Life in the Shadows

Image: I took this photo while walking along Sanderling’s Run yesterday morning (with my new dog, Stray Ponder). The light shining on Aedre Bowman’s gravestone looked amazing. Unfortunately, there was no photographer nearby. It has been several months since I’ve received an update on Curly Dowd’s revolutionary electronic bra. He promises exciting news soon. “I look forward to the public’s support,” he says, not for the first time. Curly, it’s questionable whether any pun deserves life; you have already beaten the “support” pun to death. Mayor Chibble says the law states that standing naked under Fletcher’s Falls is skinny dipping… Keep reading

Swooner’s Island

When the town dammed the spring to create Swinfish Lake in Marsuoin Park, no one knew that an island would remain after four months of trickling inflow. Once the lake had finished growing and the water began to slip over the spillway, people stood on the shore and laughed at the island, small and low in the middle. They knew that when you’re an island as insignificant as Swooner’s, newlyweds don’t chase each other up and down your shores, brochures don’t brag about your beaches, and castaways would rather drown than call you home. You’re class-D, the lowest island rating,… Keep reading

Life in the Shadows

Minister Westminster will read the Declaration of Independence to the public on the steps of the Church of the Lost Sheep, Tuesday morning at 8 a.m., followed by a ceremony at the burying ground near the graves of our five Revolutionary War veterans: Christian Coon, John Hurd, Carrie Sanderling, Isaac Sanderling, and Neville Sanderling. Since Tuesday is Independence Day it may be interesting to note that Gideon Bowman, with the exception of his wife, Aedre, the most prominent individual in Sycamore Shadows history, was a friend and correspondent of Thomas Jefferson. Both Bowman and Jefferson were born in Albemarle County,… Keep reading

Life in the Shadows

In anticipation of Father’s Day, I took a stroll through town and asked people to share memories of what Little Bull Burson calls the “Hairy Parent.” Space does not permit me to list them all, but here are some of my favorites: Wilson Hahn says he remembers his father telling him that during the Great Depression, the citizens of Sycamore Shadows conducted a weekly “Indigent’s Drive.” “What did they do,” Wilson asked him, “give the bums food and shelter?” “Nope,” his father answered, “we gathered them up, and drove them out of town.” Homer Hundigger says his father once told… Keep reading

Woody Wheeler

September 12, 1930, promised to be a great day for baseball as the Sycamore Shadows “Fighting Buttonballs” took the field to the cheers of the local crowd. The leadoff hitter for the Castor County Poorhouse “Screaming Indigents” strolled to the batter’s box. On the mound for the Buttonballs was their ace, towering right-hander Virgil “Lefty” Berg, so nicknamed because of his missing right eye. [A clown on and off the field, Berg is famous in baseball circles as being the answer to this trivia question: who is the only pitcher to throw a glass eye to first base?] Despite an… Keep reading

Life in the Shadows

Bill Burson, Burson’s Hardware, reports that Miss Leena Freeman phoned the store to inquire if they carried connectors for garden hoses. When Burson asked if she needed the male or female end, she answered, “I don’t know. I was never married.” With a sense of humor like that, one wonders why. Goethe Goblocks got his head stuck in a sewer pipe on Buttonball St. and his friends emptied seven buckets of creek water into the other end in a misguided attempt to flush him free. Chap Gharrity said that if he hadn’t happened by, they’d have drowned him. When asked… Keep reading

Life in the Shadows

Image caption: Preliminary sketch of the prisoner known only as 21, 258, from “Shackles,” by Henri Revasser, arrested for unknown “crimes against the state,” 21, 258 has awaited trial for 58 years in the dungeon of the notorious Chateau D’Oeuf, located off the coast of France. His only companions are a pet rat, Latude, and a cellmate, 58, 937. The two men spend their days telling stories, recounting their history, and discussing philosophical questions. This Tuesday, May 23, marks the 209th anniversary of the first meeting of Gideon Bowman, Castoreum College professor, and Aedre Nichols, his future wife, at Sanderling’s… Keep reading

The Museum of Sycamore Shadows

Experience the culture and folkways of America’s most unusual small town when the Museum of Sycamore Shadows begins its 80th summer season on May 21. Named one of the ten best small-town museums in the country by Folklust magazine. Admission to the museum is free. Limited parking is available at the Imaginactory but spaces can be found along Plane Tree Lane. Private tours are available by appointment, including the popular “Introvert’s Tour,” in which your guide follows at a distance and says nothing unless you ask a question. Visitors may purchase refreshments at the restored Verter Beer Wagon, located on… Keep reading

Life in the Shadows

Photo caption: Curly Dowd purchased this half-photo at a garage sale and needs help identifying the lady. He thinks it may be his great aunt. “That’s my grandfather’s chin,” he says. Herman Yost says he has trained his slohund, Lancaster, to locate ripe raspberries, and intends rent him out by the hour. Note: Seldom seen outside of rural communities, the slohund is a breed of hound developed in the late nineteenth century by Amish farmers in need of an intelligent, sturdy, reliable dog for both hunting and farm work. Otto Hopp, Angel’s Rest Funeral Home, reports that since the introduction of… Keep reading

Miss Vivian

Miss Vivian moved to Sycamore Shadows just after World War II, beginning work in the lingerie department at Hibb’s Department Store the next morning. Sixty-eight years later, she still works every day the business is open at the only job she has known. The years have taken their toll and she’s not as spry as she used to be, but Miss Vivian will not consider retirement. If Hibb’s owner Lloyd Lloyd Chalmers were to suggest it, he would find himself tarred and feathered, so loved is Miss Vivian, even among those of us not accustomed to wearing lingerie. When Miss… Keep reading

Life in the Shadows

According to reports, moles have invaded the home of the Buttonballs and “right field looks like it has varicose veins.” Mayor Chibble says the town needs to establish rules for the new Marsuoin Park restrooms, “before things get out of hand.” In related news, the Castor Area Spastic Colon Club has announced an ambitious plan to build public restrooms at seven additional sites throughout the region. In celebration of Earth Day, Burson’s Hardware is offering 30% off pesticides, weed killers, and chainsaws. “Kill some bugs, wilt some weeds, and drop a tree,” says Burson. For members of the Church of… Keep reading

The Bookmobile

In 1920 Chase Bibble, the owner of Castaway Books, bought a milk wagon and paid Huddleston Drayson to convert it to a bookmobile. Bibble took to the roads of western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio the next spring, leaving his sister, Dorothy Swain, to run the bookstore. At a time when farmers seldom traveled beyond the pig barn, books were an escape to the world beyond the oinks. Seeing a dust cloud in the distance, a farmer knew that a visitor was coming. With luck, it would be Chase Bibble. Each summer for twelve years Chase Bibble traveled, selling books, making… Keep reading

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