With six weeks to go until the "election of the century," Raymond Cooper was feeling pretty good about his prospects. His plan, it seemed, was working to near perfection.
After purchasing the town’s only radio station and converting it to an all-talk format, then creating his own daily show, highlighting the faults of the current government while enhancing his reputation as defender of the masses, Raymond had gained a sizable following in the Valley.
By his own count, Raymond needed approximately 430 votes to win the mayoral race in 1998. He estimated somewhere around 600 good folks of the Valley listened to his show, "Renderings with Raymond," each day. Assuming a majority of those listeners would cast a vote for him, Raymond was feeling pretty good about his chances.
His plan to join the Lutheran church had been carried out with a precision seldom witnessed in small-town politics. The "coup de grâce" was Cooper’s handling of Mayor "Silver Tongue" Dick Bland’s reaction to his "conversion" during a call to his radio show a week earlier.
Since the beginning, Raymond’s biggest concern was Bland’s voting bloc at First Baptist Church. Being a member pretty much guaranteed "Silver Tongue" most of the Baptist vote. If Bland could count on the voting Baptists, he would have close to enough votes to win.
Raymond knew, however, a good number of those Baptists were listening to his daily show. Hopefully, he had swayed enough of them into voting for him, primarily by fanning the flames of their fear of the Federal Reserve System. With egg prices consistently creeping up over the past few years, and Raymond placing the blame squarely on the back of the Federal Reserve System, voters were becoming convinced in growing numbers that Cooper was the only viable candidate to stand up to the federal government before it was too late.
One thing Cooper hadn’t counted on, however, was the watchful eye of Hometown News editor Iris Long. She had mistrusted him all along, and his recent religious conversion was icing on the cake, as far as she was concerned.
She had written more than one editorial concerning the upcoming election.
"How can a small-town mayor have any effect on the central banking system of the United States?" she wrote in March.
She knew she was preaching to the choir. Most of her loyal readers didn’t trust Cooper. Raymond’s listeners had developed a bias against the media. That is, any media other than Raymond Cooper.
On July 11, during a trip to visit her sister four hours away, Iris realized something was amiss. All along, Raymond had based his rantings on the price of eggs. Over the previous 24 months, the price of a dozen eggs had risen more than 20 cents at the stores in Lennox Valley and Springfield to $1.05. All the fault, reminded Cooper, of the Federal Reserve.
While shopping with her sister, Iris noticed egg prices were 86 cents. Why, she wondered, would eggs prices be so much higher in her hometown?
Iris began working the phone. Remember, this was 1998, and the Internet was in its infancy. Journalists still spent hours on the phone to get a story. That’s when Iris realized the truth: Egg prices hadn’t risen in places other than Lennox Valley.
How could the Federal Reserve be the culprit if towns and cities outside the Valley weren’t affected by rising egg prices? Iris decided to hold the story for another week while she dug further.
In the meantime, Raymond’s phone lines were jammed with callers wanting to discuss his conversion at the Lutheran church.
"I felt," he said with a whisper, "like I was totally clean for the first time."
Little did he know Iris Long was about to uncover a little dirt he had missed.
Each week, "The Good Folks of Lennox Valley" chronicles the happenings of a fictional American small town.