Kevin Slimp: Lennox Valley: A.J. Fryerson: ‘The Ultimate Complainer’

By Kevin Slimp

Syndicated Columnist

If you lived in Lennox Valley during my childhood, you were familiar with A.J. Fryerson. And if you knew A.J. Fryerson, you knew one thing above all: He complained about everything.

I don’t mean just a few things. I mean everything.

He complained because the Valley didn’t have a traffic light. Then, when the town installed its first light on Bearden’s Corner, he complained about that.

He complained because he couldn’t get a beer at either of the town’s eating establishments. Then, when the town held a referendum and the Hoffbrau started serving beer, he complained about that.

He complained because all the “preachers in town” were “older than dirt.” Then he complained when the Lutherans called Brother Jacob, and he complained even louder when he learned the young pastor preached in his bare feet.

Simply put, A.J. lived to complain, and like most folks who complain all the time, hardly anyone noticed when A.J. got hot under the collar.

He was the most frequent caller on “Renderings with Raymond,” and after Raymond took a break from airing his show following his mayoral defeat, A.J. complained about that.

Iris Long, editor of The Hometown News, had a love-hate relationship with A.J. On one hand, she would tell her friends A.J. was “dumber than dirt.” On the other hand, Fryerson could be counted on to provide at least one letter to the editor each week. Although no one gave much, if any, thought to A.J.’s rantings, they would pick up the paper to see what he was complaining about this week.

Vera Pinrod liked to say, “A.J. Fryerson could start a fight in an empty house.”

Once, after he spewed out a tirade on Raymond Cooper’s show, Lori Martindale told the crowd at Caroline’s Beauty Salon, “A.J. is two pickles short of a jar.”

That brought a good laugh from everyone including Sylvia Snodderly, who was seldom known to crack a smile.

Sometimes A.J. would go overboard. Instead of making people laugh at how ridiculous he could be, there were times he would make folks downright angry. Like the time he had his oil changed at Floyd Phibb’s Auto Service. Floyd owned one of two auto repair shops in town and was loved by everyone. Well, everyone except A.J.

In 1997, two weeks after having the oil changed in his 1991 Ford Taurus, A.J. began to notice loud squeaking in the back of his car. He ignored it for weeks until finally, while driving down the steepest hill in Lennox Valley, his brakes failed. He went off the road and ran directly into the front porch of the home of Marvin and Delores Walsh.

That was the beginning of one of A.J.’s most memorable tirades. He was convinced, and spent months letting everyone know, Floyd had overfilled the oil in his Taurus, causing it to “spill over” and spread to the back of his car, “leaking like a sieve” all over his brakes.

He threatened to sue Floyd, writing eight letters to the editor and making more than 40 calls to Raymond’s show to talk about his brakes. Eventually, every lawyer in Spring County refused to take A.J.’s case.

Yes, A.J. Fryerson complained about everything. That ended, however, in late 1998, when A.J.’s complaining suddenly stopped.

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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