Scandal at Maple Valley – Episode 27: The Pancake-Off Fiasco

So much has happened in Maple Valley it’s difficult to know where to start.

Here we are in the dog days of summer, and Maple Valley School is already preparing for the first day of the new year. Students can’t wait to get back in the class room.

We are obviously well into the tourist season, and so far, the numbers have been good to Maple Valley businesses. Karpin Nickwall at Nickwall’s Genuine Maple Valley Candy has reported sales surpassing last season by 7%.

Hupgern’s Dairy has completely sold out of their famous homemade cheese curd ice cream twice. The next most favorite flavor is oyster on the half-cone. Marv Hupgern makes all the ice cream at the store and visitors can watch him.

The Founder’s Day celebration was a huge success. The Old General performed beautifully. Visitors can’t get enough of the General whether they’re watching or riding. I can’t either. I’ve been able to sit at the throttle twice and it never gets old.

The featured band was Hank Rider and the Saddlehorns. It always amazes me that my neighbors in Maple Valley know the words to all these country songs.

By far, the most requested song of the night was, “I’ll Bet You Three Biscuits!” Other great hits were, “Don’t Waste My Lard”, “Fry That Fish One More Time”, “Boot Fuzz Whiskey”, “She Loves Me For My Grits”, “I Can’t Help It If My Horse Likes Beer”, and finally, “You Ain’t Better Than My Ma”. It was a fantastic show that lasted well beyond ten o’clock.

The Annual Pancake-Off is a favorite event for residents and visitors. This year, the pancake-off played a more significant role because the funds raised were donated to the cause of finding Sylvia Meisner.

The event is a competition between all those who believe their pancakes are the best. Large griddles are set up on the front porches of the contestants and folks can go from porch to porch to sample the pancakes.

Shorty Cloverton always expects to win but never does. Clem Bittlefin is the champion, three years running. His batter is a secret even Mara, Clem’s wife, doesn’t know.

This year’s contest became something of a fiasco when Mayor Thrashborn and Sheriff Terkinberry, two of the four contest judges, got into a heated discussion that seemed to have nothing to do with pancakes. Those who were close by said they were arguing about a phone call. That’s all anyone knows. The mayor walked away from the sheriff and the contest. It was embarrassing.

After the pancake-off was over, when asked about the confrontation, Pete Terkinberry said it was nobody’s business. That answer seemed out of character for a man so well respected as the sheriff.

The prize for the fifteenth annual Maple Valley Founder’s Day Celebration Pancake-Off, to everyone’s surprise, was awarded to Ver and Vee Burthrap for their Jalapeño Surprise Buttermilk Pancakes. Photos were taken and will appear on the front page of the Kertok County Advertiser.

As a result of the pancake-off being used as a fund raiser, three thousand seven hundred and five dollars was added to the Find Sylvia Meisner Fund.

A hearty “Thank You!” to all who participated in and donated to the Founder’s Day Celebration Pancake-Off.

Scandal at Maple Valley – Episode 26: Events Turn

There’s good and weird news coming out of Maple Valley. Folks have been waiting for months to hear about the suit that was brought against Shorty Cloverton and several members of the town council including Sheriff Pete Terkinberry and Mayor Alvin Thrashborn.

For those who may not know, which, not ever wandering very far from Maple Valley, I honestly don’t know how that’s possible. But, last fall, a woman named Madeline Overweist stepped out of the Ya’ll Sit Cafe, walked a few steps, and a bat landed on her face. Mrs. Overweist, a visitor to Maple Valley who had come to town on The General, did not survive the shock.

Several weeks passed after the incident. Shorty Cloverton, owner of the cafe, was surprised by a stranger who gave him a large envelope from attorneys Skellson & Skellson. The family of Mrs. Overweist brought a suit against the town council and everyone on the BAT Strategic Health Investigation Team. The papers said all of them were at fault because they knew there were bats in Maple Valley.

The defendants almost didn’t make it beyond the depositions. Quintin O’Dillmotte could have been a witness for Skellson. He kept saying too much when he was answering questions.

“Mr. O’Dillmotte, tell us, what is your responsibility as a member of the BAT Strategic Health Investigation Team?” Mr. Skellson asked.

“Please, sir, call me Quintin.”

“Ok, Quintin, thank you. Would you like me to repeat the question?”

“No, I can tell you. I’ll be honest, I told everyone we have a serious bat problem and it’s going to be a sad day in Maple Valley when someone is attacked by one of these vicious creatures.”

“Quintin!!” hollered defense attorney, Kelso Mackverd. “Just answer the question, and nothing more!”

Quintin continued, “I have been on the BAT team for seven years. During that time we have literally done nothing to alleviate the bat problem in Maple Valley.”

“Quintin!! Stop!” demanded Mackverd. “Can we take a quick break?” he asked.

“Yes,” answered Skellson.

When the process resumed, Quintin looked like a scolded school boy. From then on he said little more than “Affirmative”, or “Negative”.

To everyone’s surprise, the judge in the case dismissed the suit. He said, in spite of the tragic events, no one could have known, under any circumstances, what an individual bat would do at any time. Complete control is impossible. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief.

The other news involves Sylvia Meisner, who has been missing for more than a year. Sheriff Pete received a phone call in the middle of the night. The female voice said, “What is wrong with you people? You can’t see the forest for the trees. Your answer is right under your nose.”

“Who is this?” Pete asked. The caller hung up. He spent the next two hours sitting on the side of his bed, going through scenarios in his mind of what the call might mean. Was it Sylvia? How could it be? If it was Sylvia, where has she been, and why? If it wasn’t Sylvia, who was it and what did she mean the answer is right under our nose?

At daylight, Pete called Alvin and told him about the call.

“The answer is right under our nose?” Alvin asked.

“That’s what she said.”

“Did you recognize the voice? Did it sound like Sylvia?” Alvin asked.

“She did, a little bit. Or maybe I just wanted her to sound like Sylvia,” Pete answered.

“This is so crazy. First don’t stop looking, now this,” Alvin said.

“Listen,” Pete said, “don’t tell anyone about this, especially Quintin. Don’t tell anyone. I want to wait and see if anything else happens in the next few days.”

“Right, right. No, I won’t tell Quintin, or anyone else,” Alvin said, thinking about who he could tell first.

“Alvin, please, I’m telling you as the sheriff. Don’t tell anyone. I mean it. I could actually charge you if it gets back to me that you talked about this.”

“What do you mean, charge me?” Alvin asked loudly.

“I could charge you with hindering an investigation,” Pete answered.

“You would do that?!” Alvin asked.

“I’m going to tell you again. Do not tell anyone about the call,” the sheriff said.

“Pete, you worry to much.”

“Alvin!! Are you listening to me?!”

“I hear you, Pete. Come on, we’re friends.”

“Yes, we’re friends, and I’m the sheriff, and I’m still investigating the disappearance of Sylvia Meisner. Don’t mess this up!!”

“Thanks a lot,” Alvin said.

“I’m just trying my best to find Sylvia or find out what happened to her. This is driving me crazy. I think I might be getting somewhere and then I end up no where. I’ve never seen anything like this in my life. If it was Sylvia who called me, why wouldn’t she tell me? She has to know we’re looking for her. Why wouldn’t she just say, ‘This is Sylvia, Pete, how are you?’ Sometimes I feel like giving up. But, somehow, some way, I have to find her,” Pete said. “Do you know what I mean, Alvin?”

“Alvin? Alvin, are you still there?”

Scandal at Maple Valley – Episode 25: Finding Sylvia Meisner

Everyone loves a parade, and the good folks in Maple Valley are no exception. When news quickly reached everyone that Sheriff Pete Terkinberry would soon patrol the three streets of town in a new squad car, excited anticipation of a parade swept like a wind-blown grass fire.

From one end of town to the other, neighbors gathered in the streets to watch the sheriff drive by in his new car. They waved, shouted, laughed, and a few cried. The dream of Maple Valley having its own police car finally came true.

The patrol car isn’t new. The Maple Valley council purchased it from the Chicago Police Department. It only has 61,000 miles on it, so folks here believe it was a good investment. Sheriff Pete is happier than anyone else. He’s been patrolling in his own car since he took office fourteen years ago when his father, Sheriff Wilton Chase Terkinberry passed away after thirty-four years as Sheriff of Terkot County.

Folks in Maple Valley are happy with any reason to have a parade. Believe it or not, last summer there was a parade because Hazel Wiklaten’s spaniel, Gertrude, had twelve healthy puppies. They were loaded into the bed of Berton Pilshur’s old pickup truck and before he reached the end of First Street, crowds of people stood on their porches waving as the twelve grand marshalls rolled by.

That parade went a long way to support rumors that Berton has eyes for Hazel. His wife Nellie passed away eight years ago. Hazel has been alone since her husband, Maxil Ned Wiklaten III, went on to his barn in the sky nine years ago. A year after Nellie died, neighbors saw Berton talking to Hazel over the fence. There’s been talk ever since.

With the arrival of the new police car, there seems to be more determination to find Sylvia Meisner. Certainly, with this fine new used patrol car, there won’t be any reason why answers to this year long mystery can’t be found. Sylvia is sure to come home now.

It’s good that the arguing over the cost of sending the sheriff and mayor to Chicago to pick up the new police car has ended. The vote to send the two officials was a tie. Since the mayor holds a higher office, he said his vote carried more weight, thereby causing the motion to pass. Well, that brought some of the folks attending the meeting to their feet. A few walked out. Nothing unusual for Maple Valley council meetings.

Scandal at Maple Valley – Episode 24: Don’t Stop Looking

Sheriff Pete couldn’t drag the phrase from his mind. “Don’t Stop Looking!” Vee Burthrap had told him. “What does that even mean?” he thought, walking toward the cafe.

After the horrible dream Pete had a few nights ago, he was hesitant about going back to the Ya’ll Sit, but he needed a cup of coffee and didn’t want to make it himself.

“Hi Pete!” Hannah called from behind the counter when the sheriff walked through the front door.

“Hello, Hannah!” the sheriff answered, feeling a shadow lift from his mind. “Is the coffee any good today?”

“Always good, always ready!” Shorty Cloverton said, walking out of the kitchen with a big tray of fresh cinnamon buns. “How about a C-bun to go with that coffee, Pete?”

“I think I’ll just have coffee,” Pete answered. He caught himself staring at the table by the door where he sat in the nightmare.

“Suit yourself, Sheriff, but these are warm and the icing is running off like a spring thaw.”

“Okay, okay, you convinced me. Bring one over here,” Pete said.

Shorty scooped a cinnamon bun from the tray and put it on a plate, making sure to slather it with extra icing. “Shame about Vee Burthrap, isn’t it?” Shorty said, putting the plate on the table and pouring Pete a warm-up.

“What are you talking about?” the sheriff asked.

“Vee Burthrap was taken to the hospital last night. Her sister called the ambulance because Vee was acting strange.”

“Why wasn’t I called?” Pete asked. “I didn’t know anything about this.”

“I don’t know, Pete. I only know Ver called an ambulance and Vee is in the hospital,” Shorty answered.

Pete had a strange feeling. He wondered whether this had anything to do with Vee’s idea about the letters, DSL. “This is stupid!” Pete thought. “It’s a coincidence and nothing more.” Pete finished his breakfast and headed for the hospital.

“Don’t stop looking. Don’t stop looking for what?” Pete thought as he drove. “If it does mean ‘don’t stop looking’ for Sylvia, who wrote it? Who cut the letters into the bridge? Is Sylvia still alive? Is the person who took her toying with us?”

When the sheriff arrived at the hospital, he stepped from his car and heard a person yelling.

“Don’t stop looking!!” someone hollered.

Pete turned to see where the voice was coming from. He saw a woman in a back yard calling toward a boy who was running.

“Don’t stop looking!” she hollered louder. “You find your bicycle before you come back! Don’t stop looking!”

Pete felt stunned. “This can’t be real! What is happening to me!” he thought as he continued watching the woman yelling at her son.

The sheriff walked into the hospital and approached the front desk. A doctor stepped through a door and called back toward the hall. “Don’t stop looking for that file! I need it to see it before we can proceed,” he said to someone Pete couldn’t see.

The receptionist said, “Vee Burthrap is in room 214. Take the hall to the left and the elevator or the stairs to the second floor and turn right.”

Sheriff Pete thanked her and walked toward the elevator. The doors opened just as he reached it. Three people were inside, deep in conversation. “I told her, ‘don’t stop looking, you’ll find it if you don’t stop looking.’ I hope she took my advice,” one woman said to another. Pete stared at them and they stepped wide of him as they left the elevator.

He found room 214 and Pete knocked on the door. Hearing no answer, he knocked again.

“Don’t stop looking! Don’t stop looking!” came a woman’s voice from inside the room. Pete pushed through the door.

Vee Burthrap seemed to be sound asleep. “Don’t stop looking!” she moaned again and again.

“Vee, Vee…” Pete said as he gently shook her arm.

Vee’s sightless eyes were wide open, looking far beyond Pete Terkinberry. With a loud voice she again said, “Don’t stop looking! Don’t stop looking!”

The sheriff recalled the feeling he had the night he opened Sylvia Meisner’s house to Miss Wonderment, the so-called psychic. What crawled over him now was far worse.

He more firmly grasped Vee’s arm and shook, “Vee!”

Vee Burthrap sat straight up in the bed and screamed. Pete jumped back and tripped over the bedside table sending a lunch tray crashing to the floor. Pete landed on top of the mashed potatoes and gravy.

“Sheriff! What are you doing here?” Vee asked.

Pete wiped the mess from his pants as he stood up. “Vee, I just found out you were in the hospital and I came to check on you. What were you dreaming about?” he asked.

“I wasn’t dreaming about anything, why?”

“You kept saying, ‘Don’t stop looking,'” Pete answered.

“Why would I say that? Don’t stop looking for what?”

“More like ‘who?’ you mean.”

Scandal at Maple Valley – Episode 23

Sheriff Pete walked into the Ya’ll Sit Cafe on Monday morning, just like he does every week. Something felt different. He didn’t know what it was, but he had the eerie sense he should sit by the door instead of taking his usual seat at the counter.

“Good morning, Hannah!” he said.

Hannah Cloverton looked up but said nothing.

Pete noticed a few people turned to look at him. He knew them and nodded. Nothing.

He picked up a copy of the Maple Valleyan and was surprised to see his name on the front page. “Questions Swirl Around Sheriff Terkinberry” the headline read in bold letters. “What is this?!” he almost said outloud.

Hannah startled him and Pete dropped the paper face down. “Do you want to order, Sheriff Terkinberry?” Hannah asked.

Pete saw a stranger in his friend’s eyes. “Hannah, you haven’t ever called me ‘Sheriff Terkinberry’. What’s going on?”

“Would you like to order now?” she asked.

“Yes, Hannah, I’ll have the same thing I’ve had every Monday morning since the first time I came in for breakfast twelve years ago.”

“What would that be, Sheriff?” Hannah Cloverton asked.

“Hannah, what is going on? Are you okay? Is something wrong?” Pete asked.

“No, sir, why do you ask?”

“Why do I ask? Are you kidding me? You just called me ‘Sir’!”

“Sheriff Terkinberry, would you like something to eat, or not?”

“Yes. I’ll have two scrambled eggs with onion, bacon, hashbrowns, toast, and coffee. Please,” Pete said, perturbed.

Hannah wrote the order down as if she hadn’t heard it a hundred times before and might forget. She left without saying anything more and returned to the kitchen.

Pete picked up the paper once again and started reading.

“Questions regarding the behavior of Sheriff Pete Terkinberry have residents of Maple Valley concerned. A confidential source told this reporter, ‘Sheriff Pete Terkinberry allows people to see him in his boxer shorts.’ This reporter asked, point blank, ‘How confident are you that Terkinberry wears boxers? Could you be mistaken?’ My source responded, ‘I don’t make mistakes like this.’

“Outrage has swept across this town. With tourist season just a few weeks away, shock, dismay, and horror are words that have been spoken in the wake of this devastating news.

“Questions roar in everyone’s mind. Will Sheriff Pete Terkinberry resign? Will he be removed from office? Will the town council act quickly enough to repair the tattered remains of this battered community.

“This reporter has been on the front lines of news for several months. I can tell you, without equivocation, this has shaken Maple Valley to its core.

“I’m on the scene for you. Derk Quimberz, reporter, The Maple Valleyan.”

Someone grabbed Pete Terkinberry’s shoulder and shook him. “Pete!! Pete!!”

Pete opened his eyes and was surprised to see his own bedroom, with Alvin Thrashborn standing over him.

“Are you alright?! You were yelling about someone named Derk Quimberz! Who is that?!” Alvin asked.

“What are you doing here?!” Pete yelled.

“Don’t you remember? We were supposed to go fishing this morning. I banged on the door but you didn’t answer, then I heard you yelling, so I came in. Your door was unlocked.” Alvin said.

“It’s always unlocked.” Pete said, sitting on the edge of his bed, trying to find his way through the fog.

“Get up, we have an appointment with several big bass,” Alvin said, walking out of the room.

“Who is Derk Quimberz?!” Alvin yelled from the kitchen.

“I don’t know! Some reporter who doesn’t like boxer shorts!”

Scandal at Maple Valley – Episode 22

Three Tower Bridge with track deck and timbers holding the bridge in place.

Poor Sylvia Meisner. Sylvia disappeared from Maple Valley almost a year ago. Poor Sylvia Meisner. She has missed so much in her little home town. Folks still talk about her. There are a few who believe they know what happened to her. Most don’t pay any attention to them, which makes the believers even more sure they know the truth.

After Vee Burthrap left Sheriff Terkinberry’s kitchen, she wandered around town as if in a daze. She bumped into Quintin O’Dillmotte and didn’t even say excuse me, which upset Quintin. He decided to give Pete a call and tell him about Vee’s rudeness.

“Sheriff?”

“Yes, this is Pete, Quintin. What can I do for you?” Quintin O’Dillmotte has an odd voice. Everyone knows who it is when he calls. His voice sounds like a mixture of gravel and explosive diarrhea.

“I want to report an assault,” O’Dillmotte said loudly.

“What assault? What are you talking about, Quintin?”

“I was assaulted by Vee Burthrap over on First Street?”

“Vee Burthrap never hurt a fly in her life. What happened?” Sheriff Pete asked.

“I was walking along, heading back to the funeral home from Ya’ll Sit, after I ate my muffin and finished my coffee.”

“And?” Pete asked.

“And what?”

“Quintin! You said you were assaulted by Vee Burthrap. What happened?!” the Sheriff shouted.

“Oh! Right! Well, I was walking along, and all of a sudden someone ran into me. It was Vee Burthrap! She just ran into me and kept right on going. She didn’t stop, didn’t say excuse me, didn’t look at me. I was assaulted and I want something done about it.”

“Did she hit, push, shove, kick, or knock you down?” the sheriff asked.

“No, but she bumped into me really hard.”

Pete thought about the conversation he had with Vee in his kitchen when she insisted she knew what the letters D-S-L meant. “Don’t stop looking!” she shouted.

“Quintin, what time was this?”

“It was about ten minutes ago,” he answered.

“I think I know what happened,” Pete said. “Vee was at my house this morning.”

“What? Why was she at your house,” O’Dillmotte asked in a hush, as if he was about to hear a wonderful tidbit of forbidden gossip.

“She thinks she knows what D-S-L means. She came running in my back door without knocking and I was standing in the kitchen in my boxer shorts. She was hollering “Don’t stop looking! Don’t stop looking!”

“Don’t stop looking for what?” Quintin asked.

“Don’t stop looking for Sylvia!” Pete yelled.

“Oh! Oh! Don’t stop looking for Sylvia. Oh. She saw you in your boxers?”

“Yes, Quintin, she saw me in my boxers, but I’m not sure she noticed.”

“Why wouldn’t she notice? Has she seen your boxers before?”

“Quintin!! Of course not!” Pete yelled into the phone. “Let’s get back to the reason you called!”

“Oh, right. She assaulted me.”

“Quintin, Vee Burthrap did not assault you. She ran into you because she was thinking about her conversation with me and not watching where she was going. Does that sound about right?”

“Why wasn’t she looking where she was going?” Quintin asked.

“I think she was upset about talking to me,” Pete answered.

“Was it because of your boxer shorts?”

“Quintin, I have things to do. Are you finished?” the sheriff asked, exasperated.

“I just think it’s strange she saw you in your boxers,” Quintin said. “Don’t you?”

“Quintin, I’m going to say this slowly. You called me to report an assault. You said you were assaulted by Vee Burthrap.”

“I was.”

“No, you weren’t. She bumped into you. You were upset because she didn’t apologize, she didn’t stop and make sure you were alright. I’m quite sure she was thinking about Sylvia and about talking with me. Oh, and another thing, Quintin,” the sheriff continued. “I’m upset with you about telling Vee about the cookies we received before Christmas.”

“What cookies?” Quintin asked.

“Quintin, are you feeling alright? You sound like you’re sleeping. The cookies several of us recieved with the letters D-S-L on top. Remember?!”

“Oh, those cookies. Yes. I remember,” he answered.

“Do you remember me telling all of you not to tell anyone about it because I thought it would give us an advantage if people were talking about it even though we didn’t tell anyone?”

“Uh, I guess so,” Quintin answered.

“So, why did you tell Vee Burthrap?” Pete asked.

“I didn’t tell her,” O’Dillmotte said.

“You didn’t tell her about the cookies with the letters on top? She said you told her,” the sheriff said.

“Oh, I guess I did.”

“Right. Case dismissed, Quintin. Maybe you ran into Vee. Were you reading the newspaper while you were walking?” Pete asked.

“Yes. I always do. You know that,” Quintin answered.

“Goodbye, Quintin.”

“Bye, Pete.”

Quintin O’Dillmottee decided to walk back up to the Ya’ll Sit for another cup of coffee. He was exhausted after talking with the sheriff.

“Good morning, Alvin!” Quintin said when he saw the mayor walking.

“Quintin, how are you?”

O’Dillmotte and Alvin Thrashborn stood along First Street.

“Listen, Alvin, did you know Vee Burthrap saw Pete in his boxer shorts?”

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 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 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 8

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I was.

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

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

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

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

“Was your only injury on your cheek?”

“Yes.”

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

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

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

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