HUMOR: Doctor Pheasant
I want to tell you a story and I want to tell it fast. Right now this guy might be heading to your town. You better be ready.
First let me be clear: None of this is my fault. When he came to Brewton he gave me a choice. We could hire him right off or he could take his business to Elmora. There are places in this town (Glen’s Tap, Seventh and Main, All-You-Can-Eat Chicken Wings) where just mentioning the town of Elmora can get you a punch in the nose.
I told him to sit outside. I rang the mayor.
“He calls himself Doctor Pheasant.”
“He’s got charts and graphs. He claims we’re sitting on a gold mine. A pheasant gold mine. All we have to do is take what’s already ours.”
“We don’t have any better hunting than any other town.” He coughed. Mayor Rademacher is a heavy, wheezing man. I don’t know why, but I always picture him in a sauna wearing a towel, sweating.
“He says he can make us the official State Pheasant Capital. Just like he’s done for towns in Nebraska and Iowa and South Dakota and Missouri and Hawaii.
“There’s no pheasant capital in Hawaii.”
“There is now.”
Mayor Rademacher couldn’t decide and ultimately left it up to me. “Don’t screw up,” he said, coughing. I brought in Doctor Pheasant into my office and sat him down. It was time to talk turkey. Or rather, pheasant. Softball bats and gloves were piled behind my chair. You wear a lot of hats in this town.
“How much for the seminar?” I asked.
“It’s free,” the doctor said. “Considering the money you’ll generate when you’re Pheasant Capital of this entire state.”
I wasn’t born yesterday. “How much.”
“Five thousand up front. And expenses until Friday. I’ll give you a roll of event tickets and you can charge whatever you like. I’ve never done one of these with anything less than a sold-out crowd. Do we have a deal?”
I looked out the window.
“Or,” he said. “I can go to Elmora. The city council meets tonight.”
A moment later we had a deal. I held out my hand. Well played, Doctor.
We put Dr. Pheasant in the Barrett Inn, run by Ahjay Guptollan and his wife, Deepika. “Keep your eye on him,” I told Ahjay. “Let me know if you see anything fishy.” The big presentation was scheduled for 7 pm at the high school. Three days. A long three days.
Ahjay called me that night. “He ordered a bottle of Glenshine Single Malt. He says he also wants two chicken dinners, six El Dominion Cigars, a twelve pack of Heineken, and the latest issue of Playboy magazine. He says you’ll cover the cost, plus my time.”
“How about oysters on the half shell?” I can never hide sarcasm.
“He says to please tell you all these items are perfectly available at Elmora. His car awaits.”
He got the whiskey. By eight the chicken dinners arrived. I should probably tell you about the trouble between the town of Brewton and our neighbor, Elmora. This is not a normal rivalry. We were once the best of neighbors. Then came the Corn Cobb Fest, and everything changed.
November 1974. It seems like yesterday when the town decided to start our own little festival, with parade and street dance. On November 2nd the first annual Brewton Corn Cobb Fest kicked off, and it was a success, with a junior and senior citizen royalty, and the pumpkin pie throwing contest, the log rolling contest, wiener schnitzel prize, and the honorary firing of the memorial WW1 cannon on the front lawn of the VFW. Let me tell you, that thing is loud. They heard it all the way to Elmora, or so they said. Little did we know it was literally the opening salvo.
The next year we prepared the same banners and bunting and cleared Pollard Park and rented the big tent and that’s when a travelling seed salesman stopped in at Glen’s and ordered a coke. He asked Glen what was going on in Brewton. Glen tells him the big annual Corn Cobb Fest. The salesman says what, another one? Glen says what do you mean another one. The salesman says because they got a Corn Cobb Fest going on right now in Elmora.
The whole bar cleared out. They picked up the mayor and the Chief of Police in a squad car and a fire engine pulled out with the siren going. They headed for Emora and they would have towed the cannon if they thought of it. When they got to the city they were just taking down their grandstand. Vendors loaded vans. The Ferris Wheel and bumper cars and bingo tent and wheel of chance rifle range were being packed into waiting trucks The second Annual Corn Cobb Fest was over.
You heard right: Elmora stole our festival.
They stole it, holding it a whole week before ours. There was nothing for Brewton to do but cancel theirs, nobody would go to two Corn Cobb festivals. We were beaten, but if you know this town, you know we don’t give up. Two could play at that game. We scheduled next year’s festival a week earlier than theirs. But then Elmora scheduled theirs a week earlier than ours. It went back and forth right into springtime until we gave up. Just threw in the towel.
“Let them have it,” the town council said. They averaged about eighty per member, and didn’t have the mustard to fight any more. Elmora won.
They placed a twenty-ton granite monument in town square. Put up signs all along Highway 55. And painted the water tower. ELMORA. HOME OF THE CORN COBB FESTIVAL. To this day there are people who won’t go to Elmora. They just can’t.
Dr. Pheasant wasn’t done. He needed a new laptop and AV screen. We had it shipped to him overnight. He wanted lobster the next night and Ahjay got it for him and then he wanted a free haircut at Bud’s and new sportcoat and silver tie at the Sharper Image and then said he needed a van to carry everything but that’s where I drew the line. I had event tickets distributed to all the stores on Main Street and both C-stores up on the highway and we sold just over a thousand, at $25 buck a pop, and there was plenty of excitement let me tell you. Make no bones about it. No one really cared about being the pheasant capital of anything. They wanted payback. They wanted to stick it to Elmora.
I remember Father Wilson fretting over his coffee. “It’s un-Christian,” he said.
On Friday Dr. Pheasant came to the office. He is a large officious person with dark bulging eyes. He was used to getting his way and he had certainly gotten his way in Brewton. “I’ll need that check,” he said, a little breathlessly. I reminded him that he hadn’t given the presentation yet. “I have to deposit funds to cover expenses. These things don’t pay for themselves.”
No they don’t, I thought. I do.
“The bank closes at three,” he said. “Of course there are other banks…” The implication was clear. Other towns had other banks. Meaning Elmora…
I handed him the check. “The debate lectern, right?” I asked.
“The lectern. You said you wanted the official debate lectern.”
“Yes, of course.” And he was off down the hall, check in hand, his shoes clicking on the linoleum.
This story ends with a whimper, I guess. Of course we never saw Doctor Pheasant again. No presentation. No official Pheasant Capital. It turns out there’s already one in Park Rapids. That figures.
I got on the phone and called every town for miles, warning them to look out for a fast-talking con man with a silver tie. Even the town of Elmora. I had to. Those dumb asses will believe anything.