Scandal at Maple Valley – Episode 20: The Bat Suit

Christmas in Maple Valley has come and gone. Intense anticipation in the weeks before Christmas keeps everyone in good moods and actions with lots of “Merry Christmas” and “Happy New Year” greetings in the streets and shops. Hundreds of visitors came to town on The Old General just to take in the sights and sounds of Christmas in Maple Valley.

Just as they planned, Shorty and Hannah’s Ya’ll Sit Cafe was constantly crowded with happy shoppers looking for that perfect cup of hot chocolate which they were proud to provide. Christmas carolers walked the streets of town every night singing to visitor and resident hearts’ content. Carrying an accurate tune in Maple Valley, especially at Christmas time is not important. Tempo and tune mean nothing. Joy is everything, so, the range of talent and lack of it is broad and obvious.

The wonderful Christmas season was not without difficulty, however. If something is going to go wrong, it happens in Maple Valley. Everyone looked forward to the Maple Valley Church choir performance of “Hey Now, Hit That Gong,” the musical written entirely by Martha Hilmandy. After months of rehearsals, the time for the special concert finally came. The Maple Valley School cafetorium was rented because Maple Valley Church will only seat seventy-three people. It proved to be a wise decision because ninety-six people attended.

Rumors swept through town that what happened at the concert was planned. “Nothing could be further from the truth,” Martha scolded emphatically. As if on some kind of cosmic cue, when the choir reached the point in the theme song, “…angels sing along, joining a mighty throng, swells the happy song, hey now, hit that gong” a table at the back of the room loaded with plates of cookies collapsed with a huge crash. No one would purposely destroy a whole table of cookies just to make a point. It was a Christmas surprise no one will ever forget.

As expected, Dray and Morella Grimhok won the Christmas decorating competition. Alvin Thrashborn was disappointed, but promises to win the contest next year.

An important milestone for The Old General is the test required by the Railroad Safety Administration. As part of the certification for the Maple Valley Railroad, The Old General must run two complete circuits on the main line, pulling six freight cars. The Old General only pulls three passenger cars at a time. Once the process is complete, the MVRR is approved to run for another year.

Running the main line is exciting for the crew of The Old General. The Maple Valley Railroad line is a fifteen mile segment with a few curves. The train operates between Whistleton and Maple Valley, moving forward to Maple Valley, reverse to Whistleton. Running The Old General on a main line for close to seventy miles is much more challenging, and fun.

Folks know how important it is for the Maple Valley Railroad to complete its annual mainline run, so there is a great celebration when The Old General returns to town.

A great crowd, led by Mayor Alvin Thrashborn, cheers as The Old General rolls back into Maple Valley.

The end of the Christmas season brought a challenge a few people suspected might happen. Indeed, it has. Last Tuesday, a man walked into the Ya’ll Sit Cafe and ordered a cup of coffee. As he waited patiently for a cup to be poured he asked if the manager was available.

“The manager?” Shorty asked.

“Yes, I’m looking for Shorty Cloverton,” the man answered.

“You found him, friend. What’s your name?” Shorty asked, holding out his hand.

“My name doesn’t matter, but this does,” the man said as he pulled an envelope from his pocket and placed it Shorty’s outstretched hand. “You’ve been served,” he said.

Shorty stood with confusion on his face as the man put on his coat and left the cafe. He looked at the envelope and read the return address, “Skellson and Skellson, Attorneys at Law, 1215 Wilingman Street, Moison, Iowa.” It was addressed to him.

Shorty sat down at the table and opened the envelope. Shorty Cloverton, Hannah Cloverton, Alvin Thrashborn, Quintin O’Dillmotte, Able Kafflen, Henry Brimmerton, Stew Hanmin, Harden Sievers, Pete Terkinberry, Anabel Wizzleby, and Wanita Havertons, all members of the BAT Strategic Health Investigation Team, are named in a law suit brought by the family of Madeline Overweist. Mrs. Overweist was the victim of a bat landing on her face outside the Ya’ll Sit Cafe. She did not survive the shock. The suit accuses the team of knowing the bat problem existed prior to her visit to Maple Valley and did not protect her from the possibility of a bat attack.

The mystery surrounding the disappearance of Sylvia Meisner continues. Months have passed since she was last seen, and not a single piece of solid evidence has led to any knowledge of her whereabouts. But, there is DSL, the letters found scratched into the timbers of Three Tower Bridge. A group hanging Christmas lights on the towers found the letters and reported it to Sheriff Pete. He took photos of the letters, but little more has happened since. That is, until Christmas Eve.

Late on Christmas Eve, plates of cookies were found on the front porch of Pete Terkinberry, Alvin Thashborn, and the Cloverton’s homes. Each plate of cookies appeared to be homemade, and each had a small piece of paper taped to the wrapping with the letters “D-S-L” printed on it. Each spoke with the others, and no one saw anything. The plates of cookies just seemed to appear. No explanation.

Life in Maple Valley really is great. Some times are greater than others, but Maple Valley folks always seem to find their way through. Hopefully, this will be no different.

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!!”

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 15

This is just what the quiet little tourist town of Maple Valley needed. First, Sylvia Meisner disappears without a trace. Folks here are still in stir about it. Sheriff Pete Terkinberry is almost at his wits end, not to mention he’s still healing from a bad fall in Sylvia’s basement. There have been rumblings of replacing the sheriff with someone who can solve the case. I don’t know what else could be done at this point. There is no evidence leading anywhere!

Next, there was the effort to delay the start of tourist season which almost caused an uprising. Then it was discovered Randy Herbahl forgot to invite Buck Wills and the Wagoneers to the Founders Day Celebration. Lucky for Randy, the group was still able to come. I’m quite sure he would have been run out of town if the Happy Harmonettes became the entertainment for the event because of his mistake.

Now it seems we have another emergency.

Maple Valley folks were shocked this morning to discover a huge flying ship had landed over Wittington. The circumstances are similar to Sylvia’s disappearance, and they are equally disturbing. No one heard the ship land. No one knows where it came from. Folks were not even sure what it was until someone climbed up on the Maple Valley River Trestle and took a picture of it. It does indeed appear to be a flying ship of some kind.

The Maple Valley Council is in an uproar because Mayor Thrashborn activated the Gulliver Emergency Response Team without their approval. This is just not done in Maple Valley. No other mayor in the history of Maple Valley has dared to activate the emergency response team without council approval. There will definitely be an investigation after the emergency has been resolved.

The response team, which consists of several residents of Maple Valley, made its way to the site where the craft landed. So far, the team has done nothing except stand and watch. There does not appear to be any danger at this time.

For now, the emergency response team will keep a close eye on the craft and report back to Mayor Thrashborn. The only comment made by anyone on the team is that the being inside the craft appears to be humanoid, and is rather good looking. “If he were the same size as other folks in Maple Valley, he might even be one of us” someone was heard to say.

My suspicion is a simple explanation will be discovered. Unlike the disappearance of Sylvia Meisner, this craft is tangible. It has shape and size. It appears to be somewhat familiar, even inviting. The very troubling thing at this point, is the craft is blocking the railroad lines. Freight and passengers will not be able to move until the craft is either moved, or leaves of its own accord, which is rather frightening. No contact has been made with the being in the craft. Although the being has a humanoid appearance, there is no indication of an attempt to communicate.

This episode could also have been titled, “This is What Happens When You Have One Too Many Hobbies.”

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 13

It was really only a matter of time before the search for Sylvia Meisner became more serious. Oh, not that folks haven’t been serious already, they are. They’re serious about a lot of things like taking care of all the visitors to Maple Valley that arrive, literally, by the trainload every day. They’re serious about making sure no one else in Maple Valley knows more about Sylvia than they do.

In spite of our many flaws, the folks in Maple Valley do really care about Sylvia and we wish her back. But with everything that has happened in town since she disappeared, I wonder what kind of place Sylvia would return to if she walked back into town today. There have been arguments with participants almost becoming physical. Rumors became gospel. Some close friends are distant because they don’t agree on what steps should be taken to bring Sylvia home. I don’t understand how they can argue about bringing her home when they don’t know where she is!

The Burthrap twins, Ver and Vee, were at it again yesterday, but this time Sheriff Terkinberry left them alone even though Nona Merthon called him four times while the twins were screaming at each other. Nona couldn’t tell the sheriff exactly what they were arguing about, she just assumed it was about Sylvia again. For all she knew, they might have been fighting about whose turn it was to do the dishes or clean the toilet.

Things have been pretty quiet at the Ya’ll Sit Cafe. Shorty and Hannah work very hard to keep up with all the patrons who come in on the Old General. It seems the first thing folks do is head for the cafe. Maple Valley has succeeded in creating a mystical sort of feeling that makes visitors want to stay, and staying always includes eating, or maybe just drinking coffee. I happen to believe Hannah Cloverton makes the best coffee anywhere in Kertok County.

The cafe is a favorite spot for townsfolk, too. It’s not very big, but then nothing in Maple Valley is. Except for the railroad. The cafe sits in the middle of town where it was built as a saloon in 1892. The saloon closed in 1907 and the Ya’ll Sit Cafe opened the following year. Shorty’s great grandfather, Morris Cloverton, was the first owner and cook. The Cloverton family has owned it ever since. The tables are square, seating four. There are three long tables with room for eight, and, oddly enough, those are the ones preferred by customers. The walls are a light blue, the curtains are red and white checkered. The floor is the original wood boards. The kitchen is not hidden in the back but is open for everyone to see. Shorty enjoys talking to patrons as he prepares their orders. Hannah waits on customers and pours coffee. A favorite among customers is Shorty’s pancakes and eggs breakfast. He doesn’t share his recipe with anyone. I eat breakfast at the cafe every Monday morning because it’s the best way to start the week.

You probably noticed Beulah Filden and Lulane Hilvertosh in the photo. The two seem to create trouble, or at least talk about trouble, wherever they go, and it’s not surprising they showed up at Sylvia Meisner’s house. (In case you don’t know, they’re the two are standing over on the left, and you can tell just by looking at them they’re gossiping. Beulah is wearing the red hat. Lulane is filling her ear to the brim.) Beulah hasn’t been seen outside much since she tried to pass a petition to postpone the start of tourist season. Maple Valley folks were pretty upset about that. Evidently, enough time has past so Lulane and Beulah are back to their old habits.

The news of the day and the reason so many people are standing around Sylvia’s house is Sheriff Terkinberry went to court in Kertok County for a search warrant so he could enter Sylvia’s home. While he would have preferred to keep that news quiet, search warrants are routinely published in the Kertok Weekly. The sheriff’s plan was known throughout Maple Valley before he had a chance to search the house. True to every characteristic of Maple Valley, folks were outside the house waiting to get the inside story before anyone else could.

Sheriff Terkinberry wasn’t surprised to find the front door of Sylvia’s house unlocked. Folks in Maple Valley don’t often lock their doors, but in this case the sheriff felt an intense concern. If Sylvia planned to be gone for a prolonged period of time, she certainly would not have left the door open. At first glance, nothing seemed to be out of order. Everything in the living room was undisturbed. A hardcover novel on a table caught the sheriff’s attention. He carefully picked up “Death Calls at Midnight,” by Shander Noffsin, and opened the front cover. Inside was written, “To Sylvia from your Special Friend.” “Who is the special friend?” the sheriff thought, “and why was the book signed that way? Does special mean ‘secret?’ Does special mean ‘admirer?’ Does Sylvia know who this special person is, or was he or she a mystery? And why capitalize special friend?” The thoughts racing through Terkinberry’s head only made his job more difficult.

He walked into the kitchen and his concern increased. In the sink were several knives. It appeared they had been used and washed, dried, but then left in the sink. A folded towel was lying nearby. The sheriff noticed a plant on the window sill was beginning to wilt and thought it strange the plant was still alive when Sylvia has been missing for a month. He looked back into the living room and noticed another plant in the same condition. Still alive.

A feeling of dread crept over his body as the sheriff opened the refrigerator. He knew the contents would clearly reveal Sylvia’s intentions when she left home the last time. Inside was an unopened container of milk, some fruit, a small jar of jelly, and something very strange. Lying on the bottom shelf was what appeared to be a fresh rose, with a note beside it. “To Sylvia from your Special Friend.” The dread the sheriff felt was turning to full alarm.

Sheriff Terkinberry climbed the stairs to examine the bedrooms. One bed was neatly made but with no pillows. The other bed was made but several pillows were piled up. He assumed, because of other furniture in the room the first was the main bedroom. Why did Sylvia have so many pillows piled up in the second bedroom?

The bathroom produced even more questions. The medicine cabinet was completely empty, which calmed the sheriff a little because Sylvia would have taken most of the items if she was going on a planned trip. The bathtub, however, caused more questions. It was filthy. It looked as if someone bathed a dog with a terrible shedding problem. He couldn’t explain it.

The place he dreaded the most was saved for last. Swallowed by the dark and wet basement, he stumbled over something as he tried to find the light. This was the first time since becoming sheriff Pete Terkinberry wished he had chosen another job.

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.

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.