Friday, December 14, 2018

Eagle Butte
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Total Bedlam! Count comes down to the wire

Iris counted and recounted the votes during the five-minute recess. It was difficult to concentrate with a room full of Valley residents, all loudly sharing their thoughts concerning the ballot tally.

Half the votes were counted, and Raymond held a considerable lead. With 53 percent of the vote so far, Cooper could win the mayor’s race outright if things continued to go his way.

Cooper and his supporters had been worried Juliet Stoughton’s late entry into the race might hurt his chances of collecting more than 50 percent of the votes, a necessity to avoid a run-off with the obvious second choice, Dick Bland. There was concern Bland might fare better with another week to campaign. Thankfully, it looked like Cooper’s tactics had worked and enough voters were frantic about the Federal Reserve System to carry their champion to victory.

Juliet had already surprised everyone by collecting 19 percent of the vote thus far. Though still far behind Bland, who was selected on 29 percent of the ballots, she had no reason to be ashamed. Apparently Cooper had angered enough of the electorate to throw 91 voters her way.

As the last chorus of “One Day at a Time” blared from the boombox on stage, Vera Pinrod brought the room to a hush as she roared, “Stoughton!” A tally was placed under Juliet’s name on the board.

A few Cooper supporters hissed, then giggled, to indicate their lack of concern. Their candidate needed only 47 percent of the remaining votes.

Outside, where hundreds of good folks gathered to listen to the proceedings over speakers in front of the town hall, a voice shouted, “Yes!”

It was none other than Jessie, the waitress at the ‘Brau, who originally suggested Juliet should place her name on the ballot.

“Cooper!” shouted Vera. Then, “Stoughton!”

More cheers, mostly from females, erupted from outside.

“Cooper!” Vera roared.

“Stoughton,” she continued. “And another vote for Stoughton!”

Twelve votes were tallied before Vera finally shouted, “Bland!”

There was a murmur throughout the room. Iris looked at her count. Still far behind Mayor Bland, Juliet was showing momentum, and the room was filled with speculation.

“Cooper! Stoughton! Stoughton! Bland! Stoughton! Cooper!” Vera shouted the votes purposely as the count reached the 90-minute mark.

Iris continued tallying votes on her reporter’s pad, but she gave up trying to keep up with the count as Vera called out names almost faster than Iris could mark them on the page.

Finally, like a runner sprinting to the finish line, Vera read the names on the final stack of ballots.

“Cooper!” she shouted. Next

she yelled, “Bland!” creating a stir from the Baptist section of the room, eerily silent since the mid-count break.

“Stoughton!” Vera drew a deep breath. “And the final vote is for Juliet Stoughton.”

Farley Puckett was beside himself as he looked over to see his wife cheering along with other women gathered outside the town hall.

Iris went over her notes as most of the crowd inside the hall attempted to tally the votes in their heads.

Chief of Police Buford Dibble eyed the crowd carefully, looking for any signs of a potential riot while Vera and the two precinct coordinators scratched their chins as they peered at the tally board and looked over their notes several times.

The crowd silenced as Vera approached the microphone.

“The final vote is as follows,” Vera began. “Dick Bland: 229 votes.”

The crowd took a collective breath.

“Raymond Cooper: 466 votes.”

A murmur turned into conversations before Chief Dibble quieted the audience.

“Juliet Stoughton: 231 votes.”

“Mickey Mouse, Ima Goose and Ronald Reagan had eight votes between them.”

“Oh, my!” Iris whispered as she double-checked her figures.

Beatrice Justice, overhearing Iris, turned to her and said, “Ecclesiastes 1:2.”

Order your copy of the book, “The Good Folks of Lennox Valley” at Amazon.com.