“There are strange things done “
in the midnight sun
by the men who moil for gold.”
Robert Service, “The Cremation of Sam McGee.”
The men who moiled for gold back in Robert Service’s Yukon Territory were hardworking,
straight forward fellows. They prospected. If they found a vein, they staked a
claim and mined it. On the other hand, the men who wanted to turn The Enchantment
into a strip mall were insidious and devious. Thanks to Ribby von Simeon and the
Vigilance Corps, they failed.
The Enchantment is a dingy roadhouse on the outskirts of Letongaloosa. It’s the
kind of place every college town needs to maintain academic accreditation. I go to
the Enchantment to have a soft drink and chat with friends—some of whom live here
and some, like my robot alien friend KB 11.2, live a long, long way from here.
Letongaloosa has grown a lot lately, and Letongaloosa Community Junior
College, has more students than ever before. You used to know that the college was
not in session because there was a lot less traffic. Back then folks were a bit
embarrassed by the Enchantment and were glad it was a long way out of town.
Nowadays people think the Enchantment is quaint. And it seems closer to town now
that every square inch of land in the county is plotted, platted and spoken for.
Tad Tedwell was elected sheriff of Kigame County after the Vigilance Corps
helped him defeat Buck Johnson’s campaign for a fourth term. The Vigilance Corps
came about because Tad worked the overnight shift and because he liked breakfast.
When Tad came off his shift he’d eat breakfast at three or four locally owned cafes
every day. In any given week he’d have visited just about every café in town. He met
and talked to the same old guys in the same cafes day after day.
After he decided to run for sheriff he realized what a valuable resource his
coffee buddies could be. Most of them were veterans and most were members of
So Tad organized a club and concocted bylaws. He even invented secret
handshakes and passwords. He called it the Vigilance Corps. He organized his coffee drinking pals into autonomous cells based on the cafes they frequented in the morning.
He prepared “dead drops,” where they could leave their reports. Tad did everything
but provide those guys with Green Hornet secret decoder rings.
It was Vigilance Corps member Maximo Perez who dealt the first serious blow to
Buck Johnson’s campaign. Maximo had retired from the county registrar of deeds
office. He poked around and found some highly suspect paper work on Buck Johnson’s
ranch and suburban properties. He put that information in a Vigilance Corps dead
drop. Tad used that information effectively in the campaign to cook Buck Johnson’s
Maximo found evidence that developers had used bogus paperwork to illegally
bend, fold and staple the dingy old roadhouse and the parcel of land on which it is
located into their suburban plots and plats. They apparently they want suburbia to
stretch from horizon to horizon. A lot of other folks don’t.
Fortunately, the true owner of the land was Ribby Von Simeon. Ribby inherited
that parcel from his tycoon father Balderdash Von Simeon and he had already used
part of the land to commemorate a cherished voyage on an ocean liner that he and
his mother, the famous actress Sippa Margarita Von Simeon, had taken. Ribby bought
the ocean liner after it was decommissioned. He had the ship hauled here, piece by
piece, and re-assembled on a hillside outside of town. The party Ribby threw for the rechristening
of the ship was the social event of the decade. As they moiled for gold,
the developers figured that their out of town lawyers could bulldoze the deal through.
For them the Enchantment was just a dingy roadhouse, and Ribby was just some guy
who taught horticultural dyontonics at a local community college. But Ribby loves
going to the Enchantment, and when it was threatened he used the Von Simeon
tenacity and the Von Simeon fortune to blast developers and their fancy lawyers out of
the water or, rather, off the land.
Dr. Larry Day is a retired KU J-School professor and author of Day Dreaming: Tales From the Forth Dementia available on Amazon.