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They Shoe Horses, Don't They?

The Jourdanton
Dog Drownings

Small Town Finds Way to get International Attention

by Brewster Hudspeth
They shoe horse

Getting your town noticed isn't as easy as it used to be. People used to try and break some long-standing world record like the world's largest four-bean salad or some silly endurance record using as many residents and pogo sticks as possible. Chambers of commerce all across this country rack their brains trying to get people to visit their respective towns. Usually the best they can come up with is a slogan like "Gateway to the Next Town."

But in Jourdanton, Texas, the chamber of commerce can take a breather. In that county seat town of nearly 4,000 people, the city manager (without even being asked) took the reins and came up with a novel idea that insured that his town would be remembered for years. Jourdanton will now join the ranks of Texas cities and towns that made the news for sad and unfortunate events. Cities and towns like Waco, Tulia, Killeen and Jasper.

First there was the initial event - which was drowning stray dogs in sewage. The reason given for this act was that the county veterinarian who usually euthanizes stray animals was on vacation.

Waiting a few days for the Vet to come back from vacation might cost the county money for dog food (assuming that they feed condemned animals in Jourdanton). Drowning is expedient and saved the taxpayers $8 per dog. Is anyone bringing that up? Shooting the dogs would make noise - and some of those pesty citizens / taxpayers might complain. After the decision was made to drown them - then came the question of how. Water? Sewage? We've got more of one than the other - but what's the difference? They're just dogs, it's not like they're county prisoners. Hmmm..... no, first things first.

Well, it's a tough job being a city manager - and we can't imagine the pressures involved in "managing" a city of nearly 4,000 people. Often the managed just don't seem to know their place.

Normal people usually can't handle this pressure - and would probably crack. We think this man needs to be given some credit for all he's done to Jourdanton. (Or should that be for Jourdanton?)

The only mistake seems to have been killing the dogs in front of a young boy who was performing community service. Evidently this boy wasn't as tough or mature as the city employees. He was bothered by the incident and he told his mother who then complained to someone who listened.

The investigation was conducted by the Sheriff's department and evidently these people showed some compassion and empathy - just the kind of personnel you'd want in law enforcement. The sheriif knew that there are only two ways to kill animals in Texas - and drowning them in sewage wasn't one of them.

But what many people don't understand is that compassion and empathy often get in the way of managing small towns. Did we mention it's a tough job?

If the outraged citizens of Jourdanton had their way - the man who drowned the dogs would've been fired. Perhaps he would've learned that people in civilized societies don't do things like that. But lets say the man was fired - how in the world would firing him get Jourdanton in the news?

The city manager came through. After trying to get attention by giving the city employee a slap-on-the-wrist reprimand, he took other attention-getting actions like the tired but true try-to-sweep-it-under-rug ploy. Only whispering something gets more attention.

Crazy you say? Like a fox.

He also personally bailed the man out of jail (on minor charges of public intoxication and driving city vehicles on a suspended license). Meanwhile the Atascosa legal system went about rounding up a grand jury (which will convene in early September) for the dog drownings.

The employee's prior infractions were leaked to the press. We have to wonder who was clever enough to furnish these facts? Then someone called nearby San Antonio and in less time than it takes to watch Sixty Minutes a television crew was there - right according to plan.

When the TV folk arrived for a press conference there was initial fear that they might get some answers and leave - never to come back.

But once again the city manager went into action. He threw the television microphone under the table and then slammed a door in the reporter's face. Can you think of a better way to keep the press interested in you or your town? We can't.

Things were rolling now. PETA wrote a very civilized (and important) letter to the Mayor of Jourdanton - pointing out that sometimes the only thing separating animal abusers from the murderers of people is lack of opportunity. The incident was picked up by national media - at least until events at Crawford and Baghdad pushed it back into Texas - and onto the Internet where it's gaining international interest.

You have to admire the wisdom of this city manager who will no doubt quit on this high note and open a public relations company. Our congratulations go out to the people who hired such a marketing genius. The name Jourdanton will now be remembered for a long time and it hasn't cost the taxpayers a thing.

Our sympathy and thanks go out to the decent people of Jourdanton - which we're sure are in the majority.

Brewster Hudspeth
August 27, 2005

John Troesser
"They shoe horses, don't they?"
August 27, 2005 column

A Texas Tragedy by Kathleene Baker
A horrible atrocity has been committed in Texas. Please brace yourselves before reading further. more

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