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11:44 PM Mon, Nov. 12th

Hed Lines: Vegan Pagan unmasked

Editor's note: The following column contains the third 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, turns them down.

In the second episode, which ran Aug.

28, the Piker County Sheriff's Office blames the activists for marring the opening ceremony at the 100th annual Piker County Fair by releasing livestock from their pens at the fairgrounds.

The third episode starts today when cub reporter Dee Bunker heads to a thrift shop to replace a new dress that she damaged when she slipped and fell during the ceremony.

Dee Bunker arrived at the St.

Francis of Assisi Thrift Shop shortly after 4 p.m.

Thursday after putting in a hectic, deadline day at the Pikerville Gazette-Advocate.

She looked at the rack of used dresses.

"Can I help you?" a volunteer asked.

"I'm looking for something in my price range, no more than $15," Bunker said.

The volunteer found a floral print that she thought fit Bunker's 5-foot-4-inch, 120-pound frame and tastes.

"Try this one on," the volunteer said.

"It's almost brand new.

The dressing room is that way."

The volunteer followed Bunker into the dressing room and closed the door.

She appeared to be in her mid- to late-thirties and wore knee-length pants, a flaxen shirt, sandals made from rope, an ankle bracelet and beads but no makeup.

Dreadlocks dangled from her auburn hair.

"You probably don't recognize me because you never saw me in the flesh," the woman told Bunker in a soft voice.

"I'm Flora."

Bunker was stunned.

For the first time, she encountered a Vegan Pagan who was not hiding under a cattle mask.

"I'll let you try on the dress, and ring you up when you are done."

After Flora rang up the sale, Bunker said, "Keep me posted."

Flora suggested meeting Bunker at 6 p.m.

at the Greene House, a combination java bar and health food store that featured live music on Saturday nights.

Forrest Greene, a Democrat running for the same seat in the statehouse as Sheriff Rick O'Shay, owns the establishment.

Bunker ordered an espresso and Flora sipped an herbal tea.

Flora told Bunker that she is a massage therapist who works out of her home and makes house visits.

She said her real name is Gail Force and that Flora is her nom de guerre.

Flora suggested going for a ride, and Bunker obliged her.

The two hopped into Flora's pickup and headed to the outskirts of Pikerville.

Flora pulled onto a dirt road that led to shuttered slaughterhouse.

Bunker screamed as rats scampered about the floor.

"I grew up in a small town in Missouri," Flora said.

"My father worked in a slaughterhouse.

My mother stayed home and raised the four kids."

Flora asked, "Have you ever been to a slaughterhouse?"

"No, I can't say I have."

Flora continued, "I remember first touring the slaughterhouse when I was 10.

I was repelled by the smells and the sounds of cattle writhing in pain when they were being slaughtered."

She described a killing station, where an employee herded an animal into the killing stall, slaughtered it and begin the butchering process.

She explained how an experience that took place more than 25 years ago shaped her life, and segued into a description of her own unhappy childhood.

"My father used to get drunk and beat my mother up," she said.

"My uncle Floyd began molesting me when I was 13.

Nobody believed my story.

"Hey, I'm a child of abuse, and I don't want to see these animals being abused," she said.

"That's why I became a vegetarian in my late-20s, and I no longer eat any animal products.

As a Vegan pagan, I want to put an end to this continuing holocaust."

Bunker interrupted, "How do you compare the slaughter of livestock to Nazi Germany? Did you know Hitler was a vegetarian?"

To be continued …

Ken Hedler is the county government and political reporter for the Miner.