Saving Rudy: A Christmas Story
Wednesday, December 19, 2012 | Comments
By Leonard Koehnen
Christmas Eve started out with frenzy in the dispatch center when some drivers started the festivities early. One driver yelled, “Ho! Ho! Ho!” in the drunk tank next door. The sheriff had a fight to deal with at the big box store south of town. A clerk found a misplaced box of the latest high-demand Christmas electronics item near closing time. The demand was too high, tempers flared, and the clerk and a couple of customers were at the hospital with bruised faces. One of them will probably spend the holidays in jail. A space heater set a Christmas tree on fire. The rural firefighters saved everyone and all the presents, but the family will have to spend Christmas with relatives.
However, once all of the commercial establishments and taverns closed at 4 p.m., the pace really slowed. Why the 9-1-1 center had three dispatchers working after 4 p.m. was the big question. The dispatchers read all the Christmas cards, read the annual online MissionCritical Communications Christmas story, called their families, nibbled on the cookies and cakes, read books and magazines, and visited. There was a steady stream of bored officers and deputies stopping by the center. Yes, it was slow, and there was nothing worse than no activity at a time you would rather be with the family. Those nights seemed to last forever.
About 10 p.m., a 9-1-1 call came in. It was a report of high-power rifle shots in the state park again. The center was ready this time. The cell numbers for the game wardens and the park ranger were written on the rolling white board.
In early June, the park ranger saw an 11-point white tailed buck deer in the park. He estimated it had a Boone and Crocket score of more than 220. He was such a sight; the park had a surge of campers, hikers and photographers all wanting to see the large buck. He didn’t disappoint them by always staying close to the park. The kids named him Rudolph, and the nickname Rudy stuck.
Parks and conservation personnel were on alert that Rudy was a prime target for hunters. Because he stayed in the park or the nearby state game refuge, he was protected from hunting. That wouldn’t stop a poacher though.
Rudy survived the fall hunting season but on Dec. 10, a poacher must have heard about the trophy deer, and shooting started in the park. The wardens thought the poacher was successful until Dec. 23, when Rudy was spotted hanging around the park’s educational center licking the suet from the bird feeders. Everyone was on alert though for the poacher’s return. Everyone knew what the rifle shots meant.
The wardens and the park ranger had snowmobiles trailered and ready to go. Within minutes of the call, two wardens and the park ranger canceled their Christmas activities, checked in on the sheriff’s channel and raced to the park. The poacher used a snowmobile. From the last call, they mapped his various routes from his broken track cleat in the fresh snow around the closed park. He usually used the abandoned railroad grade, now a state trail, and traveled north. However, when he got to the plowed state highway, he lost the poacher’s tracks.
The dispatchers were listening to the strategy on the tactical channel when a second call came in. This time a volley of four shots echoed down the park’s river valley. Crowded around the console’s selected channel speaker were all the previously bored dispatchers and officers. Everyone silently prayed the state conservation officers would get the poacher before he shot Rudy.
The speaker on the console suddenly broadcasted traffic, cutting the anticipation. From atop the river bluff a warden whispered, “C-136 to other units. From campsite 19, I just saw a match light and a cigarette glow down by the swimming beach.”
“Roger C-136, I am just off loading my machine at the park entrance now — he didn’t come in this way. Parks-210, where are you now?”
“C-152, I am sitting on the state trail. His fresh tracks are here. Everybody kill his headlights. Let’s see how close we can get to this guy before he runs. We think he has a modified Arctic Cat. If he runs in the open, we’ll never catch him. If he comes back this way, I can cut him off.”
The channel went silent as all in the dispatch center strained to listen to nothing but the hum of their computer fans. They visualized one warden peering over the bluff into the darkness and the other screaming toward the swimming beach on his snow machine. The dispatch supervisor whispered, “Run, Rudy, run!”
“Another shot fired my way!” transmitted warden C-136. “He is coming up the bluff trail by me. I am going to hide behind this cabin. Whoa!”
“What happened?”
“Rudy just ran past me. I spooked him, and he is running east into prairie country between the park and the game refuge. If the poacher follows, he can get a clean shot in the open. Dispatch, can any SO units get on County Road 29?”
“Dispatch to 529, what is your location?”
“529 leaving Milford. Should be on 29 in five to seven.”
“C-136, thanks dispatch. Okay everybody he has gotten to the top of the bluff following Rudy’s tracks. He is lighting another cigarette. 529, come in dark and wait by the old farm entrance road. You should see him come out of the woods into the prairie section of the park due west of you. Don’t shoot; I’ll be on foot right behind him. C-152, follow me up the bluff trail on foot.”
The radio fell silent again. Dispatchers’ and visitors’ blood pressures rose in anticipation. “Run, Rudy, run,” whispered an officer. Others quickly ran to the coffee pot and cookie tray.
“C-136 is on the edge of the prairie. He is on the south side of the prairie area. Do you see his headlight 529...{another rifle shot}?”
“C-136 that shot hit the tree by my squad but I can’t see his headlight.”
“Yeah, he ducked into a small ravine and went lights out! I think he is on foot now.”
“C-152 is at the top of the bluff entering the prairie.”
“152, work your way on foot to the north. If he sees 529 or me, he will run your way. Let’s see if we can surround him. I’m going to move in on him and drive him toward 529. If he roars passed you, try to put a round in his engine!”
“{Another rifle shot}...What’s this clown shooting at? I just saw Rudy run across County Road 29 and in to the game refuge,” transmitted deputy 529.
“Maybe he is shooting at you!” transmitted Parks-210.
“C-136 do you have an aircraft out here?” asked deputy 529.
“Called for one but they said an hour and a half. I have them on standby.”
Deputy 529 responded, “Something is flying around in the darkness — no lights. All I heard was a whoosh! With the moon setting, it is so dark up here, I can barely see the front of my squad.”
“Could be the shots kicked up a great horned owl,” responded Parks-210.
“I’m getting the same thing here now! 136, where is the poacher?” transmitted warden C-152.
C-136 whispering, “I’m on foot 30 feet from his machine. I can see his cigarette glow. He is crawling towards 529. He must think he is Rudy.”
Now the jailers crowded in dispatch. Another muttered, “Run..., Rudy, ruuun!”
C-136 still whispering, “Okay, I’m at his machine and got his keys. I’m getting that flying whoosh now! We can’t have that many owls around here! 529, if you hear it again. Throw your spot light on it. Take cover. You may become a target!”
After a few minutes, the squad’s spotlight suddenly lit up the sky. “Holy cow... Wow!” the deputy transmitted.
“Unbelievable!” whispered C-152.
“Unbelievable what?” the canine officer yelled in the dispatch center. “Tell us guys! Do you have a UFO out there or something?”
Deputy 529, “See that, it is diving on the poacher.”
“It knocked him right off his feet. Rifle went flying. He might be hurt!”
C-136, “I am on him, everybody come on in and help.”
What seemed to be an eternity in the dispatch center, leaving everybody wondering what had happened, the silence broke with a call from deputy 529. “529 has one prisoner, transporting to the jail.”
“Is that it?” muttered a dispatcher off air still on an adrenalin high. “What happened?”
As deputy 529 pulled his squad onto the county road, he switched on his headlights. The flying object had landed down the road. A man with a red and white suit had his arms around Rudy’s neck. As the deputy slowly edged closer, the man slapped Rudy on the back, waved to the deputy and ran to the flying object. It went airborne right over his squad. Then the tactical channel broadcasted with an ancient gravelly voice, “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”
Editor’s Note: This will be the last year Koehnen supplies MissionCritical Communications with a holiday story with two-way radio and 9-1-1 angles. If you would like to continue the tradition and author an LMR holiday story, please email

Leonard Koehnen is a St. Paul, Minn.-based consulting engineer in the field of wireless communications systems and facilities with more than 45 years of experience. He is also on the editorial advisory board of MissionCritical Communications. This poem is the ninth in the “Santa Claus to the Rescue” series of Christmas short stories and poems. Email comments to

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