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Mrs K

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on October 6, 2011 at 8:56:50 am


The Secret of Horsethieves’ Den

By Jeannie Krambeer



Chapter 1

            It was a quiet morning on Evergreen Avenue.  All the citizens of Long Valley were asleep in the predawn quiet except Finley, and maybe the newsboys who were rushing about on their scooters trying to get the morning papers delivered before the first shift of SweetTreat factory workers rolled out of bed to get ready for work.

            Long Valley was a small, one-factory town on the banks of the Long River.  Not the most creative name for a river, Finley always thought.  He was constantly bombarding his friend James with other names that he thought the river should have been named instead.  Most of the names played on the town’s somewhat famous candy factory, but anything was fair game.  Some of his favorites, as of yesterday, were Relics River (Relics were SweetTreat’s most popular sugary candies in the shape of dinosaur bones), Jellybean Jaunt, Above Average Tooth Decay Stream, and of course, his old standby, Finley’s Creek.  He even pestered his father, Tom Andrews, who was a Long Valley city councilman, to start a petition to get the boring name changed, but his dad just laughed about Fin’s names and explained, “I don’t think we have the power to change the river’s name, son, since it’s not just our river.”  He had a point, the river did stretch through about ten different counties in Minnesota and Iowa before it ran through Clayton County and the Long Valley.

            This morning, Fin wasn’t thinking about renaming the river, however, he had more important things on his mind, like murder.



Chapter 2

            Nobody was going to get murdered today, or at least not that he knew about.  It was something that happened over 100 years ago that he was practically jumping out of his skin to find out about.  It all started with a story that Fin’s grandfather had told him this past Easter when Fin, his dad, and his mom went to visit Grandfather in his home in Arizona.  Fin’s Grandpa Pete had not always lived in Arizona.  He and his wife Marion had actually moved there only five years before to escape the cold Iowa winters.  There are actually quite a few older Iowans that head south just like the birds when the winter gets to be too much for them. 

Fin had always enjoyed spending time with Grandpa Pete and he had grown up fishing and exploring with him on the banks of the Long River during the summer months when he didn’t have school.  He had learned a lot about nature and a lot more about telling stories from his grandpa, who was well known around the area for his tall tales and actual experiences.  The only problem with Grandpa Pete’s stories was that you couldn’t always tell the difference between the truth and the fiction.  Sometimes, Fin even thought his grandpa forgot what was real and what was made up.  His experiences as one of the first major business owners in the town were the source of a lot of his stories, but some of the most memorable ones for Fin were the stories that were passed down to Grandpa Pete from his own grandpa who was born in 1867.



Chapter 3

Fin’s Great Great Grandpa Elias was one of the very first businessmen in the Long Valley area.  In fact, according to one of Grandpa Pete’s stories, he was one of the people who had a part in naming the town Long Valley.  Fin decided he didn’t want to believe that story because he hoped that one of his relatives, no matter how distant, would be more creative than that.  But Grandpa Pete was usually pretty convincing with his stories.  In fact that story was pretty tame in comparison to some of his other ones.  Like the one where he claims that Grandpa Elias witnessed one of the famous Ringling brothers’ very first circus performances. 

Back in 1872, the story goes, Elias’s father needed a harness fixed before he could do any work in the fields.  Elias was to take the harness to a man in nearby McGregor for repair.  It just so happened that while he was there, the harness maker’s sons were creating quite a scene in a nearby empty lot.  They had the neighborhood dogs and even a mangy looking goat doing tricks while several of the sons were tumbling and juggling to please the crowd of local kids and folks who happened to pass by while running errands. 

According to Grandpa Pete’s story, Elias watched the entire mini-circus while his father’s harness was being repaired.  Then for the grand finale, Al, one of the Ringling boys, balanced a plow on his chin.  Now, the plows were not the big metal pieces of machinery of today, but were the smaller, non-mechanical types that you could lift pretty easily.  It was still a pretty good trick to balance it on your chin, however, and Elias was quite impressed.  He swore that those boys were going to make great entertainers some day.  He had planned on making the trip down to McGregor again sometime to watch the boys and their circus, but it wasn’t much longer afterwards that the Ringling family up and moved to a place called Baraboo in Wisconsin.  They started up a much bigger circus up there and got pretty famous in the process.

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