Tuesday, June 2, 2020

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The Good Folks of Lennox Valley

Race for mayor just got a lot more interesting

These might have been the most memorable six days of my teenage years. Between Friday, July 17, and Tuesday, July 21, 1998, Iris Long had broken the egg price-fixing story wide open; Raymond Cooper had quickly devised a sinister scam to convince his listeners he wasn’t involved in the price scandal; the good folks of the valley learned one of the biggest gospel groups of all time would be playing at the county fair in just four weeks;  and both Elbert Lee Jones and Marvin Walsh had publicly rededicated their lives to the Lord during the contemporary service at the Lutheran Church.

In case you are counting, that’s five days. Then there was Wednesday.

Iris Long knew Raymond Cooper’s cover story was a sham. It has been said all is fair in love and war, and Raymond had no time for love while he was still deep in the trenches of an election battle. Like any good journalist, Iris believed in the public’s right to know. She would include the facts on the front page, with her own thoughts on the Opinion page.

After writing and rewriting the lead story headline more than a dozen times, Iris finally settled on:

Cooper Lays an Egg

Following Price Fiasco

Iris knew that most sentiments would remain unchanged. It would take more than a few words from the “biased media” for Cooper devotees to turn on their champion. Most “Raymondites,” as they had come to be called, couldn’t understand why the media, which included only the Hometown News in Lennox Valley, was so prejudiced against their faithful, humble servant.

As hard as it is to imagine, there were folks in Lennox Valley who hadn’t even read the morning paper and had no idea who would be performing at the county fair.

As Claire sat across the booth from Sarah Hyden-Smith, sipping hot tea and memorizing the Hoffbrau’s breakfast menu, neither she nor Sarah had any suspicion this conversation would alter their friendship in so many ways.

Eventually, Claire lowered her guard enough to share something she had been hiding from her new friend. “I need to tell you something. Something really important.”

“OK,” responded Sarah in a caring tone.

She explained to Sarah that her old life was much different. Before moving to the valley, she had a good job. She was involved in several community causes. Then she dropped the bombshell. “Claire is not my real name. My real name is Juliet Stoughton. Back home, everyone calls me ‘Jules.’”

Jessie Orr had been a waitress at the Hoffbrau for as long as anyone could remember. She had that special talent for hearing everything without hearing anything. Along with this talent, she had the knack for knowing when to butt in and when to keep her distance. This was the perfect time to keep her distance.”

After the shock wore off from Jule’s confession, Sarah asked if there was anything else she’d been hiding.

“No, just the name. I met a girl named Claire in college. She was the most confident, smartest person I’d ever met. After my ex-fiance left, I decided to use her name, hoping I could be more like her. After all, nobody knew me here. They still don’t. Well, no one except you.”

This was the perfect time to butt in, Jessie thought. “It says in today’s paper there’s still time for someone to get their name on the ballot for the mayor’s race.”

Neither Jules nor Sarah understood the connection to their discussion.

“You’ve been here a year. You’re obviously over 28 years old. Maybe you should consider running,” Jessie explained to her befuddled patrons.

Conversation stopped as Jessie took her time refilling the cups. Sarah and her friend with the new name paused to digest the possibility of a “Jules Stoughton for Mayor” campaign.

“You know,” said Sarah, “that might not be as crazy as it sounds.”

“Votin’ for Stoughton,” quipped Jessie. “I like it. Has a ring to it.”

As Raymond, Elbert Lee and Marvin huddled together across the square at the radio station to read Iris Long’s editorial, little did they know that  looming just over the horizon might be a bigger problem than a few cracked eggs.