Christmas in Maple Valley has come and gone. Intense anticipation in the weeks before Christmas keeps everyone in good moods and actions with lots of “Merry Christmas” and “Happy New Year” greetings in the streets and shops. Hundreds of visitors came to town on The Old General just to take in the sights and sounds of Christmas in Maple Valley.
Just as they planned, Shorty and Hannah’s Ya’ll Sit Cafe was constantly crowded with happy shoppers looking for that perfect cup of hot chocolate which they were proud to provide. Christmas carolers walked the streets of town every night singing to visitor and resident hearts’ content. Carrying an accurate tune in Maple Valley, especially at Christmas time is not important. Tempo and tune mean nothing. Joy is everything, so, the range of talent and lack of it is broad and obvious.
The wonderful Christmas season was not without difficulty, however. If something is going to go wrong, it happens in Maple Valley. Everyone looked forward to the Maple Valley Church choir performance of “Hey Now, Hit That Gong,” the musical written entirely by Martha Hilmandy. After months of rehearsals, the time for the special concert finally came. The Maple Valley School cafetorium was rented because Maple Valley Church will only seat seventy-three people. It proved to be a wise decision because ninety-six people attended.
Rumors swept through town that what happened at the concert was planned. “Nothing could be further from the truth,” Martha scolded emphatically. As if on some kind of cosmic cue, when the choir reached the point in the theme song, “…angels sing along, joining a mighty throng, swells the happy song, hey now, hit that gong” a table at the back of the room loaded with plates of cookies collapsed with a huge crash. No one would purposely destroy a whole table of cookies just to make a point. It was a Christmas surprise no one will ever forget.
As expected, Dray and Morella Grimhok won the Christmas decorating competition. Alvin Thrashborn was disappointed, but promises to win the contest next year.
An important milestone for The Old General is the test required by the Railroad Safety Administration. As part of the certification for the Maple Valley Railroad, The Old General must run two complete circuits on the main line, pulling six freight cars. The Old General only pulls three passenger cars at a time. Once the process is complete, the MVRR is approved to run for another year.
Running the main line is exciting for the crew of The Old General. The Maple Valley Railroad line is a fifteen mile segment with a few curves. The train operates between Whistleton and Maple Valley, moving forward to Maple Valley, reverse to Whistleton. Running The Old General on a main line for close to seventy miles is much more challenging, and fun.
Folks know how important it is for the Maple Valley Railroad to complete its annual mainline run, so there is a great celebration when The Old General returns to town.
A great crowd, led by Mayor Alvin Thrashborn, cheers as The Old General rolls back into Maple Valley.
The end of the Christmas season brought a challenge a few people suspected might happen. Indeed, it has. Last Tuesday, a man walked into the Ya’ll Sit Cafe and ordered a cup of coffee. As he waited patiently for a cup to be poured he asked if the manager was available.
“The manager?” Shorty asked.
“Yes, I’m looking for Shorty Cloverton,” the man answered.
“You found him, friend. What’s your name?” Shorty asked, holding out his hand.
“My name doesn’t matter, but this does,” the man said as he pulled an envelope from his pocket and placed it Shorty’s outstretched hand. “You’ve been served,” he said.
Shorty stood with confusion on his face as the man put on his coat and left the cafe. He looked at the envelope and read the return address, “Skellson and Skellson, Attorneys at Law, 1215 Wilingman Street, Moison, Iowa.” It was addressed to him.
Shorty sat down at the table and opened the envelope. Shorty Cloverton, Hannah Cloverton, Alvin Thrashborn, Quintin O’Dillmotte, Able Kafflen, Henry Brimmerton, Stew Hanmin, Harden Sievers, Pete Terkinberry, Anabel Wizzleby, and Wanita Havertons, all members of the BAT Strategic Health Investigation Team, are named in a law suit brought by the family of Madeline Overweist. Mrs. Overweist was the victim of a bat landing on her face outside the Ya’ll Sit Cafe. She did not survive the shock. The suit accuses the team of knowing the bat problem existed prior to her visit to Maple Valley and did not protect her from the possibility of a bat attack.
The mystery surrounding the disappearance of Sylvia Meisner continues. Months have passed since she was last seen, and not a single piece of solid evidence has led to any knowledge of her whereabouts. But, there is DSL, the letters found scratched into the timbers of Three Tower Bridge. A group hanging Christmas lights on the towers found the letters and reported it to Sheriff Pete. He took photos of the letters, but little more has happened since. That is, until Christmas Eve.
Late on Christmas Eve, plates of cookies were found on the front porch of Pete Terkinberry, Alvin Thashborn, and the Cloverton’s homes. Each plate of cookies appeared to be homemade, and each had a small piece of paper taped to the wrapping with the letters “D-S-L” printed on it. Each spoke with the others, and no one saw anything. The plates of cookies just seemed to appear. No explanation.
Life in Maple Valley really is great. Some times are greater than others, but Maple Valley folks always seem to find their way through. Hopefully, this will be no different.