It's almost time for the gala groundbreaking for the Pickax bookstore--and the town of Brrr is preparing for its bicentennial celebration. All the festivities, however, are spoiled by the discovery of a man's body on James Qwilleran's property.
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February 24, 2005
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Excerpt from The Cat Who Talked Turkey by Lilian Jackson Braun
One of Qwilleran's "Qwill Pen" columns recently made this statement: "A town without a bookstore is like a chicken with one leg."
His devoted readers agreed?even those who had never bought a book in their life. And the Klingenschoen Foundation in Chicago, which managed Qwilleran's inheritance, considered a new bookstore a worthwhile investment.
For fifty years the late Eddington Smith had sold pre-owned books in a picturesque building behind the post office. Two days after his death it burned to the ground, and millions of printed pages were reduced to ashes. This would be the ideal site for a new bookstore. It was the end of an era and the beginning of a bright new adventure for readers. It would be built on the historic site where Eddington's grandfather had once shod horses and forged rims for wagon wheels. Perhaps that was not the blacksmith's only means of supporting his family. There had long been rumors. . . .
All that aside, the site of the nineteenth-century smithy was to be the scene of a ceremonial groundbreaking. The good folk of Moose County liked special events: parades, barn raisings, livestock fairs, long funeral processions, and the like. They had never witnessed a formal groundbreaking. There would be a viewing stand for dignitaries, stirring music by the high school band, and a backhoe garlanded with flowers, to do the digging. It was suggested that the mayor should climb into the operator's seat and strike the first blow. Her Honor, Amanda Goodwinter, screamed, "Are you crazy? You couldn't get me on that blasted contraption with those silly flowers if you paid me!"
On Saturday vehicles streamed into Pickax from all directions. Newspapers in three counties were sending reporters and photographers. State police were called in to assist sheriff's deputies and Pickax police in handling the traffic. There had never been such a celebration in the history of Pickax!
Qwilleran was there, and he described it in his personal journal:
Saturday, May 31?Eddington Smith would turn over in his grave! He was such a modest, honorable gentleman, and he would not want his grandmother's deathbed confession known. But there are no secrets in Moose County, and it seemed to be generally known that Eddington's grandfather was not only a blacksmith but a weekend pirate. He tied a red bandanna on his head and sailed under the black flag, preying on ships that brought gold coins to the New World for the purchase of the beaver pelts that were so much in demand in Europe. The rumor was that the loot was buried in a certain spot, now covered with asphalt.
So, instead of a few hundred spectators, there were a few thousand. County highways as well as city streets were clogged with sensation-seekers. Whole families attended?with picnic lunches and campstools. Would the pirate's loot be found? Or was it just a rumor? Bets were being placed among friends?nothing over a quarter. The idea was to have something "on the nose" to report to future generations.