Scandal at Maple Valley – Episode 12

In case you haven’t been following the news in Maple Valley on a regular basis, I will fill you in. Sylvia Meisner disappeared nearly a month ago. Several people saw and spoke to her one day, she was gone the next. In fact, figuring out who the last person to speak to Sylvia actually was became a hot item of contention, sadly enough. Folks in Maple Valley always like to find a way into the spotlight. We are bothered by not being included.

In the photo, you can see what was left of her car. It was discovered under three tower bridge by two people who happened to be jogging by. They reported the car to Sheriff Pete Terkinberry who started an investigation and quickly confirmed it was Sylvia Meisner’s car. The sheriff demanded the car be left at the site to protect all the evidence, but he soon realized there wasn’t any. The wreck was finally taken to a garage where it was dismantled. Every piece of the car was examined, and nothing of any use to the investigation was found. The car was torched completely.

Who put the car under three tower bridge? No answers. Where was the car burned? It seems obvious the fire was not under the bridge because there are no burns on the timbers. And no one saw the fire even though the bridge is very close to Maple Valley. The car was wrecked and burned somewhere else. Was the driver Sylvia? If so, where is she? Did someone steal her car, wreck then burn it to cover evidence, then move the car to the bridge? That is a lot of difficult work when they could have left the car where it was destroyed. It makes no sense, unless there is some kind of message we are supposed to figure out. I don’t know. No one else does, either. At least, that’s the way it seems.

If you walk by three tower bridge today, this is what you’ll see. Everything seems normal again. Appearances are deceiving. I don’t think anything in Maple Valley will be normal again. How can someone everybody knows disappear without a trace? Neighbors are going back to normal things and I’m afraid they’re going to forget.

Sylvia is a nice person. She was, is, or was neighborly. That’s what I mean. Even I am getting caught saying things like, “She was neighborly.” I don’t know if she is a was, or still is. It’s tough. She’s gone, but maybe she’s just gone for a while. Who knows? She made, or is making her own mark on Maple Valley. She is a talented artist, or is at least someone others might call an artist. She painted signs for businesses. They’re very colorful and attractive. The problem to some people is that the signs are for businesses that don’t exist. She painted and placed them in spots around town where they would be seen. Why would someone do that?

An odd thing happened today. People gathered where the car was found under three tower bridge, and the Reverend Shermer from Maple Valley Church said a few words. He is the one in the photo nearest the bridge tower. He asked for a time of silence so people could think about Sylvia and ask for her safe return. Then folks met at Sylvia’s house and did the same thing. Not everyone goes to church in Maple Valley, and there were people at the two gatherings who don’t attend Maple Valley Church. I suppose that’s a good thing, unless they were just there to watch.

There is still talk around town about having a psychic come in to try to find Sylvia. How would the sheriff decide which psychic to use? Would he have psychic auditions? There are lots of psychics around like palm readers, but who knows whether they could really help? Would the town council have to pay the psychic? Does the person get paid even if they can’t find Sylvia and she doesn’t return? I don’t know what to think of that idea.

On the brighter side of Maple Valley, the Annual Founder’s Day Celebration is just a week away. This is an important event in Maple Valley and has been celebrated ever since the first settlers came to the valley. At least that’s what the oldest residents of Maple Valley say.

Like the Independence Day Celebration and the start of tourist season in Maple Valley, lots of exciting attractions will keep everyone busy for the entire day. The highlight of the day will be the mincemeat pie eating contest in the middle of town, followed by the annual west side vs east side badminton game. Everyone who lives on the west side of 2nd Street is Team West, everyone living on the east side is Team East.

Plenty of first-aid supplies will be on hand with those who have volunteered to treat everyone who is injured during the badminton game. Maple Valley folks are serious about this game because of the bragging rights it gives to the winners. Everyone who wants to play is on the team, and everyone is on the court at the same time. Last year there were twenty-seven players on Team West, thirty-two on Team East. Several injuries occurred, the most serious being a gash suffered by Homer Gawlmand when Minnie Surrifin hit him in the face with her racket. Other minor injuries like welts on the head from being whacked by a racket are to be expected when close to sixty people are playing badminton on one court, all trying to keep six birdies in the air at the same time. It’s a favorite in Maple Valley!

Tourist season is off to a great start. So far, there haven’t been any issues with the Old General. Six round trips per day is a lot to ask from a steam locomotive that was built in the 1800s, but the Old General’s performance has made everyone proud. I even sneak a ride in the engine as often as I can. One of these days I’m going to sit in the engineer’s chair and take the throttle. That will be an exciting day in Maple Valley.

How I Painted Backdrops for My Model Railroad – Part 2

I can’t stress enough that you can do this. Believe me, if I can paint backdrops and have them turn out half-way decent, you can do it too.

In Part 1, I included a list of the paint colors most often used for painting backdrops. All of the paint is acrylic, which cleans up easily with water. When you start painting your backdrops, you will start by using light colors on the highest parts of your canvas (whatever your canvas material may be. I chose to use foam board.)

Obviously, not being an artist, I’m not including mixtures that will give you exact shades of colors for your backdrops. With me, it was trial and error. If you are an artist I don’t think you’ll be spending time reading this anyway.

In the photos you can see the mountainous look beginning to take shape. I used a mixture of blue and grey to paint mountains furthest away, the lightest blue is sky. The light shade of green below the blue is the first layer indicating the next mountain range.

The beautiful thing about painting in layers is that you can really mess up the first layer, (like I did many times fighting with my shaking hands), and totally fix and change it with the next layer. You don’t want perfect tree tops anyway. To me, a great amount of variation is best, just like you would see in a real photo or in person. Let your brush go and find your way as you dab the paint on.

I allowed each layer to dry before starting the next layer. If you lay wet paint on wet paint, the colors will begin to mix on the canvas and on your brush. Maybe that will work for you, but I didn’t want to take the chance.

With each layer of tree-covered mountains, the colors get darker, indicating the mountains are closer. In the middle photo is the beginning of a river, indicated by the white curved triangle, giving the appearance of the river coming toward you.

I definitely made mistakes, but was able to manage them pretty well. In the photo on the left, there is a light area that doesn’t look great, but I can live with it. I also left some large grassy-appearing areas in the foreground that I will make smaller by placing 3D trees on the layout in front of them. Placing trees on the layout is my next big project.

The section of backdrop in the photo on the left is my first attempt. It’s not great, and I changed it a little by painting pine trees in that appear closer, and adding rocks at the bottom. This one will again be doctored by placing trees and foliage in front of it. This one is on the right end of the layout, so it isn’t in a prominent spot. I’m happy with the other backdrops, and to me, there is an illusion of distance to the horizon. Structures, trees, and ground cover will blend the contrast between the rocky areas and the green backdrops.

Shading is an important part of painting backdrops. In any scene, whether in a photograph or a painting of landscapes, there is a source of light so there are light and shaded areas. As you can see on the painted pines, the left side is lighter, indicating light coming from the left. It also appears to give the tree a rounded shape. I used a small paint brush to blot the pine trees into existence. The individual pine trees in the center photo were made with a fan brush. The important thing to remember about indicating a light source is that it must be consistent throughout your backdrop paintings. You don’t want some areas appearing as if the sun is on the left, and others on the right.

Including roads and rivers in a backdrop is another challenge because, somehow, you have to make them appear they are coming toward you. This is accomplished by the use of a magical vanishing point. Perspective in drawing or painting is how objects are made to appear closer or more distant and still remain in proper size relation with each other. A road, for example, seems to disappear at the vanishing point, (which is why it’s called a vanishing point!), and comes toward you where it is widest, closest to you. You are looking at a flat painting, yet you see a road or river coming toward you. Magic!

I used perspective to paint a small cabin and a shed on the backdrop section in the left and center photos. The shed is smaller than the cabin. Vanishing points and shades of color were used on both structures, so instead of looking like flat squares, they appear to be 3D structures. Painting a curved road is a little tricky. You’re still moving it toward the vanishing point but adding a curve while still creating the illusion of distance away from you.

I didn’t want the Maple Valley river to end at the backdrop, so I had to paint the river, allowing it to vanish somewhere in the distance. For a rank amateur, I think it turned out pretty well! The wooden bridge nearest the backdrop will be a road connecting industries on either side of the river.

When all the painting was finished, the foam boards curved as a result of the paint drying and constricting. Ughhh! I didn’t want to just glue them on the wall because I was afraid they would come loose. So, lacking any other solution, I held each foam board, painted/curved toward me, put pressure on the back side and pushed until the foam board buckled. I did that about every two inches the entire length of the board. Result? The foam board was straight and the paint did not crack, miraculously. I was at the point of either total disaster, or breakthrough results. Luckily, the end result was great. I used hot glue to fasten the foam boards to the cinder block wall, and they are secured tightly.

Finally, as I mentioned in Part 1, there are several YouTube videos demonstrating backdrop painting that were very helpful. I am including a list, and I encourage you to watch them if you are considering painting your own backdrops.

How To Paint Model Railroad Backdrops with Rob Spangler – YouTube

Model Railroad Adventures with Bill E103 – The Joys of Painting (A Backdrop 😄) by Request – YouTube

Painting a Model Railroad Backdrop – YouTube

Learn How to Paint Mountains – Acrylic Painting Lesson by JM Lisondra – YouTube

Paint Basic Rocks by Stream – YouTube (I watched this one over and over again!)

If you search “Painting Model Railroad Backdrops” you will find dozens of examples.

I wish you luck in your efforts to paint your own model railroad backdrops!

How I Painted Backdrops for My Model Railroad – Part 1

First, let’s get this straight. I am not an artist (and maybe you’ll agree when you look carefully at the photos of my backdrops.) The only time I have ever taken an art class was in the 7th grade. Mr. Nagle gave me good grades for my drawings but my interest in art didn’t grow. I have an uncle who is an incredible artist and taught art for many years. Our daughter is a gifted artist, and also teaches art. The talent skipped a generation.

My HO scale model railroad, The Maple Valley Short Line, is the most detailed layout I have ever created. It’s also the largest. The layout is shelf-style, twenty-one feet long, three feet wide in the middle sections, four feet-seven inches on the ends. The layout is still a long way from completion and I have already been working on it for three years. This layout includes my first attempt at painting backdrops.

The walls of my train room are cinder-block. I first painted the walls white, thinking that would probably be enough, as I did the same thing in my last train room. As my layout progressed, I realized I wasn’t going to be satisfied with white walls as a backdrop. Our daughter offered to paint the backdrops for me, but I was determined to do it myself. If it turned out terrible, I would live with it, somehow. If it turned out great, then so be it.

I first considered painting directly on the walls, but decided the mortar seams between the blocks would be too obvious. So, my next task was deciding what kind of material to use as a canvas. I bought poster-size thick paper but my daughter said it would buckle. I decided to use foam-board. I had no idea how foam board would respond to acrylic paint, but I knew I didn’t want to mess with oils.

I didn’t trust my artistic imagination enough to come up with convincing mountain scenes, so I went to the single greatest source of everything you can possibly need. Google. Since my layout has a rocky/mountainous landscape, I used photos of the Smoky Mountains as my examples to paint. I was not surprised there are innumerable pics of mountains on Google, but I wanted a particular look with mountain ranges close up and miles away. I found fifteen, or so, pictures I was happy with and used them as my inspiration.

I first tried laying paper over my computer screen and tracing the outline of the mountains. That idea didn’t last long. I was left with freehand sketching, which is what I was most afraid of, and for good reason. I have battled with essential tremors for many years, and they seem to be getting worse. I’m left handed, but had to teach myself to be right-handed. I was not at all certain I could do anything more than make a mess, painting with my right hand. Through a combination of left and right-hand painting, I was able to get the job done. Some trees look better with my left hand, others look better with my right. I don’t know.

A great decision I made was cutting the foam board to follow the outline of the most distant mountain range, leaving enough space to paint sky above it. To get the desired effect, I had to be sure the outlines of the mountains were NOT consistent with each other. For the right effect, there has to be an appearance of distance between the mountains, which is accomplished by the shades and darkness of the paint colors. Lightest colors are the most distant mountains, darkest are the closest. Tree detail is most visible close-up, detail fades as distance increases.

How did I learn all of this? Through the miracle of YouTube! You can learn almost anything on YouTube! I watched many videos of people painting backdrops. (I have to say, however, there are many unhelpful videos in which the person spends most of the time talking rather than demonstrating. And still other videos are more an example of how not to be a comedian than how to paint a backdrop.) Enough complaining.

In the videos I learned there are several colors consistently used for backdrops. Raw Umber, Permanent Black, Cerulean Blue, Hookers Green, Raw Sienna, Titanium White, Cadmium Yellow, and Matte Fluid Medium, which is used to thin and make the paint go farther. You will also use several plastic containers with lids, and several different kinds of paint brushes.

The secret to painting great backdrops is believing you can do it, then working with the colors until the mixtures are exactly what you want. Be patient, don’t try to paint too much at one time. Give the layers plenty of time to dry. Keep the vision of what your layout will look like in front of you.

In the next post, I will include the details of how to paint in layers and how to make distance come alive in your backdrops.

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 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.

Scandal At Maple Valley Episode 6

Even though Maple Valley is a tourist destination for thousands of people each year, it is a real town where people live and it does not escape the characteristics of small town life. People know things about their neighbors they probably shouldn’t know. Things the neighbors would rather keep quiet. Some people make it their business to involve themselves in one way or another in everything. And since a lot of folks in Maple Valley are related, they often say things like, “I’m just looking out for the interests of my family,” which couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s often a distant family member who becomes the subject of suspicion among those who feign concern.

If it were possible to capture all of the troubling characteristics of small town life in one person, her name would be Lulane Hilvertosh. No problem, no concern, no circumstance, no question in Maple Valley escapes the probability of being made much larger, providing the capacity to pull in more innocent casualties than when Lulane Hilvertosh gets involved, which is almost always.

Lulane took it upon herself to call the State Police and WREK-TV’s award winning journalist Marty Kue (whose full name is Martin Kuezanskowitz) and asked them to meet her at three tower bridge to discuss the disappearance of Sylvia Meisner. She told the State Police she had official authority to discuss the case. Not true. The fine people at WREK know Hilvertosh very well as she considers herself a gifted reporter, a total lack of any journalistic education notwithstanding. The only reason anyone gives her any attention is her ability to cause trouble. It’s more an effort to control the damage than to gain any useable information.

It’s difficult to understand why the State Police don’t arrest her for filing a false police report, or contacting the police under false pretenses. She’s definitely not trying to help.

The photos showing the actual meeting between officers from the State Police and Marty Kue were secretly taken by Mayor Thrashborn’s secretary, Wanda Cablelance. She understands what a danger someone like Lulane Hilvertosh can be.

The State Police will have to meet with Mayor Thrashborn officially, even though it is a waste of time, because a report was officially made by Hilvertosh. If the officers don’t follow through and meet with the mayor, Lulane will find out about it and the end will be far worse than the beginning.

In the process of capturing the photos of the secret meeting, Miss Cablelance happened to catch Stevie Mickletan sitting on a bridge beam. Shortly after the photo was taken, the police officers made Stevie come down and told him not to climb the tower again. That was also a waste of time. Stevie Mickletan climbs the towers every week.

Official photos of Sylvia Meisner’s house were taken by Sheriff Terkinberry’s photographer, which is his wife, Kathy. They took pictures of the front, back, and side of the house. It wasn’t until they looked at the photos, as seen above, they realized how close Sylvia’s house is to the scene where the burned car was found. In fact, if one looks closely enough, you can see three tower bridge in the background just behind Verklin’s Antique Store.

An obvious question hangs over the investigation. How was a heavily damaged burned car placed under the bridge, just beyond an active railroad line without anyone seeing it? No one saw anything. At least no one is willing to say they saw anything. That alone troubles Sheriff Terkinberry even more than the fact Sylvia is still missing. If someone did see, or worse yet, was involved in placing the car under the bridge, that means someone in Maple Valley is involved in the disappearance of Sylvia Meisner. The sheriff almost cannot bear to think about it. He knows everyone in town very well. He considers most of them to be his friends.

As if the mayor and the sheriff needed something more to consider, Beulah Filden gathered her closest friends, all two of them, and started a petition to postpone the opening of tourist season. So far, they have nineteen signatures. Since there are only fifty-one official residents of Maple Valley, they are well on their way to a majority of those supporting the delay of the season. While it might be honorable to make such a gesture, practically, it’s not going to make any difference, other than blocking the necessary finances so needed by Maple Valley to survive. Once the signatures are presented to the mayor, a meeting of the town council will have to be called and a vote taken. We don’t need this!

It’s almost as if everyone in Maple Valley is holding their breath, waiting to see what happens next. There is still talk about having a psychic come in to help. Most folks think it’s a ridiculous idea.

The sheriff is still considering doing a door-to-door search. Since the thought of someone in Maple Valley being involved crowded his mind, he is thinking more seriously of opening every door, whether the residents agree or not.

Sheriff Terkinberry spoke briefly with Dr. Ham Gerlein, the medical examiner from Colmash County. Dr. Gerlein is responsible for several counties including Kertok. The sheriff gave him the details of Sylvia Meisner’s disappearance as they are known today. Since there is nothing to medically examine yet, and official meeting has not been called.

It’s hard to imagine things getting worse in Maple Valley. What we know for sure is that Sylvia Meisner is still missing. The fact that not a single person in town knows anything is becoming harder and harder for Sheriff Terkinberry to accept. While he is not really concerned about his position as sheriff, he is the kind of person who hates to stir something up if it’s not necessary. It is becoming more and more difficult to resist.

Scandal at Maple Valley Episode 5

It is a terrible shame the word “scandal” connects to Maple Valley in any way. The citizens of this small town, completely happy to continue in the ways we know, are now, through no fault of our own, tossed together into a chopper yearning to leave nothing recognizable in its wake.

The very name, Maple Valley, evokes thoughts of sweetness, calm, and rest. Indeed, until two weeks ago, anyone would have agreed with my assessment. Now everything is upside down. Everyone is walking an unfamiliar path. Distrust among life-long friends is beginning to dance around the edges of awareness. This kind of shadow does not belong in Maple Valley. Yet, here it is.

We’re looking over our shoulders. Security is seeping away. It’s amazing how quickly unanswered questions begin scratching at the fabric holding everything together. Sylvia Meisner has been missing sixteen days. Life will quickly return to normal when we know the facts. Maybe.

Be that as it may, today is Father’s Day. The lovely folks of Maple Valley have celebrated Father’s Day in the same manner for the last forty-seven years. Since Deaton Habley created the “Hands-On Father’s Day Project,” everyone knows what to expect year after year. Yesterday, all of Maple Valley gathered at the fire station to sign Father’s Day cards. To be sure no one is left out, each resident receives a card. Men, women, boys, girls, and fathers receive cards delivered personally by volunteers. It’s very important to citizens of Maple Valley that no one is left out of any kind of celebration. Even individual birthdays are a community project. It gets tiring, actually.

Mayor Alvin Thrashborn delivered his annual Father’s Day message to the community gathering at Verklin’s Antique Store. Verklin’s is the best place for the community to gather because Claudia Verklin has a new porch, built two years ago by Wayne and Verle Shones of Shone’s Construction. Mayor Thrashborn is quite a good public speaker. He has learned to use hand gestures since taking the “You Can Speak More Convincingly” class at Kertok County Public Library. The class is taught by Dr. Wilson Erkish, Professor Emeritus, Retired, of the Kertok County Community College, which closed due to lack of students nearly twenty years ago. The mayor has even been invited to speak to the Ladies Who Mean Well group that meets on the first Tuesday of every month.

At the conclusion of Mayor Thrashborn’s speech, the Happy Harmonettes sang, “Daddy Was a Scoundrel,” an original song written by Annimae Twisherman, who sings tenor in the group. She wrote the words and the music, which is quite an accomplishment of which all the residents of Maple Valley are quite proud.

When the ceremony at Verklin’s Antique Store was over, all the folks walked together to the basement of Maple Valley Church where we enjoyed a fine breakfast of pancakes, eggs, and kiwi. This year the breakfast was prepared by the “Golf Innovation League” which is open to men and women. The group meets every week at the Maple Valley Links. The members do not play golf, but share in discussions about how the game might be made more meaningful for those who do not participate.

The meal was enjoyed fully, then we all returned to our homes. We have a lot of work to do in preparation for the tourist season which starts next Friday. The Old General, the 1880 Vintage Steam Engine, will begin pulling fully restored passenger cars loaded with happy visitors to Maple Valley. The Old General was the locomotive derailed by the boys who piled rocks on the tracks. That was not a happy day in Maple Valley.

We are all hoping for the best for Sylvia Meisner. Sheriff Terkinberry is getting almost no rest, and that worries some of the folks who know him well. He is determined to begin his investigation again, from the beginning. He has decided to leave Sylvia’s car where it is until she is found. The thought of missing something that might lead to her return alive keeps him awake. He doesn’t know whether she’s alive or not. No one does. The sheriff is doing everything he possibly can to bring Sylvia home.

Scandal at Maple Valley Episode 4

O’Dillmotte Funeral Parlor “Where We Lay You Down Easy” is buzzing with activity. Quintin O’Dillmotte, the proud provider of burial services for the citizens of Maple Valley and all of Kertok County, has been on the phone for hours.

No, Sylvia Meisner’s body has not been found, dead or alive. Quintin O’Dillmotte is chair of the Maple Valley Independence Day Celebration Committee, which is just a few weeks away. This is O’Dillmotte’s second year as chair. He hopes to outshine the extravaganza, or disaster, depending on how you look at it, that took place last year. Quintin’s main project was to have every home and business in Maple Valley draped in red, white, and blue crape paper. The town was absolutely beautiful. WREK TV – “Your Source for the Latest”, came with their cameras and a reporter. When it started raining the results were displayed for everyone. It took weeks to remove all the soggy crape paper, and long boney purple fingers are still visible.

One might think after wreckage like that everyone would demand a change in the leadership for the Independence Day Celebration Committee. Not so. No one else wants to do it.

It’s not like O’Dillmotte’s has funerals lined up for weeks. The last services Quintin provided was four months ago. Palmer McCashtin, 98, passed peacefully, surrounded by Coozie, Twisto, Meeka, Bobo, Lealea, and Moe, three cats and three dogs, respectively. Townsfolk were helpful after the sad event. Each of the animals found a home in Maple Valley before old Palmer was laid down easy.

Tourists who visit Maple Valley often ask about O’Dillmotte’s Funeral Parlor. It’s not often one sees a funeral business decorated with bright colors and shrubs cut in the shape of dolphins and unicorns. Visitors are also curious about the slogan, “Where We Lay You Down Easy.” It’s not difficult to explain. Funeral services at O’Dillmotte’s cost $147.98, and in four easy installments, that’s just $36.99 each. You see, Quintin O’Dillmotte is also a carpenter. He makes the coffins himself, which are all identical. He also owns the cemetery, which is located just the other side of three tower bridge. The property has been in the O’Dillmotte family since the earliest settlers made a home in Maple Valley. In their time of grief, families do not have to ponder coffin styles, cemetery plots, sermons, music, or transportation. Each funeral is exactly the same as the last, all provided by Quintin O’Dillmotte. Somehow, the folks of Maple Valley are completely happy with the services he provides. Oddly enough.

The business of planning the Maple Valley Independence Day Celebration keeps Quintin completely occupied. Yesterday, he contacted Master Kafflen, head of the local Young Hopefuls Club, which is a preparatory platform for those who wish to be Young High-Minded Individuals one day. Sylvia Meisner was chosen as a delegate to the National Convention of High-Minded Individuals. Master Kafflen’s real name is Able, but since the leader of the Young Hopefuls Club is known as the Master, Able prefers to be called Master Kafflen. No one argues with him, it’s not worth the trouble.

Quintin hopes to have a parade and wants the Young Hopefuls Club to lead the procession. They will be followed by the Retired Equine Services Organization, which includes three horses and their owners, the Cake-Bakers Anonymous Support Group, the Happy Harmonettes, which is a quartet of women, all in their eighties, who have been trying to sing together since high school. They hope to one day be invited to perform outside Maple Valley. This year, O’Dillmotte is working with great effort to have a trailer with a public address system and plans to invite Derwood Finster, master bird-caller, perform in the parade as the Grand Master. Finster is well known for having appeared on the WREK TV Children’s Hour with Mr. Dimples.

The Maple Valley Independence Day Celebration is obviously in very capable hands, the previous year, notwithstanding.

Sheriff Pete Terkinberry is still recovering from his dealings with the Burthrap twins. Right now, he is sitting at his desk in his office, considering how he might have handled the situation differently. The Kertok County Sheriff’s Department is in Pete’s kitchen. He doesn’t mind having his office at home, it saves having to drive the county patrol car anywhere, saving money for the county which tends to be in short supply.

The sheriff is thinking it might have been advisable to stand outside the Burthrap’s house and let the twins fight it out. Then, if either of them were hurt, arrest the other for assault. But since Ver and Vee are known around Maple Valley for their arguments, the uproar over the sheriff arresting one of them would be worse than the damage either could possibly do to the other.

Sheriff Terkinberry is still listening to discussions about what might have happened to Sylvia Meisner. At this point, the most outrageous has been the suggestion to ask a psychic where Sylvia might be. Pete laughed at the idea initially, but is actually thinking it might provide something for folks to talk about, taking their attention off themselves.

The sheriff has not decided whether to move the car from under three tower bridge. He’s fearful of destroying evidence, even though he has searched the area many times. He’s feeling the urge to search it again.