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Walkin'

This week I continue the rather queer endeavor of coming up with a list of the people who might have murdered me.
To date suspects include Carolyn and Delores at the hardware store as I caught them ogling an Avon catalog like it was a Chippendale calendar; Roger the postmaster due to my annoying mailing schemes and Dick the insurance agent because I repaid his act of kindness with a rude dunking into the waters of Lake Macbride.
This week I implicate the entire town.
It was the spring of 1994.
President Bill Clinton was not yet in office a year. Tonya Harding’s ex-husband assaulted rival Nancy Kerrigan. Lorenna Bobbitt gave husband John the unkindest cut of all. Apple poised to release the iMac.
In Solon the big news– the only news– was the girls’ basketball team’s march to the state tournament in Des Moines. The girls’ progress was the talk at the various dinner tables, beauty parlors and coffee klatches about town.
All ribbons and curls off the court, the young women transformed into full court pressing thugs and thieves that bested one opponent after another. On offense, the Lady Spartans were flashing ponytails slashing to the basket for layups, and cold-hearted snipers hitting nothing but net from long range.
It was exciting, to say the least. It looked like a sure bet that the girls would go all the way and claim the big prize, but as they climbed the state tournament ladder, the opponents got tougher. Then came the big weekend of the semifinals on Friday and the final on Saturday evening. Nearly the entire town migrated to Des Moines to take in the spectacle. Businesses closed for lack of help, and the last person to leave on the journey was told to turn off the lights.
The girls won the semis handily, but the final game against rival Wilton was a barnburner. As late as the beginning of the fourth quarter the score was tied 50-50 but the Lady Spartans prevailed, 76-72.
The jubilation was immense. The party spilled over from the arena to the Embassy Suites Hotel, where the bulk of the fans stayed. From the floor of the 10-story indoor atrium, cheers of “give me an S, give me an O . . . what’s that spell? Solon, Solon, Solon,” echoed repeatedly into the night.
About a week later, a stranger entered my office and requested I publish a letter to the editor. In it, he accused the Spartan fans of being “drunk, loud, rude and obnoxious.” The fans at the Embassy Suites had “ruined the luster of their team and disgraced the town.”
Besides wanting me to publish the letter, he wanted me to withhold his name.
One point of pride during my 20-year tenure of owning the paper was that I published every letter submitted no matter how controversial. I always maintained one rule, the writer’s name must be included at the end of the missive. The submitter of this letter, however, convinced me to withhold his name because he feared physical retribution.
He had good reason.
It became a classic case of blaming the messenger.
If I had turned up dead in the ensuing weeks, perhaps from a pen stuck through my heart and a copy of the letter shoved into my mouth, the crime scene investigator would have had his hands full. At the top of the rather long list would have to be one person– a most unlikely person.
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