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9:19 AM Mon, Oct. 22nd

Hed Lines; There's a lot at 'steak'<BR>

Editor's Note: The following column contains the second episode in a imaginary saga about a clash of cultures in the small town of Pikerville, Utah.

In the first episode, which ran Aug.

21, a trio of animal-rights' activists calling themselves the Vegan Pagans kidnap a wood steer from the Piker Bull Steakhouse and demand that owner Cal Hyde expand the vegetarian menu as a condition for the steer's return.

Hyde, who offered a $500 reward for the safe return of Bully, turned them down.

This week's episode begins with the opening ceremony at the 100th annual Piker County Fair.

The Pikerville County Fair began on a somber note when the ceremony opened at 9 a.m.

Thursday in a tent.

Many of the 100 people gathered felt the pain of fair board member Cal Hyde, who longed for the return of Bully atop the roof of his restaurant.

He broke out in tears when members of the 4-H Club unfurled a banner with a crude drawing of a steer and the message, "Free Bully."

Participants held a moment of silence for the bull.

The next message came from Herbie Vore, chairman of the livestock committee.

He announced the winner of the poster contest, which showed a family of six bovines sitting at the dinner table carving their entrees with a steak knife.

The poster committee thought the entry from the 10-year girl best suited the theme for this year's fair: "Eat beef.

There's a lot at steak."

Vore segued into a speech.

"My friends, there is a lot at stake," Vore said.

"Our way of life, our freedom, our culture, are under threat.

These begging pagans, or whatever they call themselves, are trying to hold our cherished values hostage and dictate a major lifestyle change.

I've got a bone to pick with them."

As Vore spoke, participants heard a rumbling sound, and the canopy shook.

Several steers, pigs, sheep and goats charged into the tent, and knocked over poles and tables.

The marching band members abandoned their instruments and ran.

Dee Bunker, cub reporter from the Pikerville Gazette-Advocate, grabbed her camera and dashed to take photos, but slipped and fell on ice and punch spilled from an overturned punch bowl.

She picked herself up and took photos of the carnage and of fair personnel corralling the animals.

She caught up with Chief Deputy Sheriff Barney Yard, who served as the spokesman for the department in Sheriff Rick O'Shay's absence.

"Do you have any idea what happened?" she asked Yard.

"We're investigating the matter," he said.

As she approached her car, Bunker realized that she ripped her brand-new dress.

She stopped by her studio apartment, changed into a skirt and headed to the office.

Her editor, Ward Smith, had extended the deadline for an hour – until 11 a.m.

– to get a photo and brief story into Friday's edition.

He had not expected a breaking story,

After filing the story, Bunker walked into her editor's office.

"Ward, I ruined my nice new dress on assignment.

The dress cost me $75, about as much as I make a day.

I wonder whether the newspaper will reimburse me for the cost of buying a new dress."

"I'm sorry, Dee, but it is not in the budget," Smith said.

"Advertising revenues and circulation are flat.

Ruining one's clothes is an occupational hazard in this business."

Bunker retorted, "So is getting locked in the trunk of a car."

Smith slammed the door in his office, glowered at a reporter half his age of 44 and said, "Listen to me, young lady.

You get your work done for the day, go to a thrift shop and we'll talk about it later."

Meanwhile, the atmosphere was even more tense at the Piker County Sheriff's Office, where O'Shay had called an emergency meeting of all sworn officers.

"Gentlemen, our investigation has concluded that animal-rights' activists, posing as maintenance workers, vandalized livestock pens and let animals loose," he said.

"This has been a major security breach and an embarrassment for our department.

One of my political supporters was so upset that he took down my signs.

"This incident may damage my chances of getting elected to the state Legislature.

My political future – and your jobs – are at stake."

To be continued ,,,