First, you’ll take a breath. Next, you will ask yourself, “Has it really been that long?”
These weeks, months and years have flown by, and as I sat at my desk to write the 100th installment, I felt it was a good time to share some of my favorite memories from these two years.
When I first began writing the story of my hometown, my plan was to focus on the lives of the folks who made up the membership of the four churches on Bearden’s Corner. In Week One’s story, titled “My Hometown,” we learned of the four churches and their various responses to being just down the street from the infamous Hoffbrau, the only restaurant to serve beer in The Valley. This installment also introduced the character of Sarah Hyden-Smith, whose introduction led to several emails from female clergypersons stretching from California to Tennessee, most saying they were sure I was writing their personal stories.
I have also received a lot of emails from folks who were certain I was writing about their hometowns. I remember one such message from Mountain City, Tennessee. The writer explained the near-cancellation of Lennox Valley’s July 4 fireworks, in response to the local Baptist church’s fear they would interfere with proper reverence for the Lord’s Day, actually happened in her hometown.
For many readers, Raymond Cooper was both a villain and a favorite character. I’ve lost count of the emails I’ve received, sharing stories of radio station owners in small towns throughout America who were spitting images of Raymond.
I believe my favorite line — or at least the one that made me laugh the hardest — was when Cooper asked the local chaplain to come to the stage to say a prayer of healing for his followers who were bemoaning the plight of the election count. That’s when he heard Jessie, Hoffbrau waitress, moan, “Good Lord!”
I still laugh at Raymond’s response: “Do you hear that, Chaplain? They’re starting without you!”
Now and again, I still visit the church of Brother Jacob, who preaches near my current home. The story of his sermon on Psalm 50, verse 9, brought a lot of response. Using his paraphrased version of the Bible instead of the “approved” Lutheran Study Bible, his sermon theme, “I shall take no bull from you,” was a favorite among readers.
If I were forced to select a favorite character, it would be a toss-up between Iris Long and Marvin Walsh.
To me, Iris represents small town newspaper publishers everywhere. She is fiercely honest, concerned about her community, and works an incredible number of hours to make sure every word she writes is true.
The real Marvin Walsh was one of the funniest men I ever knew. Every time he shouts something in our story, I hear Marvin’s voice in my memory.
Along the way, we have been introduced to Maxine Miller, author of “Rumor Has It,” and Beatrice Justice, who speaks in Bible verses.
One writer suggested, “Your story probably caused more people to pick up their Bibles than anything anyone else has done this week.”
A.J. Fryerson, the man who complains about everything, came onto the scene in Week 60. This character is the direct result of someone I knew who complained about literally everything. I was certain, when the time was right, A.J. would appear in our story.
Except for Raymond, the character that probably drew more response than any other was Juliet Stoughton. It seems a lot of readers related to the story of Juliet and her soulmate, who left her for another soulmate. Friends who have read my recent book, “The Good Folks of Lennox Valley,” often tell me they love the conversation that takes place in the last chapter between Juliet and her former soulmate, Chris Roadhouse. For whatever reason, that was probably the hardest story line to write.
From a federal agency causing egg prices to soar, to the lovable and inept Mayor “Silver Tongue” Dick Bland, to a radio host who tried to use his celebrity status to sway an election, in the end the good folks of The Valley always seem to discover the real truth.
I have many stories yet to share about the good folks of my hometown. Thank you for tagging along for the first 100.
Be sure to order your copy of “The Good Folks of Lennox Valley” at www.amazon.com or www.MarketSquareBooks.com. Writer Kevin Slimp is a Johnson City native known for his expertise in publishing technology. “Lennox Valley” is fictionally based on people he has met in years of travel. Contact him at email@example.com. For more on “Lennox Valley,” go to www.lennoxvalley.com.