Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Eagle Butte
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The Good Folks of Lennox Valley

Last Man Standing Raymond takes no prisoners in final hours

In all my days growing up in Lennox Valley, I can’t remember a day as tense as Thursday, August 20, 1998. Old-timers still say the tension could match any moment in Valley history, before or since.

As Raymond began hour six of the special edition of his daily show, “Renderings with Raymond,” listeners continued to hang on to his every word. One caller after another praised Cooper’s leadership as he stood up to the elite media and government authorities who blocked his way along every path.

Raymond had been hinting all day there would be a special surprise during the sixth hour of the show, as he welcomed a different guest at the top of each hour. Guests had already included Farley Puckett, owner of the local hardware store; Earl Goodman, postal carrier and the first to “nominate” Raymond for the mayor’s office; Vera Pinrod, president of the Auburn Hat Society; Brother Jacob, who left quickly after explaining to Raymond that something had suddenly come up five minutes into his appearance as Cooper took his hand, asking the young associate pastor to pray a prayer of victory; and Worley Fain, chaplain of the Lennox Valley VFW.

Raymond asked Chaplain Fain to prepare a prayer in advance, suggesting he might use one Cooper had penned himself, but actually came from his bedside “Book of Famous Prayers.”

“Dear Lord,” began Worley, “You know our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the government authorities, against the powers that be, against the forces of darkness, and against the spiritual forces of wickedness that surround us.”

Father O’Reilly and Lars Svendsen, senior pastor of Lennox Valley Lutheran Church, made a habit of having a late lunch every Thursday afternoon at The Haufbrau. As they dined on Reuben sandwiches and sauerkraut, each sipped on his favorite brand of lite beer.

As did most businesses in the Valley, the ‘brau played “Renderings with Raymond” on the sound system as diners enjoyed their meals. As Chaplain Fain began his prayer, the clergymen almost spit beer from their mouths as they recognized the words from Ephesians, Chapter 6.

The men admitted to each other they hadn’t been to the voting booth yet. Lennox residents were divided into two precincts. Residents who lived within the “town” precinct voted in the Fellowship Hall of First Baptist Church. Raymond had mentioned on several occasions the location held an unfair advantage for Mayor Bland, who was a member there.

Folks who lived in the “country” precinct voted at the VFW, located on Highway 11. Cooper never seemed to notice the same could be said about the polling location of the country precinct. You would be hard pressed to find a VFW member who wasn’t solidly in Raymond’s corner.

As was often the case, the two veteran parsons took their time, enjoying the solace of conversation between close friends.

Jessie, waitress at the ‘brau for longer than anyone could remember, quizzed her customers. “Who do you think the surprise guest will be, padres?”

She called all the local clergymen “padre,” except Brother Prather, who took exception to the colloquial tone. She had yet to settle on a nickname for Sarah Hyden-Smith.

“It’s not me,” quipped Father O’Reilly.

“Me, either,” added Pastor Svendsen, “although my shadow,” sarcastically referring to Brother Jacob, “took advantage of the limelight for a brief moment this morning.”

The three hushed as Raymond began hour six of his show.

“Our guest for this hour needs no introduction,” Raymond began. “I have on the phone none other than Dean Morris, who starred as Deke McClellan in ‘Don’t Shoot Nellie!’ which is quite possibly the most memorable first-season episode of ‘Walker, Texas Ranger.’”

“Good Lord,” sighed Father O’Reilly.

“It sounds like you’re doing mighty important work in Leonard Valley,” began Morris. “Those folks are sure lucky to have you on their side.”

Cooper responded with words that seemed totally authentic to his listeners, “I’m humbled.”

The part-time celebrity was on and gone within three minutes, but Raymond Cooper was certain Dean Morris had just put him over the top.