[Alert: language and scatology]
As Mindenburg Oklahoma Mayor, Florence Nelson did not put up with any guff. It took her about ten years to straighten-out the city of Mindenburg and Minden County. Peeved at an unexpected property tax hike, young Florence determined to fight the ‘system’ from within. She got herself elected to Metro Council, served one term, then ran directly at the incumbent mayor, a good-old boy, if you know the type. Beat the pants off the man. Then Flo commenced to clean house, one council seat, one Metro contract at a time.
Flo’s been mayor now fifteen years. I’ve been her assistant since day one. Her first order of business as Mayor saw her lock horns with the Metro Attorney. She insisted on no-nonsense contracts. That first showdown showed me who this lady was.
“Clinton, I want all that legal mumbo-jumbo out of the contracts. Make them say exactly what the deal is, no more, no less. None of this party of the first part, party of the second-part bullshit. Understand?”
“Ms. Mayor, you can’t do that.”
“Why not, Clinton? You can’t do it, I bet I can get one of the journalism kids at Central High to take a crack at it. For free, Clinton!”
“Ms. Florence, you don’t put all the clauses and definitions and such in the document, why you’ll end up in court all the time getting things redefined by a judge. Time. Money.”
“Clinton, you horse’s ass. You put all that claptrap in the contracts now and we still end up in court half the time. Now, we do it my way. Save a lot of paper and a hell of a lot more time!”
Florence prevailed. The first test of the streamlined documents came when lucrative contracts were let for expensive Metro Fairgrounds work. Two good old boy contractors looked to maximize profit installing new lighting in the arena and re-paving parking lots. Flo determined their work and materials less than contractual, when with a reluctant Metro Inspector in tow, she conducted an on-site inspection.
Those contractors mistakenly insisted their work was per contractual spec. Flo took the contracts, the specs, and the contractors to court. The judge agreed with Mayor Flo. Said he enjoyed arbitrating a clean contract for a change, one with real teeth. The contractors ended up agreeing after the teeth of those contracts bit them in the ass and they had to re-do most of their work and pay penalties.
The mayor was not looking for free work. What she insisted on was getting what Metro paid for. The Metro Inspector, incidentally, went looking for a new job.
Flo dealt with regular people the same way. Not that she didn’t have a wicked sense of humor. I thought for the longest time Flo got her humor and her steel from her momma, Julia Nelson, the widowed Nelson clan matriarch. The ‘clan’ is now only Ms. Julia and her Honor the Mayor. There was thought a few years back Flo might extend the Nelson bloodlines locally, but that frittered-out.
Ed Brewster, Mindenburg Chief of Police, a widower with two daughters just hitting teen years, was more or less “sparking” Flo five years ago. The Mayor and I were visiting the Chief and had just finished hashing-out budget details, when out of the blue Ed asked, “Flo, have you given any thought to about, well, you know?”
I got the details later but leave it that, ‘well, you know’ was Ed’s proposal of marriage. Flo, sweet as could be, faced Ed and said, “Ed, it’s a wonderful idea, but there’s the girls.”
“You and the girls get on just fine,” argued Ed. “Be good for them to have a momma again.”
“No, Ed. Those lovely ladies are almost women themselves now. Bad time to have some other woman horning-in. They might not show it, but they’d resent it.”
“They’ll get over it.”
“Maybe, Ed, but the important thing is there are some conversations they need real soon with someone they really trust. That’s gonna have to be you, Ed. I mean, I’ll be on hand if need be, but they’ll listen to Daddy where they might not pay much mind to a momma trainee.”
Ed and Flo continued to date. Maybe even getting more serious now that Ed’s youngest will soon follow her sister off to State University. We’ll see.
Then there was Victor Stassen, Fire Department Chief. Victor wasn’t brilliant but he was rock-solid about his business of putting-out and preventing fires. His department was recognized by the state every year. However the hell they determine that. Mayor Flo had some new forms for Victor. We took one of the stodgy, dependable, Metro motor pool boxes-on-wheels to deliver the forms and visit two Metro construction projects.
At the main Fire Station, Victor chatted with us briefly. His son, Cargill was inspecting a flowerbox at the edge of the station’s drive. “Cargill!” yelled Victor across the station drive. “Be careful! There’s bees in those flowers!”
On cue, Cargill yowled, turned, and waved to Victor, then went right back to examining the flowerbed. In a matter of minutes, young Cargill approached us. His face was covered with bee stings, but the boy smiled happily as he opened his little fist to present a captured bee to Daddy.
The Mayor and I left Victor to his babysitting and bee-sting treating. I delivered Flo to her office, directly across the street from her momma’s stately old house, a throwback to when a town’s doctors lived among the people they tended. I walked with the Mayor to momma’s house. As I started to take my leave, Ms. Julia spoke to me.
“Susannah, after business hours. You care to stay for a bit of late afternoon refreshment?”
“No, thank you kindly, Ms. Julia. Had iced tea all day at the office. Pretty much had enough iced tea today.”
“Heavens no, child, it’s past five in the afternoon. I’m talking Mint Julep. I was raised in the real south you know. Macon, Georgia. Before I met Don and came out here and became an Okie. Hot enough today, and it seems to me Mint Julep time!”
“Why that’d be nice, Ms. Julia.”
And it was. Widow Nelson had ice, bourbon, rum, fresh mint leaves, sugar, and tall glasses ready on a little sidecar table on her porch, as if the Cotillion people had called to tell her Flo and I were on our way. She put together three. We sipped sitting on the porch waiting for the first evening breeze.
“Momma, Victor’s gonna have his hands full with that boy of his,” said Flo.
“Just like his daddy. Victor wasn’t the fastest car on the track, either. Took some energy keeping him out of trouble until his brains caught up to his body. I used to sit the boy, Victor, back in the day, you know.”
“No, Momma? You mean Victor was, um…”
“Well, yes, but there ought to be a nicer way to say it.”
“There’s not, child. I’d seen telephone poles smarter than little Vic when he was a lad. Guess Victor and his missus need to just work with Cargill until the boy grows some smarts.”
“Be a tough job, Momma.”
“First thing they need to do – what I did with Victor. Teach the boy to whistle, so’s he remembers which end to wipe when he finishes business. Pretty much downhill after that.”
[Nod to NS of Macon, Georgia]
© S P Wilcenski
2020 Originally blogged on spwilcenwrites August 8, 2020