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Spring showed up temporarily last weekend, bringing the first tourist
the season. That means — months before I intended — it’s time to tell
about Hardyville’s One Unattractive Tourist Attraction.
Hardyville, as you may know, is a one-stoplight, many-horse town
home to two farm implement dealers, three bars, five churches and the
aforesaid Attraction. It pains me to have to talk about The Attraction,
because this means I must also confess that Hardyville once had
that plagues the rest of the world: politicians. Politicians and The
Attraction go together like rats and plague.
It all started when a dead philanthropist from the City bequeathed
Hardyville his collection of genuine wax imitations of Old West people.
know — life-size figures of Wild Bill Hickock looking bored while being
shot by a department store dummy. This collection had been in a
since 1939, when such things went out of fashion. But the dead rich guy
left them to Hardyville, absolutely, completely free — provided someone
town would “provide suitable housing.”
Well, after much hemming and hawing and inspection of these wax
in their distant, dusty warehouse, the owners of the Hog Trough Grill
Feed offered to set Calamity and Billy the Kid and the like around the
edges of their restaurant. The other business people opined that, in
age where beeps, boops and bright lights are the big draw, perhaps the
“suitable housing” for these cobwebby caricatures was right where they
“But this is our chance to Put Hardyville On the Map!” protested
Pickle in capital letters. “We can Bring People from all over the World,
View this Unique Reminder of Our Western Heritage.” He deplored our lack
Civic-Mindedness, and snorted down his long nose at the prospect of
such Greatness in a mere private restaurant.
The city councilmen nodded their heads in agreement — in particular,
Councilman Branch, who just happened to have some “suitable housing” to
sell the city. Price: $269,000. His fellow politicians voted to buy the
building before most Hardyvillians knew what was happening. Several
later someone dug through the records and discovered that Councilman
had himself bought the property for $97,000 a few weeks earlier.
The steam was just blowing away when Mayor Pickle announced that a
$100,000 of city funds would be required to renovate the building to
it Ideal for This Fine Collection of Priceless Americana.”
It was about this time that Rocking T Western Wear at 512 Main
the only clothing store for 45 miles, shut its doors. Seems cowboys
couldn’t afford new clothes like they once used to.
Well, the city decided to let the bids for the $100,000 renovation in
five stages — downstairs, upstairs, roof, landscaping, then signs and
displays. But when Mayor Pickle presided over the Grand Opening of the
for the All-Important Downstairs Display Area of the New Museum, the
bid, just for that alone, was for $172,534.
People wondered where the politicians had gotten their “$100,000”
figure. Particularly since that was a bit before Clinton’s magical
policemen,” “100,000 teachers” and 100,000 girlfriends. I guess
politicians were just ahead of their time.
Anyway, by the time they trimmed a few items out of the wish-list
price for downstairs: a mere $143,562) and got that part of the work
under way, the Hardyville Hideaway Restaurant, only competition for the
Trough, had also closed forever. Not as many people can afford to eat
these days, so it seems, even what with working two jobs. Wherever does
that money go?
Well, that particular group of councilmen lasted through the
($43,000) and landscaping ($79,344), before being replaced by a whole
slate of reformers campaigning on Fiscal Responsibility. (Mayor Pickle
re-elected, but that’s because Hardyville always has a Pickle for a
The new councilmen spent a week or two making noises about “cutting
waste.” Then they went out and got a Federal Farmer’s Home
low-interest loan ($243,556) for the upstairs renovation and an
Grant for Inner City Beautification ($37,892) for signs and the like.
When angry people showed up at the next city council meeting, the
puzzled poly-tick-ans protested, “But it didn’t cost Hardyville
IT WAS FREE GOVERNMENT MONEY!”
They said that. I tell you the truth. They really did. And some clods
actually believed that although Hardyville could make the people of
Poughkeepsie and Paducah pay for their pleasures, Pittsburgh and
would never in turn put their paws in Hardyville’s pathetic taxpayer’s
But then the new councilmen halved the town’s snow-removal and
road-maintenance budgets to hire Sindee-Lee Pickle at $75,000 per year
manage the museum. It wasn’t because she was one of those
they said (Of course not!), but because of her Vast Experience as
Assistant to the Assistant Manager of the World-Famous Museum of Barbed
Wire, in the nearby Territory of Wyoming.
So, there we were. By then, Joan’s Sew-It Shop had gone out of
quilting and dressmaking supplies being more expensive than the
imports, and The Quik-Mart had closed, due to the street being in such
condition customers couldn’t get into the parking lot. That left
Groce Mart (yes, that Pickle’s) the only place in town to buy
“But,” you might say, if you’re an optimist, “at least you got a
attraction out of it.”
Seems as if, about that time, there was a fire next door to the
warehouse where the dummies of the Old West were stored. It wasn’t
in the warehouse, mind you. Just nearby. But wax … heat. Well,
know how it goes. And unfortunately, in their enthusiasm to Bring
>From Around the Globe, Hardyville poly-tick-ans had let slip a few
details, like whether the town or the estate of the dead philanthropist
responsible for the insurance premiums while the dummies were in
(Hint: It wasn’t the philanthropist’s estate.)
I doubt that, in real life, handsome Wild Bill ever envisioned
looking quite so much like Freddy Krueger. And even though Belle Starr
no beauty in her day, she probably never looked that … well, run down.
“This was an Unforeseeable Catastrophe,” Mayor Pickle pronounced,
which No One Can, Of Course, Be Blamed. However, after an Exhaustive
The City Fathers of Hardyville have located an Artisan Formerly of the
Famous Madame Tussaud’s in London. For a mere $345,000, he will come
Here to Hardyville and Perform his Work in Our Beautiful New Museum,
Rebuilding the Wild West Right Before the Very Eyes of Our Many
Visitors. Think of the Oppor. …”
At this point, I will tell you what we did. First thing, we got a
citywide initiative on the ballot, abolishing the whole city council,
good and all. Some folks spoke of nooses. But we
decided that, for now, mere abolition was less likely to draw outside
Second, a bunch of ranchers convoyed down to the City, loaded up the
dummies (the wax ones, that is), hauled them to the Glorious New Museum,
stuck ’em here and there, then broke out the beer.
Third, Sindee-Lee Pickle was sent back to Barbed Wire.
Fourth, using donations from the few business people left in town
($723.11), we installed one of those coin-boxes in the museum like they
have in Europe, where you stick in a Deutchmark or a Euro or whatever to
operate the lights for x-minutes. We leave the doors open all the time,
anybody who cares enough can just walk in there, pay for his own damn
lights and stare all he wants.
We found a quarter in the box this weekend. That’s how we know a
was here. We figure at the peak summer rate of ten visitors a day the
museum will be paid for in just 32,000 years — if the electric rates
The talk of nooses eventually died down, although an interest in
knot-tying as a hobby seems to have taken curious hold among the more
politically aware Hardyvillians.
Oh, we kept Mayor Pickle. But as part of the same initiative that did
away with the city council, we reduced his responsibilities to one and
changed his title. Now, in his new capacity as Omnipotent Potentate and
Plenipotentiary of the Principality of Hardyville, he fulfills his
by delivering a Grand Oration at the annual re-dedication of the statue
the Drunken Cowboy (just west of the empty storefronts on Main Street).
wife made him a purple robe, and someone donated a crown from an old
school play. He seems quite happy. (The mayor, not the Drunken Cowboy.)
most of us are kind enough not to make snickering references to Emperor Norton.
But you know, the next time you’re tempted to try to persuade me that
poly-ticks can be reformed, or that there’s some magical means we just
haven’t yet discovered to elect “honest” people, or that one more letter
petition will turn some tax-sucking, oathbreaking blob into a human
with a conscience — don’t. Just don’t. Because here in Hardyville,
learned exactly what politicians are good for. Fertilizer.