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The Continuing Saga of the Toenail Ridge Shortline
Page written May 14 , 2006


 The Visitation

The Visitation

And it came to pass in the fullness of time that the Valley of the Toenail Ridge was blessed with a flying visit from a good friend of Selbyville's leading citizen, one New Jersey Jack Lazyacre, to whit the Governor of the sovereign state of Oregon, the Right Honorable Derek Molecan. In anticipation of the visit every business and house in Selbyville was cleaned, polished, swept and bannered, garlands hung from every eave and porch, the rich colours of Old Glory waved from myriad posts and upstairs windows. A sense of excitement unheard of since the founding of the Valley was felt in every heart and all conversation revolved around the honour that was being bestowed on the little community.

 Down at the rail yards Grant Alexander exhorted his charges to have all of the motive power and rolling stock spick and span, even going to the extreme degree of inveigling on Joe Dempsey to sweep up the front of his pigsty of a station.

 New Jersey Jack had met the Honorable Molecan on one of his many trips to the State capital where he indulged in those pleasures available to a rich man, to whit, playing the stock market, keeping his hand in at poker in his very exclusive men's club, flirting with the wives and daughters of bankers and industrialists and generally living the life of the nabob that he had become.
Molecan had risen through the ranks of the State Legislature via the common method of the day, ie bribery, blackmail, vote buying and knowing where some of the bodies were buried from the old days.
He was not native-born, having emigrated at an early age from the Eastern side of the Atlantic, namely that cold, wet, dank and damp area of England known as the Midlands. (Incidentally, Midlands bears no relationship to middens, even though in some particulars their contents may be similar.

He had totally adopted the ways of his new homeland with the exception of losing his native accent, and often it was left to the imagination of his fellow representatives to ascertain what he was saying due to the thickness of his brogue and the frequent expressions of "Ee', by gum, lad!"
However, he was a canny man, well endowed with the shrewdness and parsimony of his forebears so that as the years in Oregon passed, he accumulated wealth, friends in high places, enemies in high places, employable acquaintances in low places and a considerable collection of toes trodden on on his climb to the top.

It had been in the back of New Jersey Jack Lazyacre's mind for some considerable time that he might throw his hat into the political ring so he had courted those men of power and influence who could be of assistance to him at such time as he nominated himself for public office and it was in the course of this endeavour that he and Derek Molecan became fast friends, both recognising in the other a consummate and skilled bovine-excreter.
With the result that as the time approached for nominations to the various electoral districts for the following year's state elections, Jack cordially invited his good friend to pay an official visit to the hidden Valley of the Toenail Ridge, there to press the flesh, indulge in good bonhomie, partake of the fine cuisine and cellars of the Lazyacre Hotel and generally impress the good citizens of the Valley what a nice, all-round chap and good egg the Governor was, and by association his esteemed friend also, thereby deserving of the support of his fellow Valley denizens when the time came next year to send a new representative to Portland.

 The Right Honorable Derek Molecan arrived in the Valley of the Toenail Ridge ensconced in the luxury of the Observation car, having traversed the trackage of the Portland and Great Eastern from his home to Rowell, where he and his entourage transferred to the Toenail Ridge Shortline. Molecan had opted to travel light on this sojourn to the State's north-east corner so accompanying him in the observation car was only his private secretary, his butler, his chef, his personal valet, his publicity manager, his photographer, his wine steward, his personal biographer and of course, a delightfully voluptuous young person of the female persuasion who was officially documented as the personal seamstress, although it appeared her seamstressing skills may not have been to as high a standard as one might have wished as she apparently had not mastered the art of the tape measure, with the result that considerable portions of her anatomy seemed frequently unconfined by her garb and threatened to spill out of her decolletage at the slightest exertion.

 As is the right of all politicians travelling by passenger train, the consist stopped at every way-side halt between Rowell and Selbyville, even pausing for a few minutes at the disused siding of Fenster, so that the Honorable Governor could stand on the rear porch of the observation car, there to impress the local farmers and their families with his gift of oratory (although with his brogue many of the assembled farmers and their families understood not a word of his utterances.... although this also applies to many politicians who speak perfectly lucidly).

Finally the Governor's train crossed the Whibley truss bridge spanning the pristine waters of Lake Wallace and swept around the long right curve to the Selbyville station. Joe Dempsey, the station-master, had managed to stay away from the rum bottle long enough to erect some patriotic bunting so that, with the presence of just about every able soul in the region gathered on the platform the Governor was presented with a merry sight, the crowd cheering and waving flags as Old No. 9 squealed to a halt.

" My fellow Oregonians!" shouted the good Governor as he stood on the railed back platform of his observation car, with arms raised. " It is with considerable delight and pleasure that I salute you worthy denizens of this pristine and salubrious vale!"
 Unfortunately, with the exception of Chuck Parker, the saloon-keeper who also hailed from those same damp climes across the Atlantic, virtually not a soul understood more than a handful of the utterances of the Honorable Molecan because of his accent but, being good and polite folks they cheered and clapped at what seemed like appropriate moments while the distinguished visitor demonstrated his gift of oratory to them.

 For twenty minutes. 

 Finally he drew breath and acknowledged his friend and host, New Jersey Jack Lazyacre Esq. Now Jack had, over the course of a number of prandial meetings in the past with the Governor, become used to his accent and so was able to return the greetings with due aplomb and flair, much to the relief of his fellow Valley residents who at least were able to understand what the hell he was saying.

The Governor' s personal biographer then stepped forward to mention discreetly to his employer that time was of the essence and perhaps it was time to shut up and get on with the proceedings, ie, alight from the train, board Lazyacre's new Packard town-car and proceed to the hotel where suitable refreshments awaited the distinguished party.
 This biographer was an interesting man, having seen a lot of the world in his time. His name was Frederick Miltz, an expatriate from the Northern Climes who had travelled south into the United States following the call of his sense of adventure on the one hand and his spirit of self-preservation on the other, having come to the sensible conclusion that the Royal Canadian Mounties were named that because that's what they'd do to his head if they caught up with him.
He had, in his chequered past, accomplished a number of salutary deeds, one of which was to have spent a time in the calm and contented cloisters of a monastery in Labrador, ostensibly to attain enlightenment but in actuality to lay low until the heat had dissipated a bit.
With the result that he referred to himself as Father Fred and was quick to pass blessings on all and sundry, particularly if convivial imbibances were on offer. For while Fr. Fred was the possessor of many fine attributes, a keen nose and an educated palate for the products of the still ranked highest among his talents.

Given the size of the Governor' s modest entourage, more than Jack's Packard was needed to transport all and sundry to the Selbyville hotel so an assortment of Model TT trucks and horse-drawn wagons were called into service to convey visitors, local dignitaries, assorted luggage, photographic equipment, crates of wine etc down the mile long Main St to the hospice where Jack had organised a reception fit for a....well...a state governor.
He had spared little expense in catering for the distinguished throng and fine linens adorned the tables, crystal glasses awaited filling with good French wines (none of that California cheap grog for Lazyacre!) and the aroma of excellent cuisine in preparation wafted from the direction of the kitchen.
Now there is one thing that an Englishman from the Midlands excels at and that is in the appreciation of good vittles. This is because they have spent the formative parts of their lives in their total absence, only discovering their taste buds on their departure from the land of boiled beef, tripe and suet pudding.

 So it was with gusto (which is interestingly spelt mostly guts) and relish (although a true gentleman doesn't add anything to the provender from a good chef, much less relish) that the Honorable Derek Molecan tucked in to the lavish spread.
Course followed course and fine wine followed fine wine, toasts were proposed and drunk, speeches were made, cheer and bonhomie prevailed amongst the gay throng and their merry laughter echoed throughout the hotel and spilled into the Main St.

 Now amongst those privileged invited guests from the Valley of the Toenail Ridge were the gentlemen who formed part of the Electoral College for the local state seat. Needless to say, New Jersey Jack Lazyacre was the head of this august group not only because he was the Valley's leading light but also the host to all of the meetings where good wine and spirits were provided kindly to the attendees who just about inevitably found that at the end of the night they had voted on, and passed unanimously, everything that Jack had wanted when the meeting started
So it was that as the banquet reached that stage of the menu where the satiated guests were trying to decide on which indulgent dessert they would risk Diabetes for that the Honourable Derek Molecan again rose to his feet to propose a toast to his host.
" My fellow Oregonians!" he began. " It is with considerable pleasure that I firstly thank our gracious host Mr Lazyacre for his hospitality which he has generously provided for us this day numerous mutters of " Hear, hear ...... ".and I would like to add my personal thanks for his friendship and I look forward with much anticipation to his company in the State Capitol when you good folks of the Valley of the Toenail Ridge vote him into office as your local representative next November! gum!"

 Now admittedly a lot of what the Honourable Derek Molecan had just uttered didn't register completely on the aural receptors of most of the banquet attendees but sufficient of his intentions got through to those who managed to decipher the brogue that the announcement of Jack's candidature left more than a few with dessert forks half way to their mouths and eyes wide open in surprise.

 It takes considerable aplomb at a moment like that to remain calm and collected.
   New Jersey Jack Lazyacre had, over the years in Selbyville re-written the definition of aplomb.
He had trained himself to be the kind of person that exuded what the French called Savour-faire.
   Savour-faire is often defined as the ability to walk in on your wife with her lover, then gently back out and close the door behind you.
   This is not Savour-faire.
   Savour-faire has also been defined as walking in on your wife with her lover, saying " excuse me, please continue" and then gently backing out and closing the door.
   This is still not Savour-faire.
   Walking in on your wife with her lover, saying " excuse me, please continue" , and the lover CAN continue, that's Savour-faire.
   And it was this type of confidence that Jack possessed so that as the Honourable Derek Molecan resumed his seat to a certain amount of stunned silence from those assembled, Lazyacre arose, raised his glass and said " My dear Derek, what an intriguing suggestion! It had never crossed my mind but now that you mention it .... Perhaps we should leave it to the good folks of the Valley of the Toenail Ridge." And with that he resumed his seat and beamed at the room in general.

   A general silence had settled over the banquet as those present absorbed the recent pronouncements. As the silence lengthened a throat was cleared from down at the end of the table and Fr Fred rose to his feet.
He was an imposing man who stood moderately tall and would have been referred to by a discreet tailor as ' well-filled' . The word 'portly' may have been coined specifically for the good Father.
   " Your Honour, Ladies and Gentlemen," he began.
   " I would like to take this opportunity to firstly bless this gathering and then to thank our gracious host and his excellent staff. Mr Lazyacre, sir, you have a fine kitchen and a fine cellar and it has been my great pleasure to enjoy the fruits of both. May I add, sir that I thoroughly concur with the sentiments of His Honour the Governor regarding your entry into public life. Your presence in the State Capitol would add a new level of elegance and propriety to the high society that makes its home there. I do believe that it would be an unwise man who sought to block your candidature for nomination. This fair Valley of the Toenail Ridge deserves such an exemplary individual as you representing their interests in the outside world. Bravo, sir!" he concluded and to a smattering of applause resumed his seat and reached for his glass.

    Every now and again the majority must bow to the inevitable and so it was with the inhabitants of the Valley of the Toenail Ridge.
By the end of the banquet it was a fait accompli that New Jersey Jack Lazyacre would receive the nomination come election time and join his illustrious companion Derek Molecan in the State legislature. And as with all such decisions, in the fullness of time everyone was saying how it would
1:put Selbyville on the map,  
 2:how the potatoes would grow better,  
 3:every house would have two pots to split the chicken into and  
4: the sun would shine all year around (instead of every seventeenth day if it wasn' t raining, this is Oregon, remember)

    The official visit of His Honour the Governor concluded with all due ceremony, the only hiccup in the proceedings being the marked absence of his personal biographer Fr Fred Miltz, who had been last seen in the company of one of the retired seamstresses and a bottle of Yukon Jack and heading in the general vicinity of her cottage.
It has long been a bone of contention in the religious order to which Fr Fred professed allegiance that celibacy was a questionable blessing and he personally held firmly to the belief that the word ' celibate' was a miss-translation from the Aramaic anyway and should have been 'celebrate' in the first place so it was with a clear conscience that he missed the train and set up semi-permanent residence in the Valley of the Toenail Ridge where in the fullness of time he would become one of the true identities of Selbyville.  

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