I’m dwelling overlong on this particular period of time, I realize. There are two good reasons for that. In the first place, the picnic represents the zenith (my dad’s word for it) of my career so far as a publisher. This is to prove to you that I’m really a good person. In the second place, at this same time things were happening to lay the groundwork for my criminal record. More on this in a little bit, but first I may as well finish telling the high points.
The picnic was successful beyond all my greatest hopes. I had no sooner arrived home from my encounter with Missus Burke than Mister Whitney himself, along with a cowboy assistant, pulled up in front of our house in a giant pickup truck pulling a horse trailer.
He was bigger than life, and even though I never had been a fan of old cowboy movies, I’m growing to like them. Since having had such a distinguished day-guest, my family has tried to find and see all of his movies and shows.
Two hundred people showed up to the picnic. A lot of Clover Street residents brought friends, and people from nearby streets, many of whom are our friends, also came. And all were welcome, of course. We had an invitation time of 10:00 but didn’t expect a crowd until later, since most churches get out after 11:00 or so. But by 11:00 there were over a hundred people there. By noon the place was teaming.
People brought out all their hobbies and collections to display. Everyone shared food and friends.
At 12:30 I made my speech on the microphone. I gave Heidi Glick all the credit for the idea. You’ve never seen a humble person more proud than she was. April read a beautiful poem, which she said made her nostalgic for Clover Street whenever she was away. I included it in the next issue of the CSN.
Then I introduced Cole Whitney, and he talked for twenty minutes, telling stories about people long dead who used to live in our town, about people still there, and on and on. He was dressed in his cowboy best, and after the speeches he gave everyone rides on Lariat. Together he and I pushed his mother around in her wheelchair, and then he sat late into the afternoon at a table full of old cronies, all smoking cigars and laughing and coughing. They must have been good cigars, too, because I liked the smoke when I passed nearby.
My brother Broccoli was the next one to hint that my criminal career was soon to start. Here again, I didn’t have any idea that this was what it would lead to, but you’ll begin to see the pieces come together.
We were sitting at our long table in front of the very house that would later figure into my troubles, (the Reuhausens’s), listening to Cole Whitney go on and on about John Wayne and other important friends of his.
To impress him, I guess, my brother, who sat himself next to the movie star briefly, said: “Me and Harvey Drexel is going to be detectives.”
“You is?” Mister Whitney said, indulging him. “Do you have a case you’re working on now?”
“Yep. Can’t tell you about it, though,” said Broccoli, and then he smiled at my dad. Dad didn’t appear to know what Brocc was talking about. Now, would you have seen your own doom in that comment if you were me?
Another high point of the day was my growing acquaintance with Missus Burke. I wish I could write a book, because the first one I’d write would be all about her. We really became friends that day, although I still feel that I can take only so much of her and then I have to get away. She can tell so much about me, and it’s a strain on my honesty to be around her for too long.
Her hands aren’t nimble, but she’s begun to teach me cross-stitch. She keeps promising to tell me things about men but not until I’m ready. She has been around the world and met presidents and raced horses and dived for treasure. She was even a pilot in the Civil Air Patrol. Someday I’ll make her tell me so I can write it down. She agreed, with genuine modesty I believe, to let me interview her soon for our “Know Your Neighbors” column.
I realized too late that afternoon that I should have taken a lot of notes on everything I learned about all the people who were there. That night, when I told my mom how dumb I’d been not to think of that, she smiled, and said, “I did,” and pointed to her forehead.
And she really did, because the next several issues of The Clover Street News were written almost entirely by her, (only on the condition that I take the credit so no one would accuse her of being nosy).
The Clover Street News – Chapter 1 – Chapter 2 – Chapter 3 – Chapter 4 – Chapter 5 – Chapter 6 – Chapter 7 – Chapter 8 – Chapter 9 – Chapter 10 – Chapter 11 – Chapter 12 – Chapter 13 – Chapter 14 – Chapter 15 – Chapter 16 – Chapter 17