In June 1998, the mayor of my hometown was none other than “Silver Tongue” Dick Bland. When he first ran for mayor in 1994, his campaign slogan was “Everybody’s Friend” and that seemed like a pretty good description of our leader.
“Silver Tongue,” as just about everyone called him, did pretty well as mayor. Sure, there were a few folks who got on the wrong side of Bland over the years, but overall he was loved by just about everybody.
I suppose I should have said that he was loved by just about everybody before 1997. That’s when Raymond Cooper started taking shots at the mayor on his daily “Renderings with Raymond” radio show.
It’s amazing how a nice guy like Dick Bland could be made out to be a scoundrel through the power of the airwaves, but that’s exactly what happened to “Silver Tongue.”
Iris Long, editor of The Lennox Valley Hometown News, was no fan of Raymond, and she could see that Cooper was using his radio show to cause tension among the good folks of the valley. So on June 2, 1998, Long published an interview with Dick Bland titled “Silver Tongue Debunks Cooper’s Tomfoolery.”
In the interview, Mayor Bland fielded several questions about the Federal Reserve System. Long’s favorite quote was, “I have never been approached or contacted by the Federal Reserve System, and I would gladly lend my expertise if asked.”
The mayor went on to describe the “outlandish” idea that egg prices had anything to do with “the feds.” He noted that a dozen eggs were selling at Pratt’s Country Store for $1.09. He went on to share that in 1992, eggs sold for 94 cents.
That, he told Long, was a 16 percent rise in 8 years, while inflation over that same period was 17 percent. If the Federal Reserve System was inflating egg prices over that period, it seemed to “Silver Tongue” that the price would be significantly higher than $1.09. “If anything,” he continued, “the feds have been holding the price of a dozen eggs below the inflation rate.”
They didn’t call Mayor Bland “Silver Tongue” for nothing. He knew how to drive a point home.
Anyone reading the June 2 edition of The Hometown News would think that Dick Bland had hit a home run, knocking the negative murmurings of Raymond Cooper right out of the park. Little did “Silver Tongue” or Iris Long realize that they had played right into the hands of Cooper.
“Friends,” began Raymond on his Tuesday show, “I feel as though my reputation has been assassinated in today’s ‘so called’ Hometown News.”
Bland didn’t have the only silver tongue in town. Raymond Cooper knew that listeners would subliminally associate “assassinate” with politics.
The first caller, Elbert Lee Jones, was furious that the local rag would attack a champion of the people like Raymond Cooper. He called for the mayor’s immediate resignation.
Cooper was quick to remind his caller that the mayor had a right to his opinion, no doubt influenced by some connection with the Federal Reserve System. And expecting Bland to resign wasn’t realistic, as a new election was being held in just five months.
“Maybe,” Raymond said in a firm voice, “someone will rise up to speak for the people in the upcoming election,” although he admitted having no idea who that person would be.
“I nominate you!” blurted the next caller, Earl Goodman. “You are the leader we need.”
“That’s flattering,” Cooper said, “but I’ve never given political office a moment’s thought,” lying through his teeth. “I’m sure there’s a more worthy candidate out there.”
The next caller, Marvin Walsh, was even more intense. “I second Earl’s nomination!”
Cooper, feigning meekness, was silent for a moment, which was rare for Raymond, before responding in a soft, firm voice, “If my Valley needs me, how can I turn away?”
Who would have thought that not one Valley resident would call in about the new Methodist preacher on June 2? Things are surely heating up among the good folks of Lennox Valley.
Each week, “The Good Folks of Lennox Valley” chronicles the happenings of a fictional American small town.