After Raymond Cooper received the first seven votes of the ballot count, Iris Long wondered if she was the only voter who cast her ballot for Dick Bland.
Halfway through the count, Vera Pinrod made the decision to call a 10-minute break. After 382 votes had been tallied, Raymond Cooper led with 205 votes, compared with 177 for "Silver Tongue" Dick Bland. Because it was a run-off, write-in votes were not allowed.
There was a definite buzz in the VFW section, as Cooper supporters anticipated an overwhelming win. Word also spread throughout the crowd that Dory Funk Jr. had defeated The Sheik at the Spring County Fair, using his signature move, the spinning toe hold.
Marvin Walsh, overcome with emotion, shouted, "It looks like true Americans are carrying the night!"
As the break approached the 15-minute mark, folks took their places as they sensed history taking place before their eyes. After five more minutes, Sheriff Dibble approached the microphone.
"Due to a medical issue, Mrs. Penrod will not be able to continue," Dibble announced. "Diane Curtis is driving her to Spring County Hospital."
A murmur grew throughout the crowd. Suddenly, the election count was a bit less important. Vera was like family to everyone in the Valley.
Dibble went on, "Mrs. Penrod said to tell everyone she would be fine, and she requested that Iris Long take her place counting the ballots."
"What?" exclaimed Elbert Lee Jones.
Earl Goodman had thoughts of his own. "No way!" he shouted.
A sharp glance from Chief Dibble in their direction quickly calmed things down.
He then looked in the direction of Iris, who had been tallying the vote on her own reporter’s pad. "Mrs. Long, would you continue the vote count?"
You wouldn’t think a hardened news reporter would get nervous, but Iris stammered, shocked by the turn of events. "I guess so."
Long took Vera’s seat in front of the crowd. Chief Dibble placed the ballot box in front of her, and she withdrew a slip of paper.
"Bland!" she shouted with as much energy as she could muster.
"No way!" shouted Walsh.
Dibble had about as much as he could stand. He quickly made his way to Marvin, said a few words only Walsh could hear, then made his way back to the stage. Marvin quickly became unusually subdued.
"Bland," continued Iris. Then, "Bland," again.
You could feel the heat rising from the VFW section, but no one dared say a word with Dibble at full attention.
As the count continued, the tallies on each side of the board became closer. At one point, Iris stopped to catch her breath.
That’s when Beatrice Justice spoke just loud enough for most in the crowd to hear her. "Romans 2:11," was all she said as if she, too was out of breath.
Perry Pratt, almost to himself, but again loud enough for most to hear, uttered "They’re tied."
Indeed they were. With 742 votes tallied, Bland had caught Cooper with 22 ballots left. The room became silent, waiting for Long to continue the count.
As those final 22 votes were tallied, Chief Dibble no longer sought to quiet the crowd. With every ballot, there was a roar which grew louder with each slip Iris pulled from the box.
"Cooper!" Iris yelled. Then, "Bland!"
The count went back and forth, much like the match between Gorilla Monsoon and Jerry Lawler taking place at the fairgrounds.
With one ballot remaining, Cooper had 381 votes. Bland had 382.
Would there be a second run-off? Could there really be a tie?
As Dibble again attempted to quiet the crowd, word spread that Lawler and Monsoon fought to a draw in their match.
Iris pulled the final ballot from the box. Dibble needed try no longer. You could have heard a pin drop in the room.
Iris looked at the ballot for what seemed like minutes, but was only a few seconds. Putting her hand to her chest, she read the name on the paper, "Bland."
It took a moment to sink in. Raymond Cooper had been defeated by two votes.
"It’s a fix!" screamed Walsh. "Iris Long has fixed this election!"
Like most others, I stayed in the Town Hall for several minutes, realizing I had just witnessed history in the making. This was quite possibly the most exciting night in the history of the Valley ... so far.
Slimp makes his home in Knoxville, Tennessee these days. Contact Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.