A clerk working in the census bureau discovers a series of anomalies in the population of a small city located in the Ozark Mountains. Intrigued, the clerk continues to investigate. He finds that, on average, the population of the city and surrounding valley are a little smarter, less religious, more thrifty, marry less, have a higher level of education, are more sexually liberated, have fewer illnesses, and many other positive traits. The city also refuses government money for schools and roads, has little crime, and no sign of racial unrest. None of these factors would mean much taken alone, but together they spell out a population that is distinctly skewed from the normal. Surprisingly, hardly anyone in the valley realizes that most of them are different from the average. They simply think they live in a good place among good people. Then the investigation starts...
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Double Dragon Publishing
October 30, 2004
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Excerpt from A Strange Valley by Darrell Bain
The small city of Masterville is located in extreme northern Arkansas, near the border of Missouri in the heart of the Ozark mountain range. It sits at the bottom of a valley which is surrounded by rather large foothills. The hills grow even larger in the distance, rising finally to heights of several thousand feet before turning into rounded mountains, worn down by time. The valley, and the city it enclosed, might never have been noticed, or at least come into public awareness, had it not been for an obscure government clerk who worked as a statistical analyst for the Census Bureau. He was a career civil servant and conscientious to a fault. His name was Harry Beales and he had spent most of twenty years in the same office, sifting data from census figures as if the fate of the nation depended on what he wrought from his tables and graphs and rows of numbers appended to obscure facts. However, the fate of the nation paid Harry no mind until after the census of the year 2010, when the Census Bureau computers became sophisticated enough to sift out some anomalies, which Harry then noticed.
Other, more modern computers might have picked up on the figures earlier but Harry had no access to them, and he was the only person in the bureau whose job description specifically directed him to search for unexplainable blips. Even after the new computers were installed, it was several years after the census had been completed before the amoeba-like distribution of data was completed and found its way to Harry's desk. He could then begin the plodding search for unusual facts and figures from the last census that he was responsible for finding.
Give Harry his due. He recognized the first little oddity buried in the wealth of newly updated files and he followed up on it relentlessly. What he saw first was that in the small little city of Masterville, high up in the Ozarks, the national divorce rate didn't seem to apply. There were very few divorces in Masterville. Not only that, as his curiosity was piqued and he looked further, he saw that there weren't that many marriages, either. Both facts were anomalies and Harry was very good at anomalies. That was his job, after all. He searched some more.
Harry thought that the low divorce and marriage rate would indicate a greater percentage of people with different last names living together and that turned out to be the case. He knew from previous census data that as a rule, those households where couples lived together without benefit of marriage should have fewer children in residence, regardless of which parent they belonged to, or whether the offspring belonged to both. That turned out not to be the case; there were more, not less. Apparently the citizens of Masterville cared little for marriage but lots for children. About this time, he noticed that it was near five o'clock, and stolid bureaucrat that he was, he called it a day. The next morning he plodded back to his figures.