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The ongoing story in this space about finding a skeleton in the basement of my office would be a lot easier to develop if I was the victim instead of some mystery person.
At one time or another there were plenty of people in Solon that would have just as well seen me gone.
Roger, the postmaster, would have to be near the top of the list.
A legend in his own time, Roger was notorious for many things. For starters he was a gifted athlete who starred on the town’s baseball team. As the ace pitcher he threw plenty of key strikeouts; and as a prodigious batter he got his share of game-winning hits. I believe he also had a shot at going pro but I don’t know the details.
He was also a friendly and generous man who liked his drink. This put him in good company as Solon was, still is, a drinking town. At the time of this story, for example, there was a T-shirt that was sold during Beef Days, the town’s annual celebration, that boasted: “In Solon we don’t have a drinking problem. We drink, we get drunk, we fall down. No problem.”
His favorite watering hole was Sueppel’s tavern, now known as The Station. The business had a pingpong table in the back, and Roger was the man to beat. If you challenged him to a game he’d toss back his whiskey, weave over to the table and ask, “What do you want to play for?” More than a few challengers a fourth his age looked at the doddering old man and offered five bucks a game only to get their ears pinned back and wallets emptied.
The post office was his kingdom, and that’s where we butted heads.
When I took over the paper in 1982, the ledger was as red as a barber’s pole. I had a lot of ideas of how to turn it black, and some of them involved the cooperation of the post office. I talked a grocery store into inserting its weekly flyer into the paper rather than direct mailing it, for example, but Roger fought the move. He found a regulation that said flyers could not stick out more than an inch from the edge of newspaper. Since I couldn’t get the grocery store to print a smaller flyer, I made the newspaper wider. Instead of folding it down the middle I ordered the printers to fold it off center, which in turn covered the slightly larger insert.
Between the funny fold and the slippery insert it also made the papers hard to handle. Normally a bundle would sit obediently where you put it, but with the new arrangement the papers would slip and slide all over the place like ill-mannered brats. Needless to say, Roger was not happy. We went eyeball to eyeball on the issue but in the end he backed down. On that day as I walked out of the post office I could hear him say, “this town would be better off without that SOB.”
Despite this and other disputes Roger and I became friends. I even got invited over to his house where I got to see one of the most unusual trophies ever presented.
It came about from a fishing trip he and some buddies went on years earlier to the Cedar River, which flows about 250 miles before passing near Solon and another 50 on its way to the Iowa and then the Mississippi.
In a clear violation of the law they had stretched a net across the entire river when a DNR officer showed up. “What the hell you boys think you’re doing?” the man in the uniform demanded, to which Roger responded. “We’re waiting for the water to go down so we can play volleyball.” The officer was so taken aback by the outrageous answer that he let the men off and made a plaque that featured part of the net. It read: “Best Excuse Ever.”
Other people that may have wished me dead in the heat of the moment but that’ll have to wait to next week. I’m out of space. Stay subscribed.