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Some things are changing in The Valley

Kevin Slimp • Feb 25, 2017 at 6:08 PM

Maxine Miller was more than a little concerned. For the past 20 years she had gotten her best material for “Rumor Has It” from Jessie Taylor, waitress at the Hoffbrau. Jessie overheard the conversations of just about everyone in town as she refilled coffees and served blue plate specials. Between Jessie’s insights and A.J. Fryerson’s complaints, Maxine always seemed to have enough material for her weekly column.

Those who didn’t know Jessie very well might have been surprised by her thoughtful insights. More than once, Maxine picked up on something Jessie said and wrote it as her own.

In 1992, she penned words still taped to refrigerator doors throughout The Valley. “Sometimes you find yourself in the middle of nowhere, and sometimes in the middle of nowhere, you find yourself.”

By late October, something had changed. Maxine assumed Jessie was upset by Miller’s betrayal of Iris Long, editor of the Hometown News. Now, when Maxine pried for information, Jessie either pretended not to notice or answered, “I wouldn’t know.”

Richard Armour, humorist, is remembered for his 1949 quote, “Hindsight is 20-20.” Maxine was starting to think Armour was on to something. She was beginning to wonder if jumping ship to write for Raymond Cooper’s paper had been a good idea after all.

Sources for material were drying up. It seemed Iris had a lot of friends in The Valley. To make matters worse, after only two issues, The Valley Patriot seemed to be losing steam. The Tuesday publication needed help immediately.

While not poor by any means, Raymond Cooper couldn’t keep producing a paper with almost no paid advertising. If he wanted the folks of Lennox Valley to read his paper, he would eventually have to write about something besides Iris Long, A.J. Fryerson and himself.

With no photographer, no writers, no designers and no editors, other than himself, The Patriot already looked like what it was — a worthless rag created to stroke the ego of Raymond Cooper and punish his longtime rival, Iris Long. The table of contents for his third issue amplified Maxine’s concerns:

Local News Page 1

Raymond’s Renderings Pages 2-3

Rumor Has It Page 6

Opinion Page Page 6

Church News Page 7

Political Review Page 7

Classifieds Page 7

The table of contents now took up the full bottom-right quarter of the page. Local news consisted of an A.J. Fryerson update, a brief story about the new barber in town and an interview with Earl Goodman concerning the upcoming postal increase, from 32 cents to 33 cents, for a first-class stamp. The only photo on the front page was of Goodman holding a blank postcard with the caption, “Postcard rates are still a bargain!”

Pages 4 and 5 were filled with an ad for Farley Puckett’s Hardware Store. It was the only paid ad in the issue, costing Farley all of $35. Page 8 was a full page ad for Cooper’s radio show.

Maxine’s column was already showing signs of decline. Her juiciest tidbit involved Frank Bell. “It seems our new barber found a place on the second row at the Methodist Church this week,” she began. “Could it be his eyesight is failing from staring so closely at hair all week, or could something else, or someone, be the motivation for his proximity to the pulpit?”

Yes, Maxine was worried as she sat in her booth at the ‘Brau on Wednesday morning, waiting for the latest issue of Hometown News to arrive. She wondered if it was too late to ask Iris for her old job back, assuming Long would ever forgive her.

Not wanting to seem too anxious, Maxine waited a few minutes after a stack of newspapers landed on the counter. Opening her copy, her face turned flush as she saw the headline on page 2:

Did You Hear?

Scoops from a reliable source

“Are you all right?” Diane Curtis asked from across the aisle. “You look like you saw a ghost.”

“I may have,” whispered Miller. “My own.”

“Lennox Valley: The Book” is coming in April. Writer Kevin Slimp is a Johnson City native known for his expertise in publishing technology. “The Good Folks of Lennox Valley” is fictionally based on people he has met in years of travel. Contact him at [email protected]. For more on “Lennox Valley,” go to www.lennoxvalley.com.

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