Kevin Slimp: Lennox Valley: The perfect scheme: Faith Hill unknowingly inspires underdog

Lennox_art-fullBy Kevin Slimp

Syndicated Columnist
When the good folks of Lennox Valley began to stir on Friday morning, many wondered if the events of Thursday evening had been a dream. Let’s face it — most of the previous six months seemed like a nightmare, so why should election night have been any different?

As coffee began brewing and phones began ringing, it was soon apparent Thursday night had not been a dream, and there were more questions than there had been just 24 hours earlier.

Did Juliet Stoughton really keep Raymond Cooper from winning the election outright, forcing a run-off? Did Earl Goodman and Marvin Walsh really get arrested for disturbing the peace after rushing the stage following the mayoral election count while shouting at the election officials? Did anyone bail Goodman and Walsh out, or were they still sitting in the lone Lennox Valley jail cell?

Iris Long slept less than three hours, working past midnight in an unsuccessful attempt to get interviews with all three candidates. She also attempted to interview Chief Dibble, but he would have none of it. He had just prevented a riot from overtaking our peaceful Valley, arresting two of the town’s leading citizens in the process.

The Hoffbrau opened at 6:30 a.m. for breakfast, and Iris was there when Sarah Hyden-Smith and Juliet Stoughton arrived at 6:35. All three were exhausted from the events of the previous evening, but none as tired as Iris. She was, after all, older than both her cohorts combined.

The run-off was a mere six days away. While it seemed reasonable to assume Stoughton could keep her voters, it was absurd to imagine all of “Silver Tongue” Dick Bland’s supporters coming over to her side. Plus, there were the eight votes for Mickey Mouse, Ima Goose and Ronald Reagan with which to contend.

Other than the noon to 3 p.m. time slot, the ‘Brau played music from the “three towers of country power” in Springfield. Jessie, ‘Brau waitress, couldn’t tolerate Raymond Cooper more than three hours each day, even if his voice was only heard during commercial breaks and during “Swap Shop” outside of his “Renderings with Raymond” time slot.

As they contemplated Juliet’s next move, they could hear Mark Chesnutt singing in the background:

“It’s a little too late, she’s a little too gone.

“She’s a little too right, I’m a little too wrong.

“Now would be the time to change but it’s a little too late.”

It was then Jessie pulled up a chair from the adjoining table and placed it at the end of the trio’s booth. Jessie was, after all, the first person to suggest Juliet run for office, so she felt she had a right to be a part of the election team.

“You know,” Jessie began, “I wasn’t always a waitress.”

Juliet and her friends sipped coffee as they listened respectfully.

“I used to own the diner on Highway 11.”

Iris, who had been editor of the Hometown News for as long as anyone could remember, spoke up. “That’s right. I had forgotten that. It was so long ago.”

“Yes, 27 years to be exact,” offered Jessie.

“What happened?” asked Sarah.

“I had three children and a husband back then. I realized I could either own a diner, or I could be happy, but I couldn’t do both.”

“But don’t you regret giving that up?” Juliet asked.

“Well,” Jessie paused for a moment before continuing, “I realized some people are born to run businesses, and some people just don’t have the stomach for it. That was me.”

“What are you trying to say, Jessie?” Iris inquired. “That Juliet doesn’t have the stomach to be mayor? That she should just give up and let Raymond Cooper win?”

“I’m not trying to say anything,” Jessie offered with her local drawl. “I’m just telling a story.”

At that moment, another song began playing:

“All my life I’ve been pleasin’ everyone but me. Waking up in someone else’s dream.”

“Faith Hill,” noted Jessie, “seems like the happiest person in the world. But when she sings a song like that, you realize it hasn’t always been easy for her.”

With that, the group stopped talking and listened as Faith finished her song. Juliet realized for much of her life, she had been living someone else’s dream. She also knew those days were past.

“It’s going to sound crazy,” Juliet said, “but I know what I’m going to do.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: The original idea for “The Good Folks of Lennox Valley” by Kevin Slimp came while visiting with a friend from the small town of Lennox, S.D., several years ago. For five years, Slimp jotted ideas concerning the folks who lived in his fictional home town and eventually put those ideas into stories. Share your thoughts with Candy Allan via email at callan@pioneergroup.com or by phone at (231) 592-8386.

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