Don’t miss any of the news from Hardy Falls! Here’s an archive of the articles from The Hardy Falls Gazette that have appeared in the newsletter so far…
 
State Police Called After Mannequin Masquerade – July     

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by Mathilda Gregory, Editor-in-Chief

 
The Pennsylvania State Police were called after two students from Pocono University masqueraded as mannequins at the Main Street Dress Your Best shop on Saturday.
 
The students, Jeffrey Ruffio 21, and Kala Hughes, 20, were posing as a couple in one of the displays for at least fifteen minutes before jumping out and frightening several customers, including Mrs. Samantha Black and Mayor Margo Truelove.
 
Mr. Ruffio and Ms. Hughes were posing with the cooperation of Serenity Hopkins, 20, another Pocono University student who manages the Main Street Dress Your Best store part-time.
 
“It was performance art, and they didn’t do anything more than scare a few people,” insisted Ms. Hopkins. “They got set up before we opened, and they weren’t there long. They weren’t even completely still, but nobody seemed to notice. There wasn’t any need to call the police on them.”
 
One assumes the fake mannequins escaped notice because shoppers were focused on the clearance racks, which are updated with new items every Saturday, and are one of the main reasons the store has such a loyal clientele.
 
However, what makes the situation even more interesting is that Jeffrey Ruffio is the son of ex-mayor Barclay Ruffio, who, as readers will recall, lost a hotly contested mayoral race to Margo Truelove, head of the town council, last year.
 
“It was nothing,” insisted Jeffrey Ruffio when asked about the incident. “We needed a project for one of our classes. We thought it would be a kick to see if we could scare some people. I had no idea Mayor Truelove would be there.”
 
“I’m always at Dress Your Best on Saturdays,” said Mayor Truelove, “and Serenity Hopkins certainly knows that. I’m sure the Ruffio boy knew I’d be there. He did this whole thing on purpose because his father doesn’t like losing.”
 
“Well, yeah, she’s always here on Saturdays,” Ms. Hopkins agreed. “I might have mentioned it to Jeff, but I don’t remember.”
 
At approximately 11:00 AM, Mayor Truelove arrived at the store with her husband, Gunner, and Dr. And Mrs. Black. While Mr. Truelove and Dr. Black occupied themselves elsewhere, Mayor Truelove and Mrs. Black browsed the racks directly in front of the posing couple. After an undetermined amount of time, Mr. Ruffio and Ms. Hughes leaped down onto the floor and “screamed at the tops of their lungs,” according to Mayor Truelove.
 
“She was the one who screamed,” argued Mr. Ruffio. “And Mrs. Black fainted.”
 
At the sound of the commotion, Mr. Truelove and Dr. Black arrived on the scene and, after a scuffle, detained Mr. Ruffio and Ms. Hopkins.
 
“We weren’t really trying to get away,” said Ms. Hopkins. “We didn’t do anything wrong, so why should we run?”
 
Mayor Truelove begged to differ. “They were yelling and making threatening faces,” she argued. “The Ruffio boy stuck his tongue out at me! I’m sure he targeted me and did this on purpose to scare me. So I called the police.”
 
While Mr. Truelove and Dr. Black held onto the now arguing students, Mayor Truelove contacted the state police. When asked why she didn’t call the local police, she sniffed.
 
“I don’t know if I trust Jackie Kline to treat this matter seriously. After all, she was running for mayor, too. How do I know she wasn’t part of this?”
 
“I wasn’t running for mayor!” Chief Kline declared. “I didn’t want to be mayor! I still don’t want to be mayor!”
 
Readers may remember that unknown to Chief Kline, several Hardy Falls citizens wrote her name in on the ballot in the last election. The idea gained so much support that it turned the mayoral contest into a three-way race, opening the door for an upset victory.
 
Despite Mayor Truelove’s attempts to circumvent her, Chief Kline arrived on the scene a few minutes later with Officer Harry Newman, having received a tip about what was going on from someone else in the store.
 
“We tried to convince Mayor Truelove that it was a prank, not a crime,” said Officer Newman, “but she refused to believe us.”
 
“I was being targeted!” Mayor Truelove insisted. “That’s intimidation!”
 
Chief Kline and Officer Newman tried to disperse the gathering crowd and convince Mr. Truelove and Dr. Black to let the students go, but without success.
 
“We didn’t want the situation to escalate,” said Chief Kline. “So rather than forcing the issue, we decided to wait for the state police. Fortunately, a patrol car wasn’t that far away.”
 
Trooper Grant Jerome arrived shortly thereafter.
 
“I understand why the Mayor was upset, but I convinced her to let it drop,” said Trooper Jerome with admirable diplomacy.
 
“He assured me that he would be keeping an eye on the situation,” said Mayor Truelove.
 
“I don’t know what we would have done without him,” said Chief Kline, dryly.
 
Once Trooper Jerome convinced the mayor that there had been no crime committed, Mr. Ruffio and Ms. Hughes were released with, one assumes, the makings of quite a report for their class.
 
“Dad’s really not going to like this,” warned Mr. Ruffio. “It’s good they let us go.”
 
“I guess I’ll lose my job,” said Ms. Hopkins, sadly. “But Jeff told me his father would help me out.”
 
Well, ex-mayor Ruffio does have all sorts of interesting contacts. Trooper Jerome won’t be the only one watching to see what develops.
 
 

Community Comes Together To Raise Barn – April     

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by Mathilda Gregory, Editor-in-Chief

 
Although his precious horses were saved, when local stable owner Theodore Stoltz lost one of his barns to fire, it was still a catastrophic event.
 
“It was the barn where I stored most of the hay and feed,” said Mr. Stoltz. “Not to mention the tractor and some other tools. It was all gone just like that. We tried to save it, but once the hay caught, there was no stopping it.”
 
Stoltz and others fought the blaze until the fire company could get out to his farm, but to no avail. In moments, a worker’s thoughtless toss of an illicit cigarette butt brought about thousands and thousands of dollars worth of damage. Damage Mr. Stoltz couldn’t afford.
 
“I had some insurance,” he said, “But it’s been a rough couple of years and I was spending everything I had on the horses. I guess I could have sold off some land, but this acreage has been in my family for three generations. So I dropped down the insurance.” He sighed. “They hardly covered anything.”
 
That was when Calvin Hardy, his father Ronald, and other members of the Hardy Falls community stepped in.
 
“When I found out the insurance wasn’t going to cover Ted’s losses, I knew we needed to do something,” said Calvin Hardy, owner of Hardy Hardware. “It’s not right. He’s lived his whole life in this town. He held onto his farm even when other people were selling out. He loves his horses and is always willing to bring in abused or sick animals and help them get well enough to find new homes. He needed help, so we helped him.”
 
A plan was quickly hatched. Mayor Truelove contacted a few of the wealthier citizens. Fundraising efforts were launched at The Country Time Bar and Grill, Murphy Lanes, and most of the other local businesses in town. And last Saturday, eight weeks after the devastating fire, most of the able-bodied people from Hardy Falls descended on Stoltz Stables with tools, picnic baskets, and a new pole barn kit.
 
“I’m overwhelmed. Simply overwhelmed,” said Mr. Stoltz, wiping his eyes with his bandanna. “Calvin told me they were going to collect money, and I saw the signs around town, of course, but I had no idea this was going to happen. It was so much more than I could ever have expected.”
 
“Well, we were going to get him supplies and a new tractor,” said Calvin Hardy, “but then June pointed out that he didn’t have anywhere to put the stuff. Dad and I realized we had to go further. We talked to Albert Cromwell and his friends, got their input, and the rest is history.”
 
With so many people in the community having experience putting up barns for themselves and neighbors, the work went quickly. Bernie Housemann donated siding, and general contractor Noah Chertok joined the Hardys to spearhead efforts and keep people organized.
 
“It was like herding cats,” Mr. Chertok said, “but worth it. We wouldn’t have made nearly as much progress if everyone wasn’t willing to pitch in.”
 
As the new barn went up, those not taking a turn hoisting trusses were warming themselves in heated tents set up by the Country Time and Murphy Lanes. Both businesses had food for sale, proceeds of which went directly to Mr. Stoltz.
 
“We couldn’t do much,” said Hannah Frederickson, owner of the Country Time, “but we wanted to do what we could.”
 
“Mr. Stoltz is part of our town,” said Pat Murphy, owner of Murphy Lanes. “We weren’t going to turn our backs on him.”
 
It should be noted, however, that the Country Time and Murphy Lanes tents were set up on opposite sides of the field.
 
By the end of the day, most of the barn structure was up with Mr. Chertok and both of the Hardy men committed to coming back the next day to finish things before more snow was forecast. A load of hay and feed was due to arrive as soon as the barn was complete, and so was a new tractor, on loan from Hardy Hardware until Mr. Stoltz could evaluate his financial situation.
 
“We want to give it to him, but Ted is stubborn,” said an obviously tired, but happy, Calvin Hardy.
 
“We’ll wear him down,” added his girlfriend, June Esperanza. “He’s going to get that tractor if I have anything to say about it.”
 
“I just can’t explain what this means to me,” said Mr. Stoltz, blowing his nose loudly into a handkerchief. “To have everyone come out this way…to have them do all of this…I can’t repay this. How can I ever repay this?”
 
I don’t think you’ll have to repay this, Mr. Stoltz. Neighbors help neighbors when they fall on hard times. Especially here in Hardy Falls.

 
 

Valentine’s Day Surprise Leads To Emergency Room Visit – February      

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by Mathilda Gregory, Editor-in-Chief

 
Travis Bickle and Mindy Monroe have been dating since they were juniors in high school.
 
“I walked into third period English and saw her sitting there.  I knew she was it for me,” said Mr. Bickle, age 19.
 
“He asked me out after class and I haven’t looked back since,” Ms. Monroe, also age 19, confirmed.  “Although I’m not sure either one of us knew where we were heading then. We’ve grown up a lot in the last three years.”
 
After they both graduated from Hardy Falls High School last year, Mr. Bickle knew he wanted to “pop the question” and ask Ms. Monroe to marry him.  This Valentine’s Day, he took the step.
 
“I’ve been working full time at Stein Electrical Fittings since I graduated,” said Mr. Bickle, “and I had some money saved up so I was able to get her a ring and all.  Mindy said she wanted to go to Harrisburg to college and I knew I had to get my ring on her finger before she left.”
 
“I’m going to get my dental hygienist degree,” said Ms. Monroe.  “Then I’ll be back to work with someone around here.  I told Trav he didn’t need to worry.”  She smiled.  “But he doesn’t want to risk losing me.”
 
Mr. Bickle didn’t question the fact that he wanted to propose, but he did wonder how he was going to do it.
 
“I thought about just asking her out to the Fallside for a nice dinner or something, but that didn’t seem special enough,” Mr. Bickle said.  “Then I remembered how much she likes the milkshakes at the Sunnyside Diner.  I figured I’d hide the ring in the milkshake and when she drank it all, it would be at the bottom, you know?”  He shook his head sadly.  “It seemed like a good idea.”
 
Mr. Bickle admitted he forgot the milkshakes at the Sunnyside are so thick you can’t drink them with a straw.  He also made the mistake of inviting Ms. Monroe’s sister and mother to join them so that they could witness the proposal.
 
“My mom and sister and I always have a contest to see who can drink our milkshakes the fastest when we go to the Sunnyside,” said Ms. Monroe.  “It’s just something we always do.  I guess Trav didn’t know that.”
 
Mr. Bickle put the engagement ring in the milkshake without anyone else seeing him do it.  The next thing he knew, Ms. Monroe, her mother, and her sister were chugging back the treats as if their lives depended on it.
 
“I tried to stop her from going too fast,” Mr. Bickle said.  “I kept pulling at her arm and telling her to stop, but she wasn’t listening. It scared the crap out of me when she was done and I looked at the bottom of the glass because the ring wasn’t there.”
 
Apparently, Ms. Monroe had been so focused on the competition with her mother and sister, that she had swallowed her engagement ring without noticing.
 
“Honestly, I didn’t even feel it go down,” Ms. Monroe shrugged.
 
“It wasn’t that small a ring,” Mr. Bickle insisted.  “I mean it wasn’t huge, but the stone was big enough.  It was a decent size.  She should have felt something.”
 
“I just wanted to win,” Ms. Monroe said.  “I’ve won the last three times.”
 
What Ms. Monroe won this time was a trip to the emergency room at Friendsville Hospital, where the doctor took x-rays, confirmed the situation, and told her she was going to have to wait a day or two before she’d be able to see her ring in person.
 
“I told them I wanted them to give me something to hurry things along because I didn’t want to wait, but they said that some things need time and I should let them know if it didn’t happen.  We stopped on the way home to buy prunes.”  Ms. Monroe shook her head.  “I mean, Mom said she’d read about this kind of thing happening to other people, but who would have guessed it would happen to me?  Guess I’m just too focused and goal-oriented.”
 
This reporter feels that it’s all well and good to be focused on a goal, but perhaps some attention to detail would have been in order in this case.
 
As the doctor predicted, the inevitable passage of time brought about the inevitable passage of the ring.  Fortunately, it had not been damaged in the course of its detour and once it had been thoroughly cleaned, Mr. Bickle presented it to Ms. Monroe with the appropriate pomp and circumstance.  Fortunately for all concerned, she said “yes.”
 
“The doctor checked me out and says I’m fine,” Ms. Bickle reported.  “I have a cast-iron stomach.  I guess I’ll never forget my engagement, but maybe Travis learned it’s not always a good idea to surprise someone.”
 
Well, at least not when there’s a Sunnyside milkshake involved.
 
 

Mayor Truelove’s Inauguration Is All Wet – January  

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by Mathilda Gregory, Editor-in-Chief

 
Margo Truelove was sworn in as the new mayor of Hardy Falls on January 17^th at an invitation-only ceremony taking place in the main banquet hall of the Fallside Restaurant. Things did not go as expected when the room’s fire sprinklers malfunctioned and unexpectedly doused the cream of Hardy Falls society in a torrential downpour.
 
“I’m not sure why Margo insisted on going to that place anyway,” said deposed Mayor Ruffio, who attended the ceremony to pass over the gavel of office and welcome the new mayor to her responsibilities, or lack thereof. “The Country Club was always good enough for me.”
 
The taxpayers might point out that the city hall building has quite a respectable room where the town council holds their meetings, but we suppose food and drink would not be provided for the attendees if the inauguration was held there.
 
We might also point out that food and drink do not necessarily need to be provided for an inauguration ceremony in Hardy Falls, and that said inauguration should probably be open to the whole town, not just a select few invitees.
 
“The Country Club is on the outskirts of town. I wanted something more local,” said the newly-minted Mayor Truelove. “I thought the venue should capture the charm of Hardy Falls.”
 
Charming the Fallside may be, but when this reporter suggested that the Country Time Bar and Grill, or Murphy Lanes Bowling Alley, or even the Sunside Diner might more accurately capture the charm of the town and do it for a lot less money, Mayor Truelove looked askance.
 
“We don’t have to be ridiculous,” she said. “I do have some standards. And Parker told me they could handle the occasion.”
 
“Of course we can handle the occasion,” Parker Anderson, owner of Fallside argued. “We handle occasions like this all the time. We had a system malfunction, that’s all.” He sighed. “I told her we had to reschedule because we’d noticed there was something going on with some of the systems after that really bad cold snap we had at the beginning of the year. But she insisted on keeping the date.”
 
When asked why he’d allowed the ceremony to proceed even though he’d thought there might be problems, Mr. Anderson shrugged.
 
“She paid more money.”
 
The Hardy Falls Gazette is looking into whose money was paid to convince the Fallside owner to reconsider – Mayor Truelove’s, or the town’s. We suspect we know the answer.
 
A plated dinner was served while the ceremonies commenced and Ms. Truelove assumed the mantle of her new office. However, once those were finished, and the attendees were up mingling and dancing to music provided by Roy and The Outlaws, things went downhill.
 
“After the speeches, everyone was walking around talking and drinking, and it started getting really hot in the room,” said Brandon Mansfeld, a Fallside server who was working at the banquet. “I mean, really hot. Everybody started complaining. Then suddenly it started to…rain.” He waved his hands. “I mean, a lot.”
 
It appears that the sprinkler system in the room was triggered in error and malfunctioned, spewing water everywhere. The rest, as they say, was history.
 
“Everyone was running and screaming and water was just pouring from the sprinklers,” said Mr. Mansfeld.
 
“It was horrible. I hope we saved our equipment,” said Roy Randolph, leader of the Outlaws. “Animal threw himself on top of the amp, but I don’t know if that helped.”
 
We don’t have any further information about the state of the amp, but fortunately, Animal, the drummer for the band, was not electrocuted for his heroic efforts.
 
“Dr. and Mrs. Black were there and I heard Dr. Black shouting about his tuxedo,” added Mr. Mansfeld. “Mrs. Black was just yelling about her dress. And her hair. I’m pretty sure she was upset about her hair, too.”
 
“Samantha Black had spent five thousand dollars on that dress, and it was ruined, simply ruined. I was so embarrassed,” said Mayor Truelove. “And Trevor’s new tuxedo was a complete loss. They want to sue Fallside, and I said I’d use the power of my office to help them win.” She clenched her fist with determination. “Parker Anderson had better not bill me for those ice sculptures! In fact, I want all of my money back!”
 
When we passed this information along to Mr. Anderson, he sighed. “Good thing I have insurance.”
 
He might also want to rethink his business practices. Sometimes it doesn’t pay to jump after the easy money. Even in Hardy Falls.
 
More information to follow as we investigate just where that “easy money” came from.
 
 

Surprise Winner In Mayoral Race – November

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by Mathilda Gregory, Editor-in-Chief

 
Margo Truelove, owner of the Spun Sugar Candy Store and Chamber of Commerce Chairperson, pulled out a surprise victory on November 7th to become the next mayor of Hardy Falls.
 
Despite trailing in the polls throughout the race, Ms. Truelove was able to come from behind and win, denying longtime mayor, Barclay Ruffio, yet another two-year term.
 
“I think this shows that Hardy Falls is ready for a change,” said Ms. Truelove in her acceptance speech. “We can’t stay stuck in the past. As this area becomes more developed, we need strong leadership to position Hardy Falls for the future! I will do everything in my power to move us where we need to go!”
 
Ms. Truelove presumably feels that she is the best candidate for the job, but not all of her fellow Hardy Falls citizens agree.
 
“I’m not confident Margo understands that her role as mayor is a figurehead,” said Councilman David Newfield, who himself won another term in office in Tuesday’s elections. “The town council runs things. We don’t have a strong mayor in Hardy Falls.
 
Ms. Truelove did indeed seem a little surprised to hear there would be limitations on her role. “Well,” she said when informed she would have to work through the council, “they never gave me much trouble before. I can’t see that they will now.
 
Only time will tell. But the real question is how Mayor – soon to be ex-Mayor – Ruffio managed to lose a position he’s held for over 18 years
 
“I thought he’d be there until he died,” said Wallace Dunlop, owner of Dunlop’s Garage. “He seemed to be a shoo-in.
 
“I had the votes,” insisted Mayor Ruffio. “The people of Hardy Falls know what I’ve done for them. But this was a low-turnout election, and there was a third candidate, so the electorate was fractured. I feel that it’s not so much that I lost the election as that it was stolen from me!
 
Mayor Ruffio is correct that the third candidate seems to be the key. According to voting commission records, a large number of votes went to a write-in candidate – Police Chief Jacqueline Kline. In fact, Chief Kline got a full 30% of the vote
 
“But I wasn’t running!” Chief Kline said when we spoke. “I don’t want to be mayor, for heaven’s sakes! I have absolutely no desire to be in politics; I’ve got enough to do with my own job. How the heck did I get that many votes?
 
Good question We did some research by polling various citizens around Hardy Falls and discovered there was an underground movement to elect Chief Kline – whether she wanted to be elected or not
 
“It’s been a long time since Ruffio has done a good job, in my opinion,” said Joe Horton, owner of Horton’s Air Conditioning Service. “He’s too busy shooting the breeze with his friends to pay attention to what’s happening in the town. And I didn’t think Margo was a good candidate either.” So, Mr. Horton took it upon himself to write Chief Kline’s name on the ballot instead. Obviously, he wasn’t alone
 
“We’d been talking about it at the Country Time and the diner, and a bunch of us thought it would be a good idea,” Mr. Horton said. “If Jackie won, we’d at least have someone in there we trusted.” He shrugged. “Word got around. A fair number of folks jumped on the bandwagon.
 
“That’s sweet of them, but if elected, I will not serve,” Chief Kline reiterated
 
Unfortunately, not everyone thinks Chief Kline was an innocent bystander
 
“Jacqueline Kline cost me this election,” soon to be ex-mayor Ruffio claimed. “And I have to wonder what her objectives were. You can be sure that I’ll be watching her closely as I move into the private sector. I brought her in as police chief, but I won’t have her working to consolidate power!
 
Actually, it was the council who brought her in as police chief. Mayor Ruffio objected to the appointment
 
“I feel that I won this election on my own merits,” Ms. Truelove asserted. “I would have won even if Jackie Kline wasn’t on the ballot. I’m ready to show Hardy Falls that they’ve elected the right person.
 
“On the ballot? I wasn’t on the ballot!” Chief Kline exclaimed. “I wasn’t running! How many times do I have to say it?
 
“I wish Jackie had won,” was Martin Scanner’s opinion when we talked to him and Mr. Horton at the Country Time. “Oh, well. There’s always the next election.
 
Apparently, Chief Kline will have to say it a few more times
 
 

Mayor Ruffio Throws First Pitch – May

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by Michael Hawkins

 

The Hardy Falls Area Business Baseball League started their 2017 slow-pitch softball season on May 8th when the Hardy Hardware Heart Attacks met the Beecher Ballers at the Hardy Falls High School baseball diamond. Because the first game of the season featured two local businesses, Hardy Falls mayor Barclay Ruffio was invited to throw out the first pitch

 

Mayor Ruffio is an excellent politician, as his seven terms in office will attest. He may even be a good mayor. But as his pitching demonstrated, he is a horrible softball player

 

After both teams had been introduced and the national anthem was played, the Heart Attacks took to the field, and the Ballers got ready to bat. Then, Mayor Ruffio was brought out to the pitcher’s mound to throw his pitch
“I played football in high school, not baseball,” said Mayor Ruffio. “I was just trying to make it look good.
 
“I probably should have let him practice first,” admitted Wally Dunlop, the head of the Business Baseball League. “But I figured if he’d thrown a football, he should be able to throw a softball, right? He didn’t tell me he was a defensive lineman until afterward.
 
Mayor Ruffio’s underhand pitch went completely off course, so instead of heading for catcher Austin Grant where he crouched behind the plate, the ball went wide and struck Beecher Baller lead-off batter, Tony Hayes, who was standing about twenty yards away waiting to come up to the plate. The ball hit him on the thigh with the force of a missile, and Mr. Hayes dropped to the ground screaming
 
“Thank God I was wearing a cup,” Mr. Hayes said later. “But that damned thing hit me like a sledgehammer. What the heck!
 
“I don’t know my own strength sometimes,” Mayor Ruffio said, shamefaced
 
“The Grant kid didn’t even try to catch the ball,” protested Claude Beecher, owner of Beecher Auto Sales. “I mean he could have pushed Tony out the way, couldn’t he?
 
“I tried,” Austin Grant disagreed. “But the thing was fast, and it was so far off the mark I couldn’t get there in time.
 
“That was the worst pitch I’ve ever seen in my life,” agreed Albert Cromwell, who’d been watching from the stands
 
Paramedics said that considering the size of the bruise on his thigh, Mr. Hayes should not play. Since Mr. Hayes is reportedly the best hitter on the Baller team, as well as the third baseman, this was quite a blow
 
It came as no surprise to anyone that the Beecher Ballers lost to the Hardy Hardware Heart Attacks by a score of 5 to 1
 
Unfortunately, there is an intense rivalry between the two businesses, and the business owners, due to Claude Beecher’s handling of a vehicle purchased by June Esperanza, Calvin Hardy’s girlfriend. As soon as the game was over, Beecher ran onto the field and started yelling that the ceremonial first pitch had been a setup and Mayor Ruffio aimed for Mr. Hayes on purpose. His opinion was that the Ballers would have won if Mr. Hayes had been able to play
 
Calvin Hardy, the owner of Hardy Hardware, who had been playing first base for his team, got in Mr. Beecher’s face, yelling that his team had won fair and square and calling Mr. Beecher a few choice names
 
Mr. Beecher then appeared to try to strangle Mr. Hardy, but Mr. Hardy broke the hold
 
Both teams, except Mr. Hayes, rushed the field and there was much shouting and shoving. Spectators even leaped out of the grandstand to participate
 
The police were called, and, with some shouting of her own, Chief Jacqueline Kline eventually managed to restore order. Mr. Beecher and Mr. Hardy were both fined for a public disturbance
 
Mr. Dunlop said that he would make sure the two teams didn’t face off against each other in the future
 
“Although I don’t know what we’ll do if they’re both in the playoffs,” he sighed
 
Mayor Ruffio blamed his poor aim on an old war wound
 
He declined to say which war
 
 

Pet Store Panic! – April

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by Tiffany Preston

 Sometimes even a good idea has problems

 That’s what Jeffrey Keifer, owner of the Pets ‘R’ Your Best Friends full-service pet store located at 33 Winston Street, found out on Saturday, the second day of his new spring event – “Pet Photos with the Easter Bunny.
 
“We did a lot of business during the “Pet Photos with Santa” event in December, so I thought I’d expand,” explained Mr. Keifer. “We just started offering grooming services last year, and man, I’m telling you the requests for appointments went through the roof during whole the Santa thing.
 
People want their dogs to look stylish for photos,” said Taronda Lane, chief groomer. “Cats aren’t the best clients, so we don’t get as many requests for them,” she added, sounding relieved. Ms. Lane was out of work for a few days earlier in the year when Pufflelump, a Persian cat owned by Mrs. Charles Cahill, took grave offense to having his ear-hairs trimmed during his grooming session
 
“I’m pretty careful with what I’ll offer for cats these days,” Ms. Lane admitted
 
“Pet Photos with the Easter Bunny” kicked off on Friday, April 7th, and is scheduled to run 1-6 pm every day through April 15th. Ronald Hardy, the store’s Santa at Christmastime, returned to don the fluffy mantle of the world’s most famous rabbit
 
“People have the option of a photo with the Bunny, or a picture of their pet in front of the spring flower backdrop.” Mr. Keifer explained. “June Esperanza is taking the photos, and she is doing a great job.” He sighed. “Friday, the first day, was wonderful,” he said wistfully. “We got a lot of compliments. People were thrilled.
 
But then, on Saturday, Arlo Frank brought his Amazon blue parrot, Bonzo, in for a photo
 
“Well, he’s a pet, ain’t he?” Mr. Frank demanded. “I wanted to get a picture for Ma, cause she’s always going on about how cute the Santa pictures were when Ms. Gregory posted them in the Gazette. I thought she’d like seeing Bonzo in a spring picture, ’cause he’s got them blue wings and all. I’ve got as much right to bring my pet in as anybody else in this town.
 
“It was fine that he brought the parrot,” Mr. Keifer argued. “Parrots are great. I like parrots. But Arlo obviously didn’t have him under control, and Bonzo’s wings aren’t clipped, so he took off.
 
“Bonzo usually stays right with me,” Mr. Frank protested. “I guess all of the new sights and sounds just got him worked up. Before I knew it, he was gone.
 
“Arlo was too busy flirting with Grace Cooper and her friend to pay attention to anything else,” sniffed Mrs. Cahill, who’d brought Pufflelump in for a photo. “And then his parrot is flying all around screaming obscenities at the rest of the animals. My Puffy was livid! Livid, I tell, you!
 
“I don’t know. I thought the cursing was kind of funny,” June Esperanza disagreed
 
The Easter Bunny, Ronald Hardy, suffered some scratches on his hands and face when Mr. Peabody, the beagle he was holding at the time of Bonzo’s bid for freedom, went into a frenzy trying to get to the bird
 
“He’s a hunting dog,” said Mr. Clark, Peabody’s owner. “I guess he thought the parrot was a big, blue, quail.
 
“I was right there, so I tried to grab Bonzo when he took off,” said Calvin Hardy. “But I was kind of busy.” Mr. Hardy was in line with Ms. Mathilda Gregory’s cat, Shakespeare, as Ms. Gregory was home sick with a bad cold. Since Shakespeare was about to get into a kitty smackdown with Pufflelump, he had his hands full
 
Mr. Hardy assured us head wounds bleed a lot and that the scratches weren’t as bad as they appeared
 
As soon as Bonzo took off, he started swooping all around the store, which, as readers may know, is an old warehouse and thus has very high ceilings
 
“He also…pooped all over everything,” Mr. Keifer said and shuddered
 
“Birds do that!” Mr. Frank protested. “They get nervous, they take off, they dump their business sometimes. It’s freaking natural. You’d think a pet store owner would know that. Besides, the stupid little Chihuahua Mr. Looper brought crapped all over the place, too.
 
Mr. Looper claimed that Dazzle, the Chihuahua, has a nervous condition and irritable bowel syndrome and that he cleaned up the mess immediately
 
“Besides, Dazzle’s poop is the size of a raisin,” he pointed out. “And it wasn’t raining down from the sky onto our heads!
 
Alerted to the disturbance, Mr. Keifer raced through the store trying to capture Bonzo, which only succeeded in making the parrot even more agitated
 
“That bird sure has a pair of lungs on him,” observed Calvin Hardy. “The way the screaming echoed…I thought I was gonna go deaf.
 
Mr. Keifer finally tracked Bonzo back to the bird section, where he found the parrot sitting on one of the cages cursing loudly with such horrific language that Sophie Barton dragged her sons, Clifford and Markie, and their pet salamander, Mr. Wiggles, out of the store
 
Mr. Frank finally joined in the attempt to recapture his pet, but Bonzo would not come to him, and, in fact, called him some names that are unprintable in a family newspaper
 
“Mom watches cable TV all day.” Mr. Frank shrugged. “I guess he’s heard some stuff around the house
 
Mr. Keifer, driven by either panic or desperation, tried to throw his shop apron over Bonzo. The parrot dodged it and knocked over a display cage of zebra finches
 
A finch massacre seemed imminent when Pufflelump, who had escaped Mrs. Cahill’s embrace, arrived on the scene. Fortunately, Mr. Keifer was able to rescue the birds in the nick of time. Pufflelump retaliated and then ran to hide behind some bags of birdseed
 
Mr. Keifer was forced to retreat to his office so he could bandage his forearms
 
“I really do have to get Puffy’s nails trimmed,” said Mrs. Cahill. “But nobody seems to want to do it.
 
Bonzo was finally captured when June Esperanza put some parrot treats out on a nearby cat tree and the bird, apparently hungry after its exertions, came down for a snack. Ms. Esperanza was able to throw a dog blanket over him and bundle him up
 
“I got tired of watching everyone run around,” she said
 
Bonzo was not impressed, but at least nobody could hear what he was saying. Mr. Frank took him, still wrapped in the blanket, and left the store
 
Mrs. Cahill eventually recaptured Pufflelump when he tried to hunt the pet mice in a glass display case
 
Mr. Keifer said that he did not have to go to the hospital to treat his wounds and that his doctor told him there was no reason he couldn’t have alcohol once he got home
 
Want a photo of your pet with the Easter Bunny? There’s still time! “Pet Photos with the Easter Bunny” runs every day 1-6 pm at the Pets ‘R’ Your Best Friends pet store. Pet birds will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
 
 

The Fastnacht Brigade – March

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by Matilda Gregory, editor-in-chief

 In the early morning hours of Monday, February 27th, the women’s group of St. John’s United Church of Christ marched into the church basement prepared to do battle, just as they have every year for the past ten years. Their weapons of choice? Eggs, milk, flour, sugar, lard, yeast, and oil for frying. Their objective? Fastnachts
 
If you are new to the Hardy Falls area or have been living under a rock, you might not know that fastnachts are fried doughnuts and a delicious part of the Pennsylvania Dutch celebration of Lent
 
The Tuesday before Ash Wednesday is traditionally a day to eat well and prepare for the Lenten fast, so generations of frugal Pennsylvania Dutch housekeepers took it as an opportunity use up rich ingredients in the pantry. Specifically, they tried to use up fats and sugar before the more austere diet of Lent began. Thus, Fastnacht Day (Doughnut Day) was born and is now celebrated throughout the region on Shrove (Fat) Tuesday
 
There are actually several traditional fastnacht recipes, most of which include potatoes and lard. One such recipe is printed at the bottom of this article in case you want to try making your own. The fastnacht can be a little heavier than other doughnuts, and it’s not as sweet, but it is definitely a satisfying treat! Plus, rumor has it that eating a fastnacht on Fastnacht Day brings good luck for the rest of the year, as well as a full stomach
 
Thanks to the women’s group at St. John’s UCC, this charming Pennsylvania Dutch tradition has morphed into a delicious annual event here in Hardy Falls. The ladies don’t just bake in the basement of their church – they get out into the town and sell their fastnachts at many businesses on Main Street, as well as taking orders in the weeks leading up to the main event. Forget Girl Scout Cookies! Fasnacht Day belongs to the fastnacht, and you never know where the St. John’s women will show up hawking their wares
 
“You have to eat a fastnacht on Fasnacht Day,” insisted Milly Pierce, 75, one of the regular participants. “But it has to be a real fastnacht, not just any old doughnut from a chain store.
 
When asked why, she shrugged. “It’s good luck, and you want to eat the best thing you can find to get the best luck, right?
 
The fastnachts from St. John’s are the best, at least as far as their loyal customers are concerned
 
“Oh, God, I live for Fastnacht Day,” exclaimed Hannah Frederickson, owner of the Country Time Bar and Grill. “And then, a few weeks later, the Lutheran Church makes peanut butter eggs for Easter. This time of year is wonderful.
 
“I didn’t have a clue what the heck everyone was talking about,” said Mateo Guerrero, a new resident of Hardy Falls. “But I tried one of the doughnuts because the little lady selling them in the bookstore was pretty insistent.” He grinned. “She strong-armed me like a vet. Then I tasted one of the things.” He shrugged. “So maybe I bought another four of them. Never heard of Fastnacht Day before, but I think the rest of the country needs to jump on the bandwagon.
 
“I remember my mama making fastnachts when I was a girl,” said Vera Brady, 92, who made the trip into town to sit at a table in the diner and sell doughnuts. She laughed. “My brothers and I always wanted to be the first out of bed to eat one on Tuesday. If you overslept and were the last one up that day, you’d get teased for weeks!
 
The St John’s “Fastnacht Brigade” as the ladies like to call themselves, worked in three shifts on Monday to make over 2,000 doughnuts, to be sold either by pre-order or at the various businesses in town. Their hard work paid off again this year, as they were out of stock by noon. The ladies raised enough money to cover their church’s heating bill and made a healthy donation to the fund for a new elevator as well
 
“People can get fastnachts at some of the supermarkets now,” said Mrs. Brady. “But I guess they still like ours the best.
 
Margaret Holz, 80, who was sitting with Mrs. Brady, shook her head. “I don’t know what’s going to happen when we can’t make them anymore. It’s getting harder to stand and my fingers hurt from rolling out the dough. It has to rise twice, you know.” She sighed. “I hope the young people will learn how to make them too. I’d hate it if there were no real fastnachts in Hardy Falls.
 
So would we all. Still, since eating a fastnacht on Fastnacht Day is lucky, it might be enough to keep the tradition going
 
“I ate a doughnut, and then I found a ten dollar bill in the street,” said Markie Barton, age 8. “It was awesome! Every day should be Doughnut Day!
 
Who can argue with that?
 
Interested in making your own fastnachts? You don’t have to wait until next year – here’s a recipe. Although there are several kinds of fastnachts, this recipe seems complete with potatoes, lard, AND sugar.
 
Fastnachts with Yeast
 
2 cups scalded milk, ½ cup lard, 1 cup mashed potatoes, 2 teaspoons salt, ¾ cup sugar, 2 well-beaten eggs, 1 package yeast, 7 cups flour, approximately
 
Scald milk and add mashed potatoes, sugar, salt, and lard. Cool until lukewarm. Add eggs. Add yeast and enough flour to make a soft dough. Knead well and place in a greased bowl. Cover with a cloth and let rise about 1½ hours. Roll ¼ inch thick on a floured board. Place on a cloth and let rise until doubled in size and fry in hot fat
 
 

 
Sibling Rivalry Explodes At Valentine’s Day Dance – February

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by Michael Hawkins, correspondent

 
Sibling rivalry exploded into chaos at the 36th annual Hardy Falls Valentine’s Day Dance held at the Grange Hall on Sunday, February 12th
 
The night started innocently enough. The Valentine’s Day dance is one of the most popular events in town, and this year was no exception. The community descended in force, dressed in their best Valentine’s Day finery
 
“It’s just nice to get out in the middle of winter, you know?” said Chet Hinkle, owner of Hinkle Insurance. “I mean, sure, this winter hasn’t been too bad, but usually it’s freaking cold. Besides,” he laughed, “this is the only time I get to wear this suit.
 
The suit, bright white with dark red lapels, paired with a red vest decorated with hearts, certainly made a statement
 
The large Grange Hall itself was a study in pink, white, and red, echoing Mr. Hinkle’s suit. Volunteers from the town council, led by Margo Truelove of Spun Sugar Candy, had spent days blowing up hundreds of balloons and hanging streamers
 
“It looked like Cupid threw up in here,” observed Martin Scanner, who manages reservations of the space for the town. “Made my teeth hurt. But everyone else seemed happy.
 
Attendees who didn’t much care for the decor appreciated the large bar that had been set up, manned by Deacon Black and Matteo Guerrero of the Country Time Bar and Grill. The town council had hired a band – Roy and The Renegades – to provide music for dancing
 
While the townspeople mingled, drank, and danced in the hall, things took a downward turn out in the vestibule where Lola Peters, 83, owner of Hardy Hair, was collecting tickets at the door
 
At approximately 9:00 pm, Birdie Nelson, 84, of Skytop, arrived and attempted entry into the dance, accompanied by Albert Cromwell, 82, of Hardy Falls. Ms. Nelson is Ms. Peters’ sister
 
According to reports, Ms. Peters had been dating Mr. Cromwell herself until three weeks ago. Apparently, she had not been aware that he was now dating her sister
 
When she saw the two trying to enter the dance, she confronted them and demanded to know what was going on. Things escalated quickly from there, and soon the sisters were yelling obscenities at each other
 
The shouting intensified when Ms. Nelson tried to get past Ms. Peters. Ms. Peters grabbed the pink orchid lei Ms. Nelson was wearing, ripping it and her dress and showering petals everywhere. Ms. Nelson slapped her
 
“Ms. Peters yelled, “oh it is so on,” reported Tiffany Preston, who had been helping to collect tickets and witnessed to the event. “Then she tackled Ms. Nelson.
 
Mr. Cromwell tried to intervene, but one of the women kicked him in the groin, and he went down
 
The women fell to the floor, clawing and punching at each other. Martin Scanner and Joe Horton pulled Mr. Cromwell to safety and then tried to separate the two sisters. Mr. Scanner got an elbow to the stomach and had the wind knocked out of him. Mr. Horton was scratched and left to call the police
 
“Hey, I’m no hero,” he said
 
At that point, Ms. Peters had the upper hand and pinned Ms. Nelson to the floor
 
“She kept yelling, “what are you doing with him, you bitch? He’s mine!” and other things like that,” said Tiffany Preston. “Mr. Cromwell was still trying to protect his…um, himself, but he looked really stunned. I don’t think he knew Ms. Peters had it that bad for him.
 
It may be that Ms. Peters “has it bad” for Mr. Cromwell. But according to other long-time Hardy Falls residents in attendance, she also has a legendary hatred for her sister
 
“Well,” said Mathilda Gregory, editor in chief of the Hardy Falls Gazette, “The way I heard it, when the girls were in their teens, Birdie Brady – that was her name then – glued down all of Lola Brady’s hair. Lola’s head had to be completely shaved, and she was a laughingstock for weeks. She’s never forgiven her sister. Their rivalry is legendary.” Ms. Gregory shook her head. “I don’t know what Albert was thinking.
 
After a few moments, Ms. Nelson managed to get away from Ms. Peters and ran. She burst into the main hall, much to the surprise of those who had not realized something was going on in the vestibule. Ms. Peters followed
 
Unfortunately, the theme of this year’s dance was “Love Among The Stars,” complete with Star Wars themed piñatas
 
“I just wanted to highlight our new Star Wars line of candy,” Margo Truelove said sadly. “Lightsabers to knock down Star Wars piñatas seemed like it would be fun.
 
The piñata portion of the evening hadn’t happened yet, so when Ms. Nelson and Ms. Peters barged into the Grange Hall, they ran right into the display. Ms. Nelson grabbed a lightsaber, Ms. Peters grabbed another, and soon the two women were hacking away at each other with the enthusiasm of experienced Jedi
 
Since they were in a relatively confined space, things went about as well as you might expect. The piñatas were the first casualties, and candy scattered everywhere, tripping the people trying to separate the women and ground underfoot
 
“Lola got me on the head with her lightsaber,” said Harry Newman, who’d rushed forward to try and help. “Lucky she didn’t kick me in the nuts like she did Albert.
 
People at the bar scattered when the women took out cups of beer and other drinks with their lightsabers
 
“Good thing we had the bottles lined up on the back wall,” said Deacon Black
 
Ms. Peters and Ms. Nelson were definitely tiring, panting and hoarse as they continued to shout. Mr. Black and Mr. Guerrero were able to grab the women and finally disarmed them, before helping them to chairs on opposite sides of the room
 
Chief Jacqueline Kline and Officer Harry Newman, III, who had been out on a call on the other side of town, arrived and took both women down to the station. Fortunately, they were able to transport them in separate cars
 
“We’re going to charge them with disturbing the peace, but we won’t hold them,” Chief Kline said. “It would be different if anyone had been seriously hurt. They’ll have to pay for the candy, though.
 
“Easy for her to say nobody was hurt,” Albert Cromwell groused later and then shrugged. “I guess I forgot about that stupid glue. I mean, it happened over seventy years ago, for heaven’s sake. Maybe they should let it go.
 
“Just goes to show you that you always need to think before you jump between sisters,” Ms. Gregory said
 
Mr. Cromwell declined to comment
 
 

 
Unexpected Participant Crashes Polar Bear Plunge – January

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by Mathilda Gregory, Editor-in-Chief

 
The seventh annual Hardy Falls Polar Bear Plunge turned out to be much more exciting than past events, thanks to an unexpected participant joining the festivities
 
Hosted by the Hardy Falls chapter of the Polar Bear Club, the big annual plunge takes place the morning of New Year’s Day at Hardy Falls Lake. It’s rapidly become something of a tradition for bathers from all of the surrounding communities to welcome the new year by stripping down to their bathing suits and jumping into the water for an icy cold weather swim
 
“Hardy Falls Lake is perfect for the plunge,” said Mr. Marvin Christopher, owner of The Christopher Lodge and founding member of the local Polar Bear Club chapter. “Because of the waterfalls, it almost never freezes completely. It’s just really freaking cold. Gets the blood moving.
 
Perhaps it would be more accurate to say it “stops the heart.
 
This year’s plunge started innocently enough. 72 brave participants, shivering in their bathing suits, waited at the edge of the lake while over 200 onlookers watched with a combination of laughter, disbelief, and wonder
 
Mr. Christopher had just blown a little silver bugle to indicate the start of the event, sending people running into the frigid water, when, without warning, a large, black animal came galloping across the park and jumped into the lake with the plungers
 
Many of the onlookers screamed. In the confusion, there were shouts of “A bear! It’s a bear!” Mrs. Emeline Ernst’s Pomeranian, Buffy, jumped out of her lap and gave chase immediately. Mrs. Ernst tried to go after her little dog, but ended up falling through the webbing of the lawn chair she’d been sitting on and required assistance to get out
 
“It did kind of look like a bear,” said Sophie Barton, who was attending the plunge with her sons, Cliff and Markie. “A young one. Like maybe a cub.
 
As panicked bathers splashed for the shore, Bernie Housemann started shouting “My gun! I need my gun!
 
Mr. Housemann did not have a weapon of any kind in his speedo bathing suit
 
As he was scrambling to get back on shore, presumably to get to his clothes, Mr. Housemann slipped on the rocks and fell into the mud. Chet Hinkle and Richie Dunlop tried to help him to stand, but he pulled them down with him
 
Mr. Housemann was fortunate that he didn’t have a gun. Not only were Chief Jackie Kline and Officer Harry Newman in the crowd, but the animal causing the commotion was not a bear. It was a 100 pound black Newfoundland dog named Spot who had gotten away from her owners. The long tail really should have been a clue
 
The dog’s owner, Lucas Vasco of New Jersey, ran to retrieve her. Before he could do so, however, Spot jumped on Mr. Housemann and sat on him, pushing him back down into the mud
 
“I was face up, but I couldn’t breathe,” Mr. Housemann said later. “I’m going to sue!
 
Chief Kline indicated that Mr. Housemann had been in the softer mud, so he wasn’t hurt. Mr. Housemann dropped his threats when Mr. Vasco offered to pay for a doctor’s visit
 
Mr. Hinkle and Mr. Dunlop tried to help Mr. Housemann, but the dog growled at them and refused to let them get close. Other bathers kept a respectful distance
 
At this point, Mr. Vasco, as well as every unleashed dog in the park, had made it to the water. Vasco tried to grab his dog, but she evaded him and ran
 
Mr. Housemann made his escape, and a great chase ensued. The Newfoundland was apparently having a wonderful time, jumping and splashing, running to the shore before rushing back to the lake, a pack of dogs following her, including the diminutive Buffy until Mrs. Ernst got hold of her again. Spot was not inclined to listen to her owner, and Mr. Vasco ended up getting as wet as any of the plungers
 
Mr. Vasco’s wife and their three-year-old young daughter were standing nearby calling for the dog to come. Mrs. Vasco apparently let go of her daughter’s hand as she was shouting, and the toddler made a break for it, running as fast as lightning to the lake. Her mother cried out and chased her, but the child was too quick
 
Mr. Vasco saw what was happening and changed course. So did Spot. The Newfoundland, with great strides, splashed right up to the little girl and lay down in front of her, blocking her path to the lake. When the child tried to go around her, the dog adjusted position until Mrs. Vasco arrived on the scene and grabbed her little girl. Mr. Vasco caught Spot
 
After another half-hour, the remaining dogs were sorted out, the bathers were covered, and the plunge was declared over for this year
 
Mr. Vasco, his wife, Katie, and their daughter, Reenie, had been spending the New Year’s weekend in the cabins at the Christopher Lodge resort. They’d heard about the Polar Bear Plunge and decided to come check it out
 
“Spot was with us, so we brought her along,” said Mr. Vasco. “She was on a leash. We didn’t think there’d be any problems.
 
“We hardly ever have to use the leash and the clasp is old,” Mrs. Vasco said, sighing. “I guess Reenie must have unhooked it when I wasn’t looking. She’s pretty smart, and she loves playing with Spot. The two of them run around the house like nuts. Once the darned dog was free, she just took off for the water like a bat out of hell. I’m so glad nothing happened!
 
Reenie, cute as a button with wildly curly black hair, giggled and had to be pulled away before she embraced her dripping dog, which would have gotten her as wet as her father
 
“I was here to watch the thing, not be in it,” Mr. Vasco grumbled, sneezing into a blanket Chief Kline had provided from the back of her cruiser. His wife tried to hide her laughter and did not succeed
 
Spot herself was not noticeably cowed
 
Mr. Christopher wasn’t upset by the turn of events and said it was the most fun he’d had in years. In fact, he said he would give the Vascos a voucher for a free weekend in the future
 
“When people hear about this, we might get more members!” he enthused
 
“This is my last year,” said Mr. Housemann. He was covered in mud from head to toe but wrapped in a blanket, for which this reporter was grateful as his mud-encrusted speedo was a sight to behold. “I’ve got dirt everywhere.
 
Mr. Vasco seemed resigned to the havoc his dog had caused, but he and his wife both said they’d be back
 
“It’s kind of the way our lives go these days,” Mr. Vasco said, then smiled and tugged a piece of his wife’s curly hair. “It’s pretty great.
 
The year has certainly started off with a bang! Let’s hope things are calmer as things progress
 
 

 
Holiday Turkey Surprise – November

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by Mathilda Gregory, Editor-in-Chief

 
Every year, more and more people are stuck working on Thanksgiving, whether it is because they are police officers or nurses, or because the retail establishments out on the highway have decided to start Black Friday a day early. Operation Thanksgiving, a group of volunteers from all over the community, is determined to bring a little cheer into the lives of those forced to work
 
“I’m lucky because Hannah always closes the Country Time on Thanksgiving,” said Mary Alice Norton, who, along with her partner, John Randolph, started the group three Thanksgivings ago. “But there sure are a lot of people who have to work. Johnny and I used to work all the time on holidays, so we thought we’d try to help out now that we don’t have to.
 
“We were lucky that St. Thomas Lutheran let us use their kitchen and food prep area,” added Randolph. “We needed someplace big enough to pull it all together.
 
Mr. Randolph isn’t kidding. The program has been so popular – both with the volunteers and the recipients – that it’s grown exponentially. On this third Thanksgiving, they expect to make over 300 sandwiches and deliver them, complete with sides of stuffing (served in little to-go containers) and pumpkin cookies
 
“We don’t use deli meat or anything,” Ms. Norton hastened to assure me. “We carve up real turkeys for the sandwiches. We’ll have more than 20 turkeys here tomorrow, cooked and ready to go. Johnny and I are making two, and a lot of the other volunteers are roasting them to get ready. Mrs. Walsh is making a huge vat of stuffing for us. We’ll need somebody else to help her if we get any bigger, but she makes the best stuffing I’ve ever had in my life, and she won’t give anyone else the recipe.
 
“Mrs. Brady is making the cookies,” Mr. Randolph added. “She was so happy when we asked her if she wanted to help. She’ll be with her daughter on Thursday, but she wanted to do something.” He frowned. “I don’t think they’ll burn. She seemed pretty focused. But if she forgets what she’s doing, we’ll just buy some.
 
The group of about 30 volunteers will gather Thanksgiving morning in the St. Thomas basement to carve the turkeys and assemble the sandwiches
 
“It’s a madhouse,” Mr. Randolph said. “There’s turkey everywhere. I came home and found it in my hair last year. And I was wearing plastic gloves and a cap, so I don’t know how it got there.
 
Once the sandwiches have been wrapped in paper and loaded into bags, along with the stuffing and cookies, any volunteers who don’t have to go home fan out and deliver the unexpected gifts to people working on Thanksgiving
 
“We just make things until we run out of stuff,” Ms. Norton explained. “Then we deliver them to everyone we can think of.
 
That includes the police, workers at Waterfall Manor, those staffing the local urgent care center, and the emergency vet. And, of course, all of the people stuck working in gas stations, convenience stores, and retail establishments in the immediate vicinity of Hardy Falls
 
“The first year Mary Alice came in with these bags, I didn’t know what she was doing,” said Police Chief Jackie Kline. “I couldn’t believe they’d made us Thanksgiving lunch. It was the best turkey sandwich I’ve ever had.
 
“We just want to say thank you and Happy Thanksgiving,” Ms. Norton said. “And we save some of the sandwiches to give out to people who are maybe alone at the holiday. It makes them feel better.
 
We bet it does
 
UPDATE: Word on the street is that Operation Thanksgiving was a rousing success again this year. Over 267 sandwiches were delivered to those who had to work on the holiday, and another 36 were handed out to other people in town
 
Pastor Williams of St Thomas said that the program has been so successful he is thinking of helping Ms. Norton and Mr. Randolph expand it so they can deliver more robust meals, complete with side dishes, to the more isolated elderly and disadvantaged members of the community, if they want to
 
Chief Kline got more than just a sandwich as a holiday surprise this year when she found a diamond ring in her container of stuffing. When she contacted Mr. Randolph, she discovered that Sophie Barton had taken her ring off while assembling sandwiches and her six-year-old son, Cliff, who was “helping,” had apparently put it in the stuffing. She didn’t notice it was missing until the bags were out for delivery
 
“Ms. Barton was glad I was the one who’d gotten it,” Chief Kline said, then laughed. “I think Cliff got more than a “time out” for this stunt.
 
When asked what she thought when she opened the stuffing container and saw a ring, Chief Kline shrugged
 
“I guess I was glad I’d seen it and hadn’t broken my tooth. Then I thought maybe I’d won a prize or something. But I usually feel that way here in Hardy Falls.
 
 

 
Bigfoot Comes To Hardy Falls – October

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by Mathilda Gregory, Editor-in-Chief

 
Some out-of-town campers at Hardy Falls Campground, located on Lake Road near the Hardy Falls Lake, had a surprise visitor early Saturday morning
 
Bigfoot
 
Or, to be more precise, they had a visitor they believe to have been Bigfoot
 
“I know what I saw, and what I saw can’t be explained,” insisted Mr. Cyrus Ryder of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He, his wife, Eloise Ryder, and their two children, Abby and Peter, were set up in one of the campground sites used for tent camping. The family was startled “out of a sound sleep” at approximately 1:30 am on Saturday morning, by “loud noises, like someone was going through the garbage.” The disruption was made even more alarming by the fact that part of the campground is relatively empty at this time of year, so the family was alone
 
“It was really scary,” said Abby, age 13. “This is the first year I had my own tent, and I was totally freaked out. Plus, we don’t get cell service here, so I couldn’t even tell anybody about it.
 
“It was nothing,” insisted her brother, Peter, age 15. “Mom and Dad were yelling and all, but I didn’t even see anything. It was probably a stupid raccoon.
 
“He’s the one who’s stupid,” said Abby, when told of her brother’s comment. “He was asleep anyway, and if Pete’s asleep, mom says even Armageddon wouldn’t wake him up. Whatever Armageddon is.
 
“We saw something, and it wasn’t a raccoon or a bear,” insisted Mr. Ryder. “It had long hair and ran away quick on two legs. That’s what I told the police chief. It had two legs, not four! And I heard it yelling. You know, like what you hear on that TV show where those guys go looking for Bigfoot? And the trash was dumped,” he added
 
The Ryders immediately notified the campground’s night-time manager, who, in turn, called Chief Jacqueline Kline, of the Hardy Falls police force, to report the sighting
 
“I’m sure Mr. And Mrs. Ryder saw something,” said Chief Kline. When asked if she thought it could be Bigfoot, she declined to comment
 
Morton Schlemmer, the owner of Hardy Falls Campground, is confident he knows who the intruder was
 
“Yup, they’re right. It was a Bigfoot. Maybe a juvenile. They’re the playful ones.
 
When asked if he had seen a Bigfoot before, he grinned and stroked his full, salt-and-pepper beard
 
“Sure! They come around all the time. I used to report it whenever we had an incident, but nobody ever believed me.
 
This reporter asked Mr. Schlemmer if he thought rumors of Bigfoot would scare off his customers, and he shook his head
 
“No way. Fact is, I’m trying to get the word out there. Bigfoot would be a huge draw. We’d get a lot more visitors during the winter if people thought they’d have a chance of seeing the ‘Foot. I even have a little museum I set up to, you know, document things. Mr. And Mrs. Ryder agreed to let me keep a wrench they found bent like a pretzel a few feet from their trash receptacle.
 
I had not heard about the museum, so I asked Mr. Schlemmer if I could take a tour. He led me to a small trailer situated near the park office. A wooden sign staked in the ground at the door read, “Official Hardy Falls Bigfoot Museum.” Inside were various exhibits, including some large rocks that had reportedly “mysteriously appeared around one of the campfires last year,” a few bones and branches labeled as “tools,” and a pile of earth in a wooden box that is supposedly “desiccated Bigfoot droppings.
 
When asked for comment on the “museum,” Mayor Ruffio denied all knowledge of its existence. Doris Amato of the zoning board said that the trailer is grandfathered in as part of the campground, and as long as Mr. Schlemmer doesn’t promote the contents as an actual museum in the media, they’re not going to charge him with a violation
 
“It’s like someone having a Bigfoot altar in their basement,” explained Ms. Amato. “Disturbing, but if they want to let people look at it, there’s nothing we can do. If he starts to promote it, we’ll have a conversation.
 
“Personally, I think Hardy Falls is missing a big opportunity,” argued Mr. Schlemmer. “Bigfoot are around all the time, and we should take advantage of it. Heck, we should bill ourselves as the Bigfoot Capital of Pennsylvania! We should have Bigfoot festivals! I mean, lookit. Right now we’re in the off-season for the campgrounds, except for foliage watchers. But if we put it out that Bigfoot comes and dances by the light of the moon in October, and maybe have a parade or something, I’ll bet we’d be packed all the way through November. Maybe even December.
 
“We’ve already booked a few more days, and we’re setting up a camera,” Mr. Ryder reported. “Can you imagine how much money we would get for a picture of Bigfoot? Maybe we’d even get on that show!
 
“We have to jump on this before Beaver Run gets its act together and starts something,” Mr. Schlemmer insisted. “If the ‘Foot is making contact and going through the trash, we might as well get the benefit.
 
“We have no plans on promoting Bigfoot at this time,” said Mabel Truelove, head of the Hardy Falls Chamber of Commerce. “Although,” she added with a certain gleam in her eye, “it might not be such a bad idea.
 
Watch out, Hardy Falls. There may be a Bigfoot parade in your future after all
 
 

 
Fourth of July Celebration Ends With A Bang – July

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by Mathilda Gregory, Editor-in-Chief

 
As those who live in Hardy Falls know, the Fourth of July is one of the town’s favorite holidays. The entire community gathers out at Hardy Falls Park, near the waterfalls that gave our town its name, for an afternoon of picnicking and baseball, socializing and fishing. These activities are followed in the evening by one of the biggest fireworks displays in the area
 
This year, a beautifully warm and sunny afternoon was enlivened, not only by picnics and baseball but also by a live band. The band, Roy and The Outlaws, was brought on board after playing several gigs in and around town, including the Country Time Bar and Grill Carnival, and the Murphy Bowling Lanes Grand Re-Opening
 
“We heard them and thought they sounded fine,” said Margo Truelove, of the town council. “And they worked for free.
 
Although everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves, and some people were even dancing, the music came to an abrupt end as the sun set when the band members broke into an extended dance version of “Inna Gadda Da Vida.” After fifteen minutes, John Randolph, brother of lead singer Roy Randolph, jumped on the stage and turned off the sound system. The drummer was upset, but no blows were exchanged
 
The audience applauded
 
We’re also pleased to report that this year’s July Fourth celebration boasted fewer drunken brawls than have been seen over the past four years. Alcoholic beverages are not served in the park, of course, but celebrants routinely ignore the posted bans and bring their own supplies. As one might expect, this can lead to trouble for the police
 
“This year wasn’t too bad,” Chief Jacqueline Kline said. “There were a few fights, and a couple of the college kids got hauled down to the station when they refused to break it up. Claude Beecher started yelling at June Esperanza, claiming she was harassing him, but we were able to calm him down and move him to the other side of the park.
 
The college students, Geoffrey Peterson and Mike Hawkins, were both charged with public brawling. Although Peterson was also charged with being drunk and disorderly, Hawkins was not. Both men were released immediately. In the interest of full disclosure, we should also point out that Mr. Hawkins is a journalism student and works as a correspondent for The Hardy Falls Gazette.
 
“Peterson came at me saying some crap about a friend of mine,” Hawkins said when questioned later. “I defended her.
 
“He defended his friend quite well,” Chief Kline said. “However, since the police were right there, he might have been better served asking us to intervene.
 
Hawkins declined further comment. Although we pointed out the error of his actions, he will not be removed as a correspondent at this time
 
Unfortunately, the, relatively, peaceful celebrations came to an end when the fireworks began
 
This year, the town council decided to make the fireworks display extra special by setting off the explosions from Richard Dunlop’s fishing boat, which would be anchored in the middle of the Hardy Falls lake
 
“Richie volunteered,” said Mayor Ruffio. “What happened was just a damned shame.
 
“I get bad motion sickness,” protested Joseph Wagner, a licensed operator from Pyrotechnics Specialists, the firm contracted to run the show. “How was I supposed to know I’d be out on a freaking boat on a lake, for Pete’s sake! Nobody told me, or I would have asked them to send someone else. Then it was kind of windy, so the water was choppy, and I thought I was going to die. I was trying to concentrate on what I was doing, but it was hard when I was fighting not to toss my cookies in front of the whole freaking town.
 
As planned, Dunlop operated the boat while Wagner set off the fireworks. Once the display started, members of the audience noticed explosions out on the boat. These miscellaneous bursts grew more and more frequent as fireworks waiting to be deployed exploded. Then the inevitable happened. All of the remaining fireworks on the boat went off at once, going up in a bright, colorful, fireball
 
Dunlop and Wagner jumped into the lake. Dunlop’s boat caught on fire
 
To make matters worse, Dunlop had apparently been carrying extra fuel in the prow of his boat. It was ignited by the fire and detonated, igniting the regular fuel tank in turn. The resulting explosion broke the boat in half and sent up another massive cloud of smoke and flame
 
Wagner cried out, saying that his hair was on fire, went under the water, then began flailing about. Ignoring him, Dunlop, treading water nearby, started shouting “My f***ing boat!”
 
As debris started raining down on shore, most of the audience ran to safety. At the same time, Deacon Black, Calvin Hardy, and Mateo Guerrero jumped into the lake and swam out to the two men near the boat. Deacon and Calvin got Wagner in a “dead man’s hold’ and pulled him to shore
 
Mr. Wagner’s hair was only singed, but he did lose an eyebrow
 
“It’s a good thing he was in the water,” said Doctor Elias Johnson, one of the audience members, after checking him out. “His burns are basically superficial.
 
“I shouldn’t have panicked,” said Wagner, a little sheepishly. “But I don’t know how to swim.
 
Guerrero was able to get to Dunlop, but he claims that he had to practically knock the man out to drag him back to shore
 
“If he was that in love with his boat, maybe he shouldn’t have stored fuel on it at the same time he was shooting off fireworks,” Guerrero commented
 
Pyrotechnics Specialists declined to comment about the incident. However, a few days later, Richard Dunlop was showing everyone photos of the boat he was buying. One assumes an insurance payout was involved
 
“I don’t think he’ll be willing to let us use his boat next year,” said Mayor Ruffio
 
The audience reaction to the display was mixed
 
“I think we can safely say no other town will be able to match it,” Albert Cromwell said philosophically
 
“I got covered with soot,” complained Martin Scanner
 
“It was cool! Let’s do it again!” exclaimed six-year-old Clifford Barton
 
Sophie Barton, Clifford’s mother, pulled him away
 
 

 
Beecher Connections – May Part 2 in the “Beecher Auto Sales” series

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by Mathilda Gregory, Editor-in-Chief

 
There have been rumors for years that Claude Beecher has connections in both high and low places. It is thought that those connections help him, not only to find the stock he sells but to stay in business in spite of numerous complaints
 
“I categorically deny any wrongdoing,” Mr. Beecher said through his attorney in his last correspondence with The Hardy Falls Gazette. “Cease and desist, or I will sue you for harassment.
 
But is it harassment if the allegations are true? Doesn’t the Hardy Falls public have a right to know what’s actually going on?
 
Because Mr. Beecher refused to speak on the record with the Gazette after it became clear we were demanding real answers, we decided to launch an investigation into his practices. What is the truth about Beecher Auto Sales?
 
Before Claude Beecher took over the business from his uncle, Beecher Auto Sales had been the object of about thirty complaints with the Better Business Bureau in the forty years it had been in business, and generally had a reputation for excellent stock and fair dealing. In the thirty years since Mr. Dwight Beecher retired and moved to Florida, handing the business over to his nephew, the number of complaints has skyrocketed, and the business’s reputation has fallen dramatically
 
Still, one expects complaints about a used car concern
 
“Our average number of complaints about a used car business is really quite high,” said Mrs. Viola Winstead of the Better Business Bureau’s Scranton office. “We have received a number of flags for Beecher Auto Sales, and followed up accordingly. We try to settle as many of the issues as possible.
 
“People complain,” said Claude Beecher before he stopped speaking to The Hardy Falls Gazette. “It’s what they do They buy a used car and expect it to be perfect. Well, it’s not. It’s used. Sometimes things go wrong.
 
The Hardy Falls Gazette contacted the state licensing board to see if we could find out what complaints have been launched there, but nobody returned our calls. Next, we contacted Mayor Ruffio’s office and were directed to Stanton Landis, head of the town council
 
“I’ve known Claude for years,” said Mr. Landis. “I have no reason to suspect him of wrongdoing.
 
The next day, this reporter saw Mr. Landis and Mr. Beecher having breakfast together at Mom’s Cafe. The other person at the table was Mayor Ruffio
 
Of course, Mr. Beecher is entitled to be friends with whomever he wishes. And, of course, the mayor and the head of the town council are allowed to have breakfast with anyone. But this, presumably impromptu, meeting is an illustration of the connections Mr. Beecher has cultivated in Hardy Falls. He is also one of the most prominent members of the local Rotary chapter, and extremely active in the Hardy Falls Chamber of Commerce. In fact, it is well known that most of the activities promoted by the Chamber of Commerce are suggested by Mr. Beecher
 
So much for the high connections. What about the low?
 
For quite some time, there have been rumors that Beecher Auto Sales gets some of the vehicles they sell from the less reputable element of Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, East Stroudsburg, and other nearby towns. Our crime correspondent, Tiffany Preston, talked to some people who have links to those communities. For reasons that should be apparent, her sources refused to be identified and would only speak if they remained anonymous
 
“I used to hang out with some guys who ran a shop in Scranton,” said one young man. “We’d go around town and maybe pick up a few vehicles that weren’t ours. Then the guys would break down the cars for parts and stuff like that. But we sold some of them as is, you know? We knew Beecher, and that’s all I’m going to say about that.
 
When questioned about whether he and his buddies had ever been caught, the source admitted that they had. “I did my time and I’m out of that life,” he said. “But I still know some stuff, and I’m still in touch with some people.
 
Asked if he would ever buy a car from Claude Beecher, he laughed
 
“Oh, no way.”
 
“We are aware of the allegations against Mr. Beecher,” said police chief Jacqueline Kline. “We have heard a lot of rumors, but we can’t prosecute based on hearsay. If and when we receive proof that Mr. Beecher is involved in illicit activity, we will, of course, take the appropriate action.
 
When Mr. Beecher was asked to respond to these allegations, he refused, called the editor a few choice names, and hung up the phone. Repeated additional phone calls have elicited no response, other than the aforementioned letter from Mr. Beecher’s attorney
 
Police Chief Kline is correct in that the authorities have received no proof of wrongdoing. Mr. Beecher is correct in that used cars are sometimes a disappointment to their purchasers. And yet the questions persist
 
The residents of Hardy Falls will have to decide whether or not they are willing to take a chance on Beecher
 
 

 
Buying and Selling With Beecher – April Part 1 in the “Beecher Auto Sales” series

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by Mathilda Gregory, Editor-in-Chief

 
Claude Beecher has been selling used cars in Hardy Falls for as long as he can remember
 
“I bought some of my brother’s toy cars for a nickel apiece and then sold them to my friends marked up to a quarter a car when I was a kid,” he told The Hardy Falls Gazette recently. “My first real car sale of the non-toy variety was to a buddy of mine when I was sixteen,” he laughs. “Too bad the car I sold belonged to my parents at the time. They weren’t too happy about it, but they went through with the sale. I’d gotten them an excellent price.
 
The love of buying and selling cars followed Beecher into adulthood, leading him to work for his uncle at Beecher Auto Sales, after high school, before finally taking over the business twenty years ago when he was in his mid-thirties. Another trait followed him as well—that of complaints about the vehicles sold
 
“Yeah, I bought this toy racing car from Claude back when we were kids,” said local businessman Al Roth, owner of Roth Furniture. “The wheels fell off the next day. Seems he’d stuck them on with chewing gum.” Roth shrugs philosophically. “I tried to get my quarter back, and he laughed at me. We never hung out after that, but it doesn’t seem like it was much of a loss.
 
Toy cars are one thing, but the issue becomes much more severe when we’re talking about the real deal
 
“I bought a used car from Claude a year ago,” June Esperanza, a server at the Country Time told The Hardy Falls Gazette. “It’s been a total lemon. Everything that could rot or fall off the thing has. Nothing seems to have been covered by the warranty, even though I bought an extended one. It didn’t even cover the alternator when it crapped out.” She sighs. “It’s my own fault. I was just stupid. I guess I could try to sue him, but I really can’t afford an attorney.
 
“All the problems June’s had with her car have all been normal wear and tear,” Claude Beecher said when The Hardy Falls Gazette asked him to comment on the issue. “Her warranty specifically states that it doesn’t cover those kinds of repairs.” And when asked about the alternator, he said, “Electrical systems are not covered under the warranties offered by Beecher Auto Sales.
 
If you’ve been living in Hardy Falls for any length of time, you’ve heard the complaints. One man, who asked to remain anonymous because, “I have to live in this town” recently told this reporter that “buying a car from Beecher was like marrying a sweet girl and waking up in the morning to find out she’s a crackhead who’s going to suck out all your money and your life.
 
That seems rather harsh. Aren’t there any satisfied customers in the Beecher records? We found a few hanging around Wally Dunlop’s garage—Richie Dunlop and his friend Bernie Housemann
 
“Everybody complains about Claude, but I don’t get it,” said Richie, brother to Wally and operator of the Dunlop garage overnight towing service. “He’s given me some great deals over the years. Sure, there have been problems now and then, but you have to expect that with a used car. With a new car too, come to that.” Dunlop laughs. “If cars didn’t have problems we’d be out of business.
 
“I never really had an issue,” said Housemann. “I know what I’m looking for, and I’m smart about what I buy.
 
“I knew what I was looking for, too,” said June Esperanza, when asked to comment on these opinions. “I did my research. Claude Beecher sold me a junker and refuses to do anything about it.
 
“Every business has dissatisfied customers,” Beecher responded. “You have to look at what we’ve done for the community over the years, and all of the people who depend on Beecher Auto Sales.
 
We’ve been looking for those people, Mr. Beecher, and we’ve found many more of the dissatisfied variety than those who believe Beecher Auto Sales service to be dependable. Could there be a valid reason?
 
We’ll see..
 
Next — the surprising connections Beecher Auto Sales has forged over the years
 
 

 
911 call leads to an unexpected arrest – February

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by Tiffany Preston, Crime Correspondent

 
Vera Brady, 92, placed a 911 call to the police at 3:15 am Sunday morning when she heard a loud rustling noise that seemed to be inside her 300 square foot cabin, located at the base of Pinecone Mountain
 
“It sounded like someone was sawing through my walls,” Mrs. Brady said. “Woke me right out of a sound sleep, I tell you!
 
The police responded to the call within 5 minutes. Police Chief Jacqueline Kline said that when Officer Harry Newman, III, arrived at Mrs. Brady’s cabin, “it was locked up tight as a drum.” In fact, Mrs. Brady had to “unlock three deadbolts and unfasten a chain to let Officer Newman inside.
 
“That’s why I was so frightened,” Mrs. Brady explained. “My children make sure I have locks on everything, but it sounded like the noise was right beside my bed. At first, I thought it might be a Bigfoot–I’ve seen them around, you know. They’ve never come this close to the house, but it happens. Then I thought, what if that college outside of town let in some hippy, saw-wielding murderer? If I’d been sure it was a Bigfoot, I would have just shot it. I got out my late husband’s shotgun, but I didn’t want to put bullets in the wall. I really called 911 to get some advice about what to do. The nice young lady who answered the phone insisted on sending the police.
 
When Officer Newman arrived, Mrs. Brady heard the noise again as he was taking her statement. She became “extremely agitated,” according to him. Officer Newman checked the premises twice at Mrs. Brady’s insistence before finding what “appeared to be a mouse nest of chewed and rotten insulation on top of the water heater.
 
Officer Newman said he suggested to Mrs. Brady that the noises she was hearing were mice chewing on her walls and she should call an exterminator. Mrs. Brady did not believe him and asked him to stay for some cookies until she was sure nobody was sawing through her cabin. Officer Newman, having no other calls at the time, obliged
 
A mouse, apparently drawn by the scent of food, made an appearance about a half-hour later
 
“It was like a miracle,” Mrs. Brady said. “When you have a mouse, you almost never see it when you want to see it. I really think it was the peanut butter cookies that drew it out. I use real peanut butter, you know, none of that artificial garbage. Mice know the difference. They’re actually pretty smart.
 
Acting with the speed and precision that had marked his time as the center for the Hardy Falls High School basketball team, Officer Newman managed to throw the linen serviette Mrs. Brady had given him for his use over the mouse, capturing the creature
 
“He told me he was going out to take it out to the car and slap cuffs on it, then drive it to the station,” Mrs. Brady said after offering this reporter a cookie and cup of hot cocoa. “But I couldn’t let that happen. The poor thing was just following its instincts. It didn’t deserve to be locked up and maybe end up in a pet store where some child would buy it and make it run around in a plastic ball for the cat to chase. That’s not worth the taxpayer dollars. It’s not a murderer or Bigfoot. I told him to take it outside away from the house and let it go. Besides, I never want to hurt anything. Unless it’s a centipede.
 
Officer Newman said he took the mouse “outside behind an old garage on the property” and released the miscreant with a stern warning. “I urged it to run free,” he said, “and told it to be careful of snakes. It did not respond.
 
Officer Newman left Mrs. Brady’s house at approximately 5:00 am
 
Chief Kline said that Mrs. Brady would not be charged for a false 911 call, although she encourages her to check her hearing aid
 
 

 
Monster Mashup At Halloween Parade – October

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by Mathilda Gregory, Editor-in-Chief

 
Attendees at this year’s Hardy Falls Halloween Parade had front row seats to more than just spooky fun when two rival high school marching bands clashed to the musical accompaniment of the classic Halloween song, “Monster Mash.
 
The 47th annual parade held on Saturday, October 17th, started calmly enough, following the traditional route down Main Street from the parking lot at First National Bank (now known as FNB) to the library. Children and adults, most in costume, lined the street to cheer as the marchers went by
 
As in years past, Boy and Girl Scouts led off the festivities. Next came some floats created by local businesses, all vying for the coveted “Hardy Hollow Weener” trophy
 
Trophy competition was stiff, with Cooper Grocery, Mountain View Boutique, Falling for Books, Spun Sugar Cards and Candy, and first-time participant Murphy Bowling Lanes, all putting in good showings. Parade goers were treated to a variety of ghosts, goblins, or, in the case of Murphy Lanes, bowling ghouls. However, the judges agreed that Hardy Hardware/Horton Air Conditioning Repair’s “Nightmare on Main Street” and The Country Time Bar and Grill’s “Time For The Walking Dead” were definite standouts among the participants
 
In the end, The Country Time “walked” away with the trophy, thanks to their enthusiasm and commitment to some extremely realistic zombie costumes. Although one little girl dressed as ‘Elsa’ apparently wet herself when bartender Deacon Black stopped to talk to her (necessitating that he leave the parade for several minutes to reassure her), most of the other spectators seemed to enjoy being frightened by the local “walking dead.
 
“They scared the heck out of me,” admitted Police Chief Jacqueline Kline, one of this year’s judges. “Mary Alice Norton especially was totally committed to her role.
 
Hannah Frederickson, owner of The Country Time Bar and Grill said she would “display the trophy proudly” and when challenged by Calvin Hardy and Joe Horton, promised to mount a strong defense of the victory at next year’s parade
 
In addition to the Scouts and the Halloween themed floats, fire trucks, police vehicles, veterans, equestrian riders, and a few classic cars from Claude Beecher’s Beecher Auto Sales all traversed the two-mile stretch between the bank and the library
 
As always, one of the highlights of the parade for attendees was the handfuls of candy thrown into the crowd by all of the participants. Spun Sugar Cards and Candy, the parade sponsor again this year, provided more toffees, chocolates, and hard candies than ever before, so the marchers were throwing them out by the handful
 
“It turns out we placed a double order by mistake,” said Margo Truelove, co-owner of Spun Sugar. “We gave everyone tons of candy to throw.
 
“It was raining candy!” exclaimed six-year-old Clifford Barton. “I was just opening my mouth waiting for it to fall in! I got so much stuff, I can’t wait to get home and eat it all!
 
Sophie Barton, Clifford’s mother, refrained from comment
 
Except for the “wetting” incident, everything proceeded peacefully enough until it was time for the Hardy Falls High School marching band and the Eastern River Academy marching band to face off at the judges’ area. This year, the town council had decided both schools should perform “Monster Mash,” with council members judging the best performance. Members of the winning band would each receive a twenty dollar gift certificate to Spun Sugar
 
It sounded like a good idea, but, “We didn’t take the intense school rivalry into consideration,” said Mayor Barclay Ruffio
 
As readers of The Hardy Falls Gazette will remember, Eastern River Academy beat Hardy Falls High at the region’s annual “battle of the bands” competition this year. It was the first time Eastern River had beaten Hardy Falls High in twenty-five years
 
Unfortunately, it appears that a certain amount of boasting followed the Eastern River victory, throwing salt into an open wound. Witnesses have said that Eastern River band director, Danny Williamson, even confronted Hardy Falls band director, Gerald Green, at the Country Time a few days before the parade. He was “trash talking” and telling Mr. Green that the Eastern River band would walk all over Hardy Falls High in the “Monster Mash” competition
 
When the Hardy Falls High School band, which had marched to close the parade, arrived at the judges’ area, the Eastern River Academy band, which had marched earlier, was waiting. Hardy Falls was supposed to perform second, but director Green had his band launch into their “Monster Mash” rendition immediately and did not give way to Eastern River
 
We’re the Hardy Falls band,” shouted Green. “We play first, not those prep school wannabees.
 
Mr. Williamson, angry and using language entirely inappropriate for the small children in the crowd, had his band move forward and start to play as well. In mere moments, the sounds of “Monster Mash” clashed through the town as the two groups stood on either side of the judging area, facing each other
 
“I thought the Hardy Falls trombone players were gonna, like, pull off those slider things and stab the other guys,” said Austin Grant, a student at nearby Pocono University. “Band was never that exciting when I was in high school.
 
“I never want to hear that song again,” said Mayor Ruffio
 
Things disintegrated further when other students from the two rival schools in attendance began pelting each other, and the bands with candy picked up along the parade route. Reportedly, they were all trying to force members of the other school to leave, with disastrous results
 
As candy flew through the air, spectators caught in the crossfire started running for cover, children dumping bags of treats in the street along the way
 
“I got hit in the head with a toffee!” cried Margo Truelove. “They could have put my eye out!
 
Mrs. Truelove also said she was thinking of banning all of the students from her store, but, “That would definitely cut into the bottom line, and defeat the purpose of donating all of this stuff.
 
Finally, the Hardy Falls police force managed to wade into the fray and establish a truce between the warring factions
 
Happily, other than the bruise on Mrs. Truelove’s forehead, and a Hardy Falls tuba player who turned his ankle when he tried to run from the mayhem, there were no other injuries
 
After Chief Kline and Officer Harry Newman, III, pulled apart the band leaders, who had literally gone for each other’s throats, they were able to bring order back to the bands–with some help from outraged parents
 
Chief Kline said the incident, as well as the names of all of the participants in the candy battle, would be reported to the two schools involved. She also said she was fining the band leaders each $500 for disturbing the peace
 
“Fortunately, nobody got hurt, and the parents are probably glad a lot of the candy got dumped anyway,” said Chief Kline. “But the paperwork is going to be a nightmare.
 
Sounds appropriate for Halloween
 
 

 
Beware of Author!

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by Mathilda Gregory, Editor-in-Chief

 
Although the tourists we all love to hate are not quite so thick upon the Hardy Falls ground at this time of year as they are in the fall, you may have noticed there is one particular woman haunting the town. In fact, one finds it difficult to escape her
 
She has purchased books at the bookstore, bowled incompetently at Murphy Lanes, and eaten at The Country Time Bar and Grill. All the while, she has smiled, talked to people, and asked questions. I assume she is trying to make friends with members of the community–or at least give the appearance of making friends. Albert Cromwell has described her as “charming.” I beg to differ. Albert, I am sad to say, is easily charmed
 
When I confronted other regulars at the Country Time about this woman, they informed me they spoke to her only because they assumed she was a reporter working on this newspaper. She is not. I don’t know how they could have made such a mistake as she is far from college-aged
 
After Hildy Bennett pointed her out to me and told me just what she has been doing, I contacted Chief Kline to see if there was a way we could protect our privacy. It turns out the chief had already spoken to this person. Her name is Betsy Horvath, and she is, reportedly, a writer
 
Moreover, it seems she has been stalking the residents of Hardy Falls as part of her research for a series of “romance novels” she claims to be writing
 
Yes, you heard me correctly. Romance novels. Honestly, if a writer is going to make a pest of themselves around this town, couldn’t they at least write real literature? Couldn’t we inspire a Thoreau, a Faulkner, a Delillo, or a Proulx instead of this…person?
 
Please note that I do not call Ms. Horvath a “hack,” as I am informed this might be viewed as litigious
 
Chief Kline says there’s nothing to be done to force her to leave, and the merchants are happy with the money she’s been spending, so this column is intended as a caution. Beware of the author! I know gossip is second nature to Hardy Falls, but use your heads, people. You never know what might turn up in her books
 
Assuming she writes any books at all. Only time will tell