is gone!" exclaimed Chief Security Officer Garvey Erfald as dramatically as he could.

"I saw him tearing through Einar's corn patch chasing a jackrabbit before breakfast, "Holger reported.

"The rabbit was ahead of him about 15 rods at Derchinski's slough, but Dawg was gaining," Jimmy added.

"I figure they'll be in Canada before Dawg catches him," Holger estimated.

"I've about had enough of this dog business," grumbled Einar Torvald. He was a cat person at heart.

"Wait one damn minute!" blurted Madeleine. (Madeline was raised a tough Montana cowgirl who frequently shocked the socks off these reserved North Dakotans.)

"I remember when that puppy was dumped out on the highway and came stumbling into town," she lectured. "Everybody agreed we should take turns caring for Dawg by the month."

"Can you imagine that he's been here two years, and we still call him Dawg?" observed Orville Jordan, the retired depot agent.

"Don't complain," Madeline chastised. "Remember that we all voted on a name, and it was seven votes for Fido and seven for Rover, so he got stuck with Dawg by default."

"Who's supposed to have Dawg this month that he's running loose?" queried Old Sievert, as he tried to pull his chair closer to the stove.

"I'll bet it was Dorsey Crank," speculated Einar Stamstead. "He went to Spearfish for the South Dakota Square Dance-Off in July and hasn't been seen since."

"Well, in South Dakota, every dance is square," snorted Old Sievert with a chuckle.

"Don't badmouth square dancing," cautioned Holger Danske. "It's the official dance of North Dakota by law, you know."

"I bet Dawg is on the loose because it's a new year, and Crank didn't get out the home assignments for 2017," Einar added.

"We really need a city manager," noted Little Jimmy, the town's online student now majoring in public administration.

"We can't afford any paid help," Orville responded as the acting city treasurer until Treasurer Crank got back. "With our assessed valuation, we'd need to levy 100 mills for a part-time employee—and just to schedule Dawg?"

"Well, maybe a manager could a do a few other things, maybe replace burned-out street lights like the one in front of my place," Holger Danske proposed.

"Or get the decorations up before Christmas instead of Dec. 29," added Gertie Erfald heatedly.

"Better late than never," Orville retorted. Orville was chair of the Community Beautification Task Force.

"All of this talk won't find Dawg," Chairperson Ork Dorken adjudged as he gently rapped his Coke bottle.

"Let's form search parties and go look for him," Garvey suggested.

"Don't be crazy! It's freezing cold out there," objected Einar.

In a rare show of leadership, Ork quickly designated four search parties and ordered them to report back in two hours. Grumbling but obedient, the electors tightened their coats and trekked out into the frigid blast.

Down the block, Dawg sat contentedly in the old blacksmith shop, where he watched the search parties through a big knothole and chewed on his catch.

Omdahl is a retired professor of political science at UND and a former North Dakota lieutenant governor.

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