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Ralph's posse

FOR months we've wondered how one Eastern suburban neighborhood suddenly got its electricity restored after a severe winter storm. The other night we found out: It was thanks to Two-Gun Ralph and his dreaded Paunchy Posse. Shortly after a tree crashed through the electricity lines, Ralph called the electric company to find out when power would be restored. He was stonewalled. Repeated calls yielded only: ``We're working on it.''

On Day 3, when shivering neighbors were on the brink of stoking fireplaces with Chippendale, Ralph made his final call. ``If the power doesn't come back today,'' he told a startled electric company employee, ``I'm going to lead a neighborhood posse and we'll ride after you.'' The only horses most neighbors had ever ridden were rocking horses.

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A few minutes later a company vice-president phoned back. Trying not to laugh, he promised the electricity would be restored by noon that day. It was.