Scandal at Maple Valley – Episode 19: Preparations for Christmas

The Christmas Season is a very special time in Maple Valley, as it is in most places, I suppose. Folks are busily decorating their homes and work places, if they have one. The Ya’ll Sit Cafe is usually a centerpiece of Christmas joy, and this year will be no exception. Shorty and Hannah have been working together, so far without too much arguing as in recent years, to be sure the cafe is the place where everyone wants to be, all through the weeks before Christmas.

The Ya’ll Sit Christmas menu features holiday offerings like, Mistletoe Pancakes, Tinsel Tacos, Egg Nog Soup, Bethlehem Burgers, Christmas Star Waffles, and Pinecone Coffee. Hannah makes delicious Christmas cookies she gives to anyone who visits the cafe, whether they order from the menu or not.

The Reverend Shermer of Maple Valley Church has been working on his annual Christmas sermon. He decided to release the title of his homily to the puplic so the excitement will be palpable as the day approaches. He has chosen the title, “Fire the Innkeeper!” which, I assume, has to do with Mary and Joseph not having reservations when they arrived at the hotel where the baby Jesus was to be born.

The Maple Valley Church choir will perform a Christmas musical written entirely by Maple Valley’s own Martha Hilmandy, who has been the church choir director for fifty-two years. The musical is called, “Hey Now, Hit That Gong!” which promises to be delightful. This is Martha’s first composition. All fourteen of the choir members are thrilled to be singing the new music.

The piece begins with the lively theme song. The second song is, “The Sheep Are Out of the Pen,” then, “An Angel is Here,” and next, “Angels Can’t Lie.” The characters Elizabeth and Mary join together and sing, “You’re What?” Then the man playing Joseph sings, “What Do I Do Now?” The entire choir sings, “Things Are Gonna Change,” then, “Hey, Shepherds, Listen!” and the audience will join the choir to sing, “Blessing in a Manger” with all the children standing nearby. The final song is, “There’s Nothing Like Holy Presence.” The musical ends with the reprise of the theme song, “Hey Now, Hit That Gong!” Mayor Alvin Thrashborn was asked to act as the narrator, a task he gladly accepted. At the close of the concert, small candles will be given to everyone, the lights will be turned off, and everyone will again sing “Blessing in a Manger,” to end the evening.

Maple Valley School will present the annual children’s Christmas program. This year, a tuba solo will be played by Gwenneth Wilster, her first public performance. Harry Pristin, the school music teacher, says Gwenneth is doing quite well on the tuba in spite of only playing the instrument for a few months. The students have written their own play called, “I Didn’t Want That For Christmas.” It’s a cute story about three children in a family who all received clothes for Christmas instead of toys.

As with so many things in Maple Valley, Christmas decorations are a source of competition and the contest is well underway. Mayor Thrashborn believes his lofty position in the community requires him to have the most outstanding Christmas light display. He and his wife begin hanging lights around their house in September for Halloween. Instead of re-decorating for Christmas, they add holiday lights to the Halloween lights so there are many more than there would be if the orange lights were removed. Some folks say that’s cheating but Alvin doesn’t care.

Dray and Morella Grimhok are the Christmas display champs of Maple Valley, in spite of everything the mayor believes. People come from miles around to see their house. The small lot is covered with lights and moving characters. On the roof is Santa in his sleigh following leaping reindeer. Hidden loudspeakers let everyone within three miles hear, “HO-HO-HO!!! Merrrrry Chriiistmaaas!!!” non-stop, again and again, from 6 pm until 3 am. Sheriff Terkinberry’s office takes a dozen calls every night from sleepless neighbors. The Grimhoks don’t invite everyone into the house, but friends say every square inch is a Christmas delight.

Christmas shopping is a big deal in Maple Valley. Since everyone already knows everything available in all the shops in town, most folks take the Christmas train to Whistleton to do their shopping. Visitors to Maple Valley trade places with residents to do their shopping. Since they are so excited to be in Maple Valley at Christmas, it’s easy for them to find gifts they believe friends and family will cherish forever. Most of the shops carry souvenir items with pictures of The Old General or drawings of Three Tower Bridge, and mugs with Maple Valley Railroad printed on them. Kwindel’s Antiques started selling Maple Valley Christmas sweaters and sold out the first week.

A Christmas season favorite for everyone in Maple Valley is the Christmas Eve candle walk and carol singing. Everyone gathers around the Christmas tree in the center of town at 8:00 on Christmas Eve. We all carry lighted candles and walk through the streets of Maple Valley singing Christmas carols. Of all the events surrounding Christmas, this one is the most loved. When the singing has ended, everyone goes to the Ya’ll Sit Cafe for Hannah’s hot chocolate.

Christmas is a lovely time in Maple Valley, but this year we are all wondering what happened to Sylvia Meisner. It’s hard to believe we are just days away from Christmas and Sylvia is still not home. Something strange was discovered when volunteers were putting lights on Three Tower Bridge. On the middle tower, about half way up, the letters DSL were found scratched, or gouged, into a wood plank. It’s evident the letters were placed there recently. The sheriff was asked to take a look because it’s near the spot where Sylvia’s car was discovered several months ago. He wrote the letters down. DSL.

Scandal At Maple Valley – Episode 17: Death in Maple Valley

I really hate to say this, but life has moved on in Maple Valley. Sylvia Meisner has been missing for five months. All the arguing has stopped, thankfully. The summer tourist season everyone looked forward to has ended. The Founders Day Celebration now seems forgotten. The Old General is being prepared to take visitors to Maple Valley Christmas Town.

Even though folks are no longer consumed by news about Sylvia, or the lack of it, the investigation has continued. Sheriff Pete Terkinberry has not slowed his efforts to either find Sylvia, or uncover what happened to her. He still pays very close attention to his neighbors, which is everyone in Maple Valley. Have any changed their behaviors? Yes, some have. Are any relationships strained? Yes, some are. Are any hiding? Yes, there are some who have been nearly invisible since Sylvia disappeared. Is it coincidence? Sheriff Pete doesn’t know, but he’s determined to find out.

Maple Valley folks have acquired a characteristic that is annoying. I don’t know if other people have traits like this, but it is unmistakable in this small town. Maybe it’s a result of being part of a well-known tourist stop. In order to be successful, everything in Maple Valley has to be boxed up and pretty. No loose ends. All the windows are clean, the eaves are painted, the sidewalks swept.

As I think about it, this might explain why so many people who come here want to stay. They all say the same things, “I would just love to live here.” “Don’t you just love it here?” “This place is magical!” “You are so lucky to live here!” What they see is not real. Painted boards rot. Roofs leak. Grass dies. Maple Valley isn’t just a showplace. The people who live here live every day. They struggle, are disappointed, and get angry with each other.

There’s another Maple Valley reality tourists don’t usually discover, unless they have the unhappy experience of a surprise visit. Maple Valley has bats. Say what you want about how much good they do, bats and people don’t mix, at least not on purpose. Just last week, a sixty-four-year-old woman from Conklin, Iowa, Madeline Overweist, stepped out of Y’all Sit Cafe, in a hurry to get to the last train leaving Maple Valley. Five steps outside the cafe, a bat landed squarely on her face. Mrs. Overweist will be sorely missed.

Last spring, Mayor Alvin Thrashborn commissioned a special task force to deal with the bat problem. He called it the BAT Strategic Health Investigation Team. The group members are Shorty Cloverton, owner of the Y’all Sit Cafe, Quintin O’Dillmotte, owner of O’Dillmotte Funeral Home, Able Kafflen, leader of the Young Hopefuls Club, Henry Brimmerton, owner of Brimmerton’s Auto Sales, Stew Hanmin, town council chair, Hardin Sievers, village attorney, Mayor Thrashborn, and Sheriff Terkinberry. Anabel Wizzleby, Wanita Havertons, Velma Kreitzhammer, and Veronia Burthrap were all invited to join the task force, but all declined, presumably because of the force’s task.

The task force had their first meeting last March. Bats have been a problem in Maple Valley for as long as anyone can remember. This is the first time a task force has been organized to deal with it. So far, not much dealing has happened. The group meets together on the first Tuesday of each month at the cafe. The first order of business was to choose a chairperson and by common consent, Quintin O’Dillmotte was selected as the group leader. Henry Brimmerton is vice-chair, Stew Hanmin is secretary, Shorty Cloverton is the treasurer. The second order of business was to discuss why a treasurer was needed since the group would not have any funds to treasure. It was moved and seconded the title of treasurer would remain with Shorty, but it would be in name only. The vote was unanimous, the motion carried.

The monthly BAT Strategic Health Investigation Team meeting includes the reading of minutes from the previous meeting. The secretary, Stew Hanmin, takes very detailed notes, so the reading of minutes with discussion, motion to accept as read or amended, second, and the vote usually takes half the meeting. There is discussion of where the group will meet the following month, which is always the cafe, new business to discuss, nothing, comments from the public, nothing. Just about then, Quintin declares the meeting adjourned, and everyone goes home. This is the BAT Strategic Health Investigation Team in Maple Valley.

That brings us back to the original point. Folks in Maple Valley like things to be tidy. Neat and clean. That seems to be the explanation for the unbelievable suggestion made to Mayor Thrashborn. The person who asked to meet with the mayor will remain nameless, at least at this point. He or she gave a piece of paper to the mayor.

On the paper was typed a short note. “Mayor Thrashborn, in the interest of the health of our community, and in order that Maple Valley may forward in a positive way, we (several names included) recommend the following:

“As of this date, Sylvia Meisner is declared deceased.”

The mayor was speechless, which doesn’t happen, ever. His face turned red. He stood up from his chair, walked around the front of his desk to where (nameless) was standing. Silently, the mayor ripped the paper into tiny bits and threw it into the air. He looked squarely into the person’s eyes and said, “Merry Christmas, now get out of my office!!”

Wiring the Maple Valley Short Line – Part 2

The Maple Valley Short Line RR is now operational. I can successfully run two trains simultaneously on two long lines. The outer loop rises to four inches at 2% starting at the Maple Valley River Bridge. The inner line completes a circuit by passing through two tunnels, crossing the Maple Valley River, and winding through the village.

As every model railroader knows, operational does not mean finished. The outer line has been running for several months. Last week I finished wiring the inner line and all the sidings. I decided to use Atlas Selector Switches rather than soldering DPDT toggle switches. I may yet change my mind about that. I plan to wire LED turnout and block signals on my control panel. The panel in the photo is temporary.

Last week family members came just to see the layout, so I had to finish the track wiring and make sure it all worked. I discovered my small furniture dolly with a piece of plywood works great as a cart allowing me to move around under the layout without kneeling and bumping my head. Wiring was a much simpler task as I avoided stops at the first-aid closet to bandage cuts on my head.

To you expert electricians, this is nothing new. But the slickest help I found on YouTube is using “heat-sinks” to keep my plastic ties and wiring insulation from melting. Two little alligator clips worked perfectly! This is the first time I used buss feeders on both rails, so I did a lot of soldering.

I staggered the feeders on the track. I used black wire for the common feed, red wire for the block feed. I put a number sticker on each block feed to correspond with the Atlas Selector Switch. (Now that the track is wired, it’s time to complete ballasting.)

I took a lot of time thinking about how best to run the wiring underneath the layout. I was not careful with the underside of previous layouts so I had different colors and wires running in every direction. It was a real mess when something stopped working and I had to figure out why.

I used 14 AWG solid wire for the buss feeds from the power supply. I used 20 AWG solid wire as the feed soldered to the rails. As you can see, my 14 gauge power feed is green, the 20 gauge feed to the rail is red. At this point, instead of soldering each feed connection, I used wire nuts. I plan to go back and solder later. (You’re right, unless I start having problems, that probably won’t happen.)

Assisting me in the project, not only so I can see, but also working the magic of battling SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) I struggle with every year, is the sunlight lamp our daughter purchased for me. It works! Instead of feeling like crap when it’s twenty degrees, dark, and snowing, I feel like jumping, running around and laughing. Not really, but it does help.

All the while tough work is going on under the layout as I scoot around taking care not to cut my head, these guys paddle down Maple Valley River like they don’t have a care in the world. (Current ripples on the surface will be added some time down the road.)

It was an exciting moment when I was able to sit back against the wall on my little cart under the layout and admire the terminal strip complete with buss feeds in place. The black wires on the right are the common feed and I used jumpers between the three terminals. The rest of the terminals are numbered from left to right, with number tape on all the wires. Turned out nice. Troubleshooting will be much easier.

I still have the big but fun job of wiring all of the turnouts, signals, and buildings. I plan to find some street lights for Maple Valley.

The Maple Valley Short Line Railroad has been a long and satisfying project that is no where near completion. But that is the fun of model railroading. There is always something more to do. Whether it’s small weeds along the river and around buildings, kids playing in a back yard, townsfolk going about their business, neighbors arguing over lot lines, or a train load of tourists stepping off The Old General into the wonder of Maple Valley. Which is still stirring over the disappearance of Sylvia Meisner. It has been months since anyone has seen her. There are still no clues to her whereabouts…or are there?

Scandal At Maple Valley – Episode 16

Stories are swirling in Maple Valley. This isn’t new to anyone who lives here. News in Maple Valley means people are talking about things that other people wouldn’t consider to be news at all. But because Maple Valley is such an important tourist destination for thousands every year, we tend to think things that happen in Maple Valley are more note-worthy than they actually are.

Such is the case with the Ladies Who Mean Well club that meets every Tuesday night in the basement of Maple Valley Church. The ladies held their annual election of officers last Tuesday. There was quite a bit of campaigning going on in the weeks before the vote. Wanita Havertons has been president and vice-president of Ladies Who Mean Well for nineteen years. In fact, Wanita started the club in her living room so she felt it was only right she should be the president and vice-president, positions she was honored to accept and continued to thank club members throughout the years even though she was essentially self-appointed.

Well, some members of the club, with a roster of eleven ladies, said it’s time for leadership change. Wanita heard of it and immediately started telling folks in town how important it is to have qualified and experienced officers in the club. The fact Wanita was talking to everyone including visitors to Maple Valley who came in on the train didn’t seem to bother her even though, according to the club bylaws she wrote, only club members can vote to elect officers. Wanita Havertons is no longer president and vice-president of Ladies Who Mean Well. An almost audible sigh of relief rose from the members after the election.

Everyone in Maple Valley is still basking in the glow of the amazing Founder’s Day Celebration. Buck Wills and the Wagoneers put on a great show and we’ll be talking about it for years to come. Folks could be heard singing, “Mama Drinks Whiskey From a Coffee Cup” for several days after the show. In fact, there is a rumor a young singer in Maple Valley wants to record it! How exciting for the home town folks to listen to one of their own on a real record! Nothing like this has ever happened in Maple Valley before!

Members of the Maple Valley Railroad Trustee Committee met on the spur to talk about needed repairs. A great deal of money was paid to reapply ballast to the track and committee members are not happy with the work. They plan to force the company to return and complete the task to their satisfaction.

Members of the Maple Valley Railroad Trustee Committee are probably like a lot of other groups. There are a few who really work, and others who like being on the committee. In the photo you can see Don Shibberly using a shovel. Clint Blassiton leaning on his shovel. Barney Hergels with his hands in his pockets. Greyson Newrey reading a paper. Thankfully, Jefferson Glosterick showed up with coffee for everyone.

The railroad trustees really do important work. It’s not easy running a live steam railroad, even if it’s only twenty miles from one end of the line to the other. Many visitors ride the rails behind the Old General every year and Maple Valley folks are thrilled to be known for the railroad.

Certainly the biggest news of the week is Sheriff Pete Terkinberry decided to use a psychic to see if any clues to the whereabouts of Sylvia Meisner might be uncovered. The news met with varied response. Some folks were happy, others confused, some angry. Reverend Shermer of the Maple Valley Church felt obliged to say something negative about the decision, so he did. The truth is, a few members of the church told the Reverend he would be replaced if he didn’t object.

The evening Miss Wonderment (no kidding, that’s really the psychic lady’s name) came to Maple Valley, the scene was perfect. A storm was brewing behind dark clouds. Crows were seen circling over Maple Valley, which for the moment people said was strange even though crows fly over town every day. Lightening flashed as thunder rolled in the distance. Only the sheriff and two council members accompanied Miss Wonderment into Sylvia Meisner’s house.

The group stepped into the house carefully and Miss Wonderment tripped over the rug lying in front of the door. The men helped her up and she quickly regained her composure. “That is surely a sign,” she said.

They watched as Miss Wonderment moved slowly through the living room and into the kitchen. “I feel a strong sense of hunger,” she said softly. “Hunger and thirst, rising from the depths of my being. Yessss! Yesssss! I feel it very strongly!”

“Should I get her something to eat?” whispered Frank Klipton to Merv Wersher.

“No, you idiot! She’s not really hungry! She’s sensing something in the air! Just shut up and listen!” Merv yelled quietly.

Miss Wonderment climbed the stairs with the sheriff, Frank, and Merv following closely.

“Yesssss! Oh, yessss!” she screeched. All three men were ready to leave.

When the psychic entered the bathroom she screamed, “There it is!! There it is!! There it is!!” She didn’t offer an explanation.

Miss Wonderment led the group back downstairs and she insisted they all sit at the kitchen table and hold hands. Frank and Merv refused, but the sheriff convinced them they should, as representatives of the town council.

“Oh! Ohh! Ohhhhhh!!” Miss Wonderment howled in a kind of melodic chant. “Ohhhh, yessssssss!! No!!! No!!! No!!!”

At that moment, Miss Wonderment broke wind so loud it would have made an elephant proud.

The three men did everything they could to keep from laughing, but it was useless. First, Merv spewed through tightly pursed lips. Then Frank hooted with laughter. And finally, even Sheriff Terkinberry couldn’t take it anymore. Then trying not to laugh only made them laugh harder. The three men were crying before it was over.

Finally, they settled down. Miss Wonderment stared at them.

“You know,” she said, “I really don’t have anything. Nothing. Sheriff, that will be eighty-seven dollars.”

“Frank, write her a check and let’s get out of here.”

Scandal at Maple Valley – Episode 14

A real miracle happened in Maple Valley! A miracle to the folks who live here at least. Do you remember Randy Herbdahl? Of course not. Probably no one outside of Maple Valley knows who Randy Herbdahl is, but everyone here knows him. Six weeks ago, Randy Herbahl was the least favorite person in town. He was in charge of contacting the entertainment for the Founder’s Day Celebration. His wife, Joneel, found the letter he thought he mailed to the group, inviting them to Maple Valley. Everyone was sure the Founder’s Day Celebration was doomed. No one wanted to hear the 80-year-old Happy Harmonettes try to sing when everyone knows their talent was questionable sixty years ago.

Randy apologized to the village council and said he was willing to take all the blame for spoiling the celebration. Several on the council thought his offer strange when there was never any question whose fault it was! Randy forgot to mail the letter! So now the village council had to come up with some kind of plan to keep the Happy Harmonettes off the stage.

After an hour of panicked discussion, Mayor Alvin Thrashborn suggested calling the group, apologizing, and pleading with them to come in spite of the mistake. It would be a futile attempt but they had to try.

Miracles do happen! Buck Wills and the Wagoneers, the number one group on country radio, were the headline stars at the Maple Valley Founders Day Celebration!

The council decided since Randy forgot to mail the letter, he should be the one to call Buck Wills and invite him to Maple Valley. To everyone’s surprise, especially Randy, the group had the date open and accepted the invitation! Instead of being the object of scorn, Randy was a hero. Mayor Thrashborn wished he had made the call.

It’s not every day a show like Buck Wills and the Wagoneers comes to Maple Valley. Everyone lined the streets as their tour bus rolled into town. You can see it in the photo parked in front of Sylvia Meisner’s house!

To honor Sylvia, and to remind everyone how important it is to keep looking for her and hoping she comes home, the deck on her house was used as the stage for the Buck Wills show. As you can see, it was a great success!

The crowd loved hearing all of their favorite Buck Wills and the Wagoneers songs, like:

She Sneezes When I Kiss Her
Wagon Wheels Rollin’
Hog Tied Tongue Tied
Lamb Fry Pie
Moonlight Swimmin’ at Noon
Rattlesnake Soup
My Blue-Eyed Baby Lied, and
Tip The Outhouse Over.

Every song was great, but everyone cheered wildly when Buck Wills and the Wagoneers sang their #1 hit song, still nailed to the top spot on the country charts after thirteen weeks, “Mama Drinks Whiskey From a Coffee Cup”!

By special permission, we are allowed to include the lyrics of this great song!

Mama drinks whiskey from a coffee cup
‘Case the preacher comes around.
She’s afraid if he saw her
He’s say she’s hellfire bound.
She never knows when he’ll show up
It could be any day.
Mama drinks whiskey from a coffee cup
‘Til the preacher goes away.

She was on her second cup
When the preacher climbed the stairs.
He sat down on the porch with her
Like he didn’t have a care.
She offered him a coffee
Said, “Don’t mind if I do.”
She got right up, went in the house
To fetch the preacher’s brew.

She poured his coffee carefully
And placed it on the tray.
When she offered him a cookie
He bowed his head to pray.
When she looked up he had the cup
And took a little sip.
Great surprise came to his eyes
When whiskey crossed his lips.

Mama drinks whiskey from a coffee cup
‘Case the preacher comes around.
She’s afraid if he saw her
He’d say she’s hellfire bound.
She never knows when he’ll show up
It could be any day.
Mama drinks whiskey from a coffee cup
‘Til the preacher goes away.

Mama held her breath and waited
While the preacher sipped again.
He said, “This is the best dang coffee
There has ever been!
Would you pour me another
And then one more again?”
Whiskey in a coffee cup
Became the preacher’s friend.

Mama drinks whiskey from a coffee cup
When the preacher comes around.
Now that he’s a drinkin’ friend
She won’t be hellfire bound.
She doesn’t care when he shows up
He’s welcome any day.
They drink whiskey from a coffee cup
‘Til the preacher goes away.

They drink whiskey from a coffee cup
‘Til the preacher goes away.

(“Mama Drinks Whiskey From a Coffee Cup” Lyrics by Dale R. Parsons
Copyright 2021 by Dale R. Parsons.)

The crowd cheered so loud and long they sang it again! I really think Buck Wills and the Wagoneers enjoyed coming to Maple Valley as much as we enjoyed having them!

The Maple Valley Founders Day Celebration was a terrific success. It was great to see all the residents and many visitors enjoying themselves on a beautiful day in Maple Valley. For the first time in many years, no one was injured during the East Side vs West Side badminton game, even though there were sixty-three people on the court at once! Rackets and birdies were flying in every direction! There were so many people in the game, not many were left to cheer.

Sheriff Terkinberry was released from the hospital after getting several stitches. You may recall he got a search warrant to enter Sylvia’s house. While he was trying to find the light switch in the basement, he tripped over something lying on the floor and hit his head on a cabinet. He feared what it might be, but was relieved to discover he had tripped over a rolled up tent lying on the floor. He found nothing in the house indicating where Sylvia might be or what has happened to her, if anything.

Sylvia Meisner is still missing. We are no closer to finding her than we were eight weeks ago. In spite of the drama surrounding her disappearance, life in Maple Valley goes on. Maybe the concern we all feel for Sylvia is bringing the residents of Maple Valley a little bit closer.

I’m sure there are some still trying to find a way to make the mystery about them instead of Sylvia. That’s just the way some people in Maple Valley think.



Scandal At Maple Valley Episode 11

Quintin O’Dillmotte’s alarm clock screams at 4:30 a.m. He wants to be the first one up, the first one on the streets, making sure everything is ready for the Maple Valley Independence Day Celebration. He is very proud to be the chairperson of the planning committee for this great event. Overcoming the crape paper disaster of last year has been no small feat. Plenty of people are very happy to remind him what a horrible idea it was to string crape paper over the entire town. No one remembers that until it started to rain, everyone thought the colorful decorations were beautiful. And no one recalls that not a single person said, “Hey, what if it rains? What will happen to the crape paper?”

This year Quintin has taken a step further to make sure everyone knows how crucial he is to the success of the celebration. He printed thousands of fliers with his name and portrait on the front. No one will miss “Quintin O’Dillmotte, Chair of the Maple Valley Independence Day Celebration Committee.” On the back is a list of all his accomplishments this year. At the bottom is a phone number where folks can call to tell Quintin what a great job he did and how they look forward to him continuing as the chairperson for next year’s Independence Day Celebration. I actually think Quintin is preparing to run for mayor in next year’s election.

I do have to admit, the Independence Day Celebration actually was an incredible success. Reverend Shermer’s message, “Finding Your Mirror-Self,” was exactly seventeen minutes long for which the weekly collection may have been a little more than usual. The attendees were out on the street for the parade in plenty of time. There was a slight problem with the loud speaker for master bird-caller Derwood Finster. They couldn’t keep the generator running on the trailer. Someone found a bullhorn for Finster to use so he held it up to his mouth while doing his bird calls. There was also a problem with the bullhorn and it sometimes let out this screeching siren sound that scared Finster half to death. It was impossible to hear the Happy Harmonettes as they sang in the back of a pickup truck, so no harm done there. The Walking Band played one song called, “March With Joy,” over and over. Everyone seemed to enjoy it.

To everyone’s surprise, especially Quintin O’Dillmottee’s, WREK-TV showed up with their camera to film the parade. News anchor, Marty Kue, did a live interview with Quintin on the flatbed trailer Derwood Finster used. I’m quite sure O’Dillmotte has never been on TV before. He kept looking at the camera but he only talked when he was looking at Marty Kue. So Kue kept trying to coax Quintin to only look at him. It was pretty funny.

Mayor Thrashborn gave a rousing rendition of his annual speech, “We Are Maple Valley.” It was quite inspiring, and everyone clapped for two minutes when he was finished. It might have been better if WREK-TV had broadcasted the mayor’s speech instead of the interview with Quintin O’Dillmotte.

The parade ended at the corner of Maple and Railroad Streets as planned. Marge Quaffy’s prune-banana-blueberry-nut muffins were quickly sold out as they are every year. You might think she would make more than the previous year, but she always makes the same number. Maybe Marge doesn’t understand how business works.

The Old General made six trips to and from Maple Valley throughout the day, and each time it was filled to capacity. Visitors walked along the streets of Maple Valley, went into each of the shops, saw all the houses where residents live, and all wished they could live here too. In fact, I overheard a couple walking along together and one said, “I really love this little town, it’s so cozy! Wouldn’t it be fun to live here?!” I thought to myself, “Yup, just like I said. Maple Valley is the kind of place you want to stay if you’re ever here.”

Maybe the biggest winners of the day were Shorty and Hannah Cloverton, owners of “Ya’ll Sit Cafe.” They were busy all day long, and there were people waiting in line outside almost the entire time. Hannah’s hash, scrambled eggs, bacon and toast made with her amazing homemade bread were a favorite. Shorty said he must have poured a thousand cups of coffee. The Ya’ll Sit Cafe is the only restaurant in town so folks always plan to stop in when they visit Maple Valley.

I have always loved Maple Valley and I was reminded again today how special it is to live here. I know I take it for granted.

The one person who was absent today was probably only missed, if they happened to think about him, by the ones who live here. Sheriff Terkinberry is consumed by his desire to find Sylvia Meisner. All the work the detectives did on the car revealed nothing. They were right, however, that the car was purposely torched in several places, almost as if the one who did it was making sure no finger prints could every be found. The door handles were all severely damaged. The trunk latch was gone. The entire inside of the trunk was burned to the point of metal beginning to melt, which would require a very high temperature. It’s hard to explain. It seems the more the sheriff tries to discover answers, the more distant they become.

The happiness felt today by almost everyone visiting Maple Valley was different than what residents felt. No matter how excited we may be about events we experience each year, this one is different. Sylvia is still missing.

Scandal at Maple Valley Episode 10

The last train out of Maple Valley left the center of town at 9:00 p.m. Many visitors stayed all day to help us celebrate the start of tourist season. We expect all of the trains to be full today and all available tickets tomorrow are gone. Two big celebrations within three days means a tremendous amount of work, but everyone in Maple Valley joins together to make each event the best it can be.

The Independence Day Celebration is ready to go. Mayor Thrashborn will deliver his annual “We Are Maple Valley” speech at noon. Last year a record crowd of forty-seven gathered near Brindel’s Hardware to hear the speech. Unlike the year before, no one was heard to comment the speech was too long.

Brindel’s Hardware has been a fixture in Maple Valley since the late 1800s. The front window is still the original glass. The paint has faded noticeably, but Garvin Brindel wants to leave it until it’s completely unreadable. His great-great grandfather, Herschel Brindel actually painted the lettering himself. It reads, “Brindel’s Hardware – For Things You Want and Might Need.”

Herschel Brindel had quite a reputation among the old-timers of Maple Valley. He was one of the founders and quickly established himself as leader. He also established himself as a scoundrel in business and with the ladies. There was talk he was carrying on with Gladenia Wickers, who was the wife of the first reverend of Maple Valley Church. The way church ladies dressed in those days in long black dresses that swept the floor, sleeves tight at the wrist, snug collars, it’s hard to imagine how anything happened, if it did. But that’s the point of imagination, it’s always better than the real thing. It’s the old-timers in Maple Valley that keep the old stories going. In fact, the stories have become a draw for tourists because the old guys will sit on the porches and talk to anyone who will stop long enough to listen. It’s been a long time since I sat on the porch with them, but I’m sure the stories have developed a life of their own while leaving the real truth in the dust long ago.

Another scoundrel I might as well mention now to get it out of the way, is Clem Yaminder. He too has family reaching back to the founding of Maple Valley, but his reputation as a scoundrel is more recent. It’s been fourteen years since Forner’s Drugstore burned to the ground. Clem Yaminder owns “Clem’s Stuff,” next to where the drugstore used to be. It was no secret that Clem Yaminder and Gorlyn Forner didn’t like each other. In the twenty years preceeding the fire, Clem and Gorlyn were involved in court proceedings against each other five times. Each time, the cases were dismissed by the visiting circuit judge. The last time an argument happened between Clem and Gorlyn, Clem was overheard saying, “I’m going to burn his place to the ground.” Seems pretty obvious. When the store burst into flames, everyone looked at Clem but nothing ever happened. Gorlyn Forner passed away two years later. Arleta Forner still lives here in Maple Valley. She stays away from Clem Yaminder and still believes he started the fire.

In spite of our scoundrels both past and present, Maple Valley is one of those places where you want to stay if you’re ever here. It’s the kind of town where you walk around and think, “I could live here.” As you visit the little stores you think about changes you could make so it would be possible for you to move to Maple Valley. “I could work in one of these stores, or maybe I could get hired on the maintenance crew for the General.” While you’re sipping coffee in the “Ya’ll Sit Cafe,” listening to the chatter of the townsfolk talking about their grocery lists, egg-plant-zucchini bread they made, plans to visit grandparents, you think about staying. It’s just that kind of place. The coffee tastes better, the treats taste sweeter, the lunches are more delicious than anywhere else and you think, “I could live here.”

The remarkable thing about tourist season is the number of people who come year after year. As seasons pass, grandparents bring grandchildren so they can experience the wonderful place that is Maple Valley. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to grow up and live here enjoy hearing the comments visitors make about how much fun it is to be here. Sometimes I wonder if there is something we’re missing. Are visitors feeling something we don’t feel anymore? Are they sensing something we’ve grown so accustomed to we’re now unaware of it? I hope not. I try to remind myself just how special Maple Valley is and how lucky we are to live here.

No one loves the Old General more than I do, but I have to admit there are times I hear it heading for town and I don’t go running outside to see it. I remember walking hand-in-hand with my parents to see the General time after time. They always said, “Don’t forget this, dear. The Old General is part of who we are here in Maple Valley. Don’t ever forget that.” I remind myself often but I still am too busy to remember like I know my parents wanted me to.

I’m afraid we’re starting to forget about Sylvia. I don’t hear people on the streets talking about her anymore. Her car isn’t under three tower bridge anymore, and now that the car is just large and small pieces on a garage floor, it’s hard to imagine it as an actual car. Let alone a car that belonged to someone who is now gone. Maybe not gone, but just missing. I hope she’s just missing and will be back soon.

Scandal at Maple Valley Episode 9

Quintin O’Dillmotte has been working very hard to bring our town to complete readiness in anticipation of the Maple Valley Independence Day Celebration. Erasing all potential reminders of the crape paper disaster of last year is more important to him than planning for this year. So far, talk about a repeat has been minimal.

Everyone is looking forward to the parade that begins at 9:00 a.m. Sunday morning. One of the main attractions every year is the Maple Valley Walking Band, directed by Mileta Kottser. She is the director because the idea of creating the band was hers. Maple Valley doesn’t have a school band, so Mileta thought she could start one. Mileta doesn’t actually play an instrument but everyone else does. The nine-member walking band is always looking for new members.

The Retired Equine Services Organization had to withdraw from the parade this year because two of the remaining three riders are ill. Of course, the Happy Harmonettes, the quartet of eighty-year-old women who have been trying to sing together since high school will be moved up in the procession because of the missing horses.

Probably the most anticipated feature in the parade this year is special guest, Derwood Finster, the master bird-caller. Quintin was able to acquire a trailer and a loud-speaker so everyone along the parade route will be able to hear Derwood Finster’s bird calls. The only challenge is the noise from the generator required to give power to the loud-speaker. It should be alright.

Bird calling is very popular in Maple Valley. Unfortunately, the Winged Callers Club lost its charter last year because of dues that were left unpaid to the Regional Association of Birdcall Clubs. The club met weekly at the old trader’s barn and after a brief business meeting, the members went out into the valley to call birds. Stan Munshim was the treasurer of the club, Emil Leverdom was the president. Both still enjoy calling birds, neither of them is very good at it.

The Independence Day Celebration landing on Sunday this year has required an additional level of responsibility for O’Dillmotte and his committee. The Reverend Shermer, pastor of Maple Valley Church, expects everyone to be in attendance at service before the parade. The service is usually at 11:15, but the Reverend is sure folks will not come to service after the parade, so he moved it to 8:15, just for this special day. Maple Valley Church is the only one in town so the ones who go to church go there. The Reverend expects Quintin to persuade everyone in Maple Valley to attend services before the parade.

The parade will begin at the end of Maple Street, move along to First Street, turn left and go to the end of the street and turn left again. Finally, turning left on Railroad Street the parade will continue until it reaches Maple Street again where it will end. Once the parade has moved past people sitting along the route, they will gather at the intersection of Maple and Railroad, to congratulate everyone and tell them what a fine job they did in the parade.

The end of the parade route is also where the community vendors gather to sell their homemade baked goods and handicrafts. Marge Quaffy’s prune-banana-blueberry-nut muffins with goat-milk cream frosting is a favorite to everyone. She spends two days before the parade making the muffins with her two granddaughters, Susan and Sandy.

This is an exciting time in Maple Valley. Today is the beginning of tourist season, which almost went unnoticed except for the crowds of people who came into town on The Old General this morning. All the stores were ready and waiting for happy visitors. Many people just walk along the streets of Maple Valley and don’t buy anything at all. They enjoy seeing the old buildings and walking on the wooden porches.

In spite of the scandal swirling in Maple Valley, Anabel Wizzleby was finally able to get enough choir members together to practice her original musical score. Anabel spent the entire off-season working on her song, “My Maple Valley, You’re Really Something.” Her greatest challenge was coming up with a word that even remotely rhymes with “something.” As it turns out, the crowd was so noisy after getting off the General, no one could hear the words of the song anyway. Anabel smiled proudly and the choir took a bow. Everyone knew the song was over and they clapped.

Sheriff Terkinberry has been absent from most of the proceedings so far. He is very busy with the detectives working diligently to find something, anything, on what is left of Sylvia Meisner’s car. They took the car to Fillton’s Service Station and put it in the garage. They are in the process of taking the car completely apart in the search for clues. So far, nothing.

The sheriff’s decision to move the car away from three tower bridge couldn’t have come too soon. People were beginning to stir up even more trouble, complaining that the sheriff was not doing his job. Mayor Alvin Thrashborn paid a visit to the sheriff’s office, which is Pete Terkinberry’s kitchen, to give him an update on the overall attitude in Maple Valley. The mayor wasn’t really trying to cause trouble for the sheriff, he was just letting him know that more trouble was brewing.

It’s good to see all of our neighbors out and about after a very long and cold winter. The flowers are beautiful, the trees are covered with leaves, the birds are singing, although not as a result of any bird callers in Maple Valley. Hopefully, there will soon be some good news in the search for Sylvia Meisner.

Scandal at Maple Valley Episode 8

There are eight very exciting days in the Maple Valley calendar year. It goes without saying that the residents of our small town each have our own favorite, but we celebrate them all as one big family.

The Hands-On Father’s Day Project is a happily anticipated event. Mother’s Day is celebrated with equal fanfare with the treat of the day being the bran-pistachio-raisin cupcakes every family bakes. Mandel Creighton Day is difficult to describe, but the excitement is amazing. Wooden Spatula Day begins with each Maple Valleyan going out on our front porch, waving our wooden spatula (which all residents receive when they settle in Maple Valley) and loudly singing “I’m a hap-hap-happy Maple Valleyan, Maple Valleyan, Maple Valleyan, I’m a hap-hap-happy Maple Valleyan, and here I’m gonna stay!” There are seven verses but we only sing four on Wooden Spatula Day.

Derby Dan Day is a commemoration of the life and times of Derby Dan Herkelour. Dan built the now famous Maple Valley water tower.

Of course the Maple Valley Independence and Founder’s Day Celebrations are almost here, but the happiest of all official celebrations is the first day of tourist season.

A very special day enjoyed by everyone but not on the official calendar, is the day The Old General steams into town for the first time. The minute we hear the whistle, we all run to the middle of town to catch sight of The General as it chugs toward town, throwing fluffy clouds of smoke and steam high into the air.

No matter what’s happening in Maple Valley, the sound of The General’s whistle seems to say everything is going to be alright.

The General spends the off-season in Watkinsburg in an engine house for maintenance. Several people faithfully work to restore the locomotive to full operation every year. It’s extremely important for the work to be done carefully. Last year, somehow, when the smoke stack funnel was replaced on the engine, it wasn’t fastened. As the engine rolled into Maple Valley, the funnel fell from the top of the engine and hit the fence behind Ya’ll Sit Cafe, knocking it down. Shorty Cloverton was using a large charcoal grill behind the fence that tipped over and the fence caught fire. Luckily, when the fire crew arrived the fire was easily brought under control, but the fence and grill were destroyed. The engine maintenance crew actually took what was left of the grill back to the engine house to use as a reminder.

Speaking of Ya’ll Sit Cafe, Ira Thibbers, the man who was hit by glass when Shorty slammed the front door of the restaurant after arguing with Hannah about who waited on Sylvia last, has decided not to sue Shorty. He threatened to take the restaurant from the Clovertons in court. He found out it was a little more difficult than he thought. When Ira met with Attorney Wilken Silvers, he asked if Ira had hospital records from the emergency room.

“I didn’t go to the emergency room,” Ira said.

“I thought you were injured by the flying glass,” Silvers said.

“I was.

“If you were injured, why didn’t you go to the emergency room?”

“I just went home and Erlana put a band-aid on my cheek,” Ira said.

“When you say you were injured, what exactly do you mean?” the attorney asked.

“Well, I was sitting in the restaurant eating. Shorty and Hannah started arguing in the kitchen. They kept yelling until Shorty left and slammed the door. The glass in the door shattered and a piece of the glass hit me on my cheek. It started bleeding, and I told Shorty I was going to sue him,” Ira said.

“Was your only injury on your cheek?”

“Yes.”

The attorney told Ira he didn’t have a case and suggested he let it go and save his money. Shorty apologized to Ira, they shook hands and that was the end of it.

Law suits are not something that usually happen in Maple Valley. People threaten to sue, quite often as a matter of fact. When people live in a small community and spend a lot of time together, sometimes things happen and tempers get riled, and they say things they don’t really mean. Then it becomes a matter of pride when someone says they’re going to sue, they almost have to follow through with it just because they said they would. They wouldn’t want the other person to know they don’t mean it right from the start. Law suits are not something people in Maple Valley joke about. The good thing about it is they don’t usually last very long.

With the excitement of The General coming back to town, it was almost possible for us to forget a mystery still hangs over Maple Valley. The investigation into the disappearance of Sylvia Meisner is moving slowly. Sheriff Terkinberry asked detectives from Tandleville to join him at the burned car to search it again this morning. He hopes that some piece of evidence, no matter how insignificant it may seem, will help in some way.

They spent hours combing over the wreck and found exactly nothing. The fire damage was complete. It’s almost as if every inch of the car was torched, not just burned as a fire would normally search for something to eat. The sheriff decided it’s time to move the car to a proper place to be taken apart. He’s beyond desperate to find answers.

Scandal at Maple Valley Episode 7

The folks in Maple Valley are working in preparation for the start of tourist season one week from Friday. The last few repairs on the railroad line are finished and inspections led to full certification for passengers on the General. Officials from the National Railroad Safety Association left town this morning and everyone is breathing a little easier.

The petition to postpone the start of tourist season circulated by Beulah Filden fell flat. Beulah bit off more than she could chew. She was only able to secure twenty-one signatures, not a majority of the fine citizens of Maple Valley. She was headed off at the pass by Stew Hanmin, the chair of the town council. When he heard about the petition, he called the other members of the council who each called the remaining citizens who hadn’t already signed the petition. No more problem.

Beulah has a reputation as a trouble-maker who opposes just about everything. Two years ago she decided the annual town picnic had served its purpose and it was time to stop it. She started a rumor the state health department was coming in on the day of the picnic to shut it down. A few people helped stir things up and the picnic was almost cancelled. When Mayor Thrashborn called the state and discovered there were no concerns, he was furious. He called Mrs. Filden into his office for a meeting with the sheriff and a couple town council members. He also had the town’s attorney, Hardin Sievers, there just for effect. It worked. Beulah left the meeting looking as if she had been taken to the woodshed, which she was.

The woodshed experience didn’t last long with Beulah. She left the meeting and found her friend, Lulane Hilvertosh, and told her everything. Lulane and Beulah love being in the middle of things. Since Lulane’s meeting with the state police about Sylvia Meisner’s burned car didn’t go anywhere, she is now looking for something new to fill her time.

Plans for the Maple Valley Founders’ Day Celebration are well under way. One minor, or maybe major hiccup concerns the main entertainment group, “Buck Wills & The Wagoneers,” the famous country stars. Randy Herbdahl, the chairman of the entertainment committee had the responsibility of contacting and scheduling the band, which he thought he did. Last week, his wife, Nora, found the letter he thought he mailed six months ago inviting Buck Wills & The Wagoneers to Maple Valley for the Founders’ Day Celebration. Tickets have already been sold for $20.00 each, and the concert was sold out within three weeks. If it turns out the Buck Wills group can’t come, the Happy Harmonettes will have to fill in. Randy Herbdahl is scrambling to make sure Buck Wills & The Wagoneers come to Maple Valley. He’ll have a hard time explaining what happened if they don’t. He sure doesn’t want the problem to be discovered by the town gossips.

As if an additional problem was needed by the folks of Maple Valley, a box car in the morning freight train from Hogantown headed to Watkinsburg derailed in the tunnel near three tower bridge. Officials from Santa Fe Railroad arrived within two hours and a crane was brought in to put the car back on the tracks. It is unknown at this time whether the track was damaged.

The investigation into the disappearance of Sylvia Meisner continues. Sheriff Terkinberry demanded the burned car remain where it is. There were several people who complained about it, supposedly for concerns of visitors to Maple Valley seeing the car. The sheriff continues to insist the car stays put.

News of Sylvia Meisner’s disappearance has finally gone beyond Maple Valley. Even though the story promotion by Lulane Hilvertosh with WREK-TV didn’t go anywhere, strangers showing up in Maple Valley are asking questions. Two men in suits were walking through town and talked to a couple of people. Someone called Sheriff Terkinberry and he caught up with them. It turns out the two men were agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Wow. FBI agents in Maple Valley! The sheriff asked them why they hadn’t contacted him before talking to citizens of Maple Valley. They explained that because Maple Valley is a nationally recognized tourist destination the jurisdiction over the town reaches the federal level. The sheriff told them it was baloney and warned the two agents not to return to Maple Valley without contacting him first. Pete Terkinberry didn’t actually know whether what the agents told him was true or not. He just didn’t like the idea of anyone digging into his missing persons case without him knowing about it.

It’s quite odd that the celebration planners of Maple Valley did not separate the beginning of tourist season from the Maple Valley Independence Day Celebration by more than two days. Seven to ten days would have been much better. Quintin O’Dillmotte continues dropping hints to remind everyone just how great a job he is doing in preparation for the celebration. Virginia Nodderway asked Quintin if the celebration was going to include crape paper. She asked loud enough for plenty of others to hear and they laughed, giving Virginia exactly what she wanted.

Some work is being done on Sylvia Meisner’s house. The roof needs repair and the deck boards are being fastened securely again. With Sylvia missing and having no solid clues of her whereabouts, neighbors are working together with hopes that doing some helpful work for Sylvia will also help bring her home.

Maple Valley is a fascinating place. Perhaps every good and bad thing one might find in any other small town can be found here. Hopefully, more good than bad.