Many readers requested that various subplots in the Making of a Gigolo series be addressed at the conclusion of the series. To have included all the data requested would have made the last story much too long, so this epilogue is provided to address some of those issues.
My thanks go to Norm, for providing the idea for and the data concerning the PP of A. You'll understand when you get to that part.
If Bobby Dalton was a kind of earthquake in Granger, it should come as no surprise that the aftershocks would continue to shake things up, even after he got married.
The first thing he did to shake things up was buy Agatha Roberts' house, which had languished on the market for months. He didn't actually try to make a good deal, but got one anyway. There were obstacles, but only small ones. The bank refused to grant him a loan on the property, citing the lack of "a steady income." Agatha, who was now engaged to Jim and would be moving into his house when they were married, no longer needed the cash from the house up front, so she simply carried the loan herself.
This distressed the neighbors to no end, but there wasn't anything they could do about it. A lot of people actually thought about moving away, but the history of successful real estate transactions in the town disabused that notion fairly quickly.
What made it even worse was that the house quickly became the best looking property on the street, which also distressed the neighbors to no end.
Another fact that shook things up was that Constance became Bobby's business partner. She didn't sit at home and keep books. She went out and got her hands dirty right alongside her husband. People were constantly amazed that this pregnant woman could work up a storm and do it beautifully. She took special delight in showing other women how to do things by themselves, which distressed her husband to no end, since it cut into their business.
As it happened though, Dalton Repairs and Renovations had only satisfied customers. It was a small town and word spread. Within a year, they had more business than they could handle, particularly when Connie had to take a break to have a baby. There came a time when half a dozen teenagers, both boys and girls, worked part time for the company.
There were two aftershocks that Bobby wasn't directly responsible for, though the fault lines that slipped were connected to him.
Will and Christy wanted a small wedding, with little fuss, and only close friends at the ceremony. The guest list, in fact, only had thirty-six names on it. They didn't count on the impact Will had had on the community though.
The wedding was crashed by the entire VFW, consisting of forty men and three women who had begun celebrating long before they marched through the doors ... in formation ... with Master Sergeant (Retired) "Dub" Pritchett calling cadence. It was unfortunate that the only cadence call Dub could remember was one that involved two old ladies lying in bed, but the marchers voices were a little slurred by that point, so their thundering replies weren't all that clear. They even had the flags with them, like it was a parade.
That might have been manageable, in the Four Square Free Church of Granger, which had a total of ten pews in the sanctuary—a room about forty by thirty feet in size, including the alter and choir loft.
It was the sixty-four students from Granger High, who also crashed the wedding, that resulted in standing room only.
Then there were the hoots, applause, and "THAT'S what I'm talking about!" type calls, as the bewildered minister tried to conduct the ceremony with dignity and aplomb.
Even that might have ended in only a series of stories that might have been told for years, but when Christy was asked for the ring and produced a new prosthetic hand that neither Will nor anyone else had known about, and which had a custom made wedding ring welded onto it, there was bedlam. To put it on, he had to take his suit coat off, and then his shirt, which produced the first true silence of the day in the packed congregation, as the full extent of his scars was revealed.
A high school girl whistled and, within twenty seconds, there was jubilation that shook the windows of the little church.
THAT story became legend in the town and still is to this day.
The other aftershock was smaller in many ways, because fewer people took special notice of it. Those who DID take notice of it, however, were almost thrown from their feet by the shockwaves.
Mirriam Dalton got married.
Just that fact alone might have shaken things up in town. But the man who married her left a full professor's position, to establish a nonprofit foundation to repopulate two hundred thousand acres of tall grass prairie with buffalo, of all things.
They already had the land, thanks to land donations by several Indian tribes in Oklahoma, and the purchase of land that connected those areas, by Chester and Felicity Chumley. The word on the street was that a herd of four hundred bison would be released into the preserve within a year. It was bringing a lot of attention to little Granger, even though the town was two hundred miles away from the preserve itself.
The next year, 1979, Will and Christy were again the talk of the town. Though it made less of a splash, either regionally or nationally, it brought great prestige to the little town, because Christy Bradford entered a photograph in a national contest and it made the news.
The Professional Photographers of America, commonly referred to as the PP of A, is the largest group of professional photographers in America and has affiliate groups all over the world. Its purpose is to educate and train its members, extending their craft. Christy had joined the Wichita chapter when her business took off and had been a member for three years. She got together with her cohorts occasionally and, at a seminar on portraiture, she happened to show one of them the picture she'd taken of Will wrapped in the American flag.
The PP of A holds print competitions every year, where local winners' prints are forwarded to regional events and then to the national competition. Christy's peer lobbied her heavily to prepare a print for that year's competition.
Making such a print might sound easy. It is anything but. The print must be sixteen by twenty inches. It will be judged for artistic ability, impact, and technical details. The judges, usually five to seven masters grade photographers, sit in a darkened room. The print is displayed on a vertical turn-table, angled so that the lighting won't glare off the surface. Each judge may view the print for as long as he likes. Once each judge has scored the print, the scores are averaged and they move on.
Scores range from fifty to a hundred. For our purposes, scores of eighty to ninety are considered as "deserving merit" and ninety to a hundred is classed "exceptional." Very few prints get a score above ninety.
Points may be awarded on the basis of subjective and intangible points of interest, such as color saturation and tone, placement of shadow in the print, and whether that shadow adds to or detracts from the subject matter. Even the title of the print may affect score.
It was into that intimidating and highly respected competition that Christy entered the print of the man who was now her husband, titled "All gave some..."—a reference to the well known phrase, in those days, of "All gave some, and some gave all." On the advice of her peers, Christy "burned" the corners and edges of the print—making them dark and driving the viewer's attention to the center—then covered the final product with a coat of clear gloss finish that made the colors jump out at the viewer. She had to make fifteen prints before she was satisfied that the colors in the flag were true representations of the official emblem.
She waited, in the gallery, along with dozens of other observers. By the luck of the draw, Will's portrait was one of the last five prints judged.
It had what is commonly called the "wow factor."
"All gave some," said the announcer, and Will's portrait was turned to face the judges.
There was an audible collective indrawn breath, followed by a stunned silence that lasted perhaps six or seven seconds. Then all that indrawn breath was expelled in a sussurating whisper that filled the entire room.
"Quiet please!" said the announcer.
Had an observer been watching Monica Truebridge's eyes, that observer would have seen them narrow slightly as the judge viewed the portrait. Her eyes flicked to various things in the print: the ravaged skin; the stripes in the flag that were a deep, rich authentically blood red; the end of the stump that held that flag to the chest ... and the hair, that looked perfectly natural. It was the juxtaposition of normal versus abnormal, all in one person, that gripped her. She tensed and then relaxed. THIS was what she'd been waiting to see. She keyed in her score and signaled the turntable attendant to move the portrait so that it faced Harold, the judge next to her.
For Harold Bluestem, who had served three years in the Army and never experienced anything more exciting than driving a deuce and a half through mud that was three feet deep, he saw what could have happened to him, had he been sent to war. It shook him and it made him realize how incredibly lucky he'd been. This photograph spoke to him on a very personal level. This young man, and this photograph, espoused the apex of bravery and sacrifice. He stared at it so long that the turntable attendant spoke.
"Yes," sighed Harold. "Go on."
For Stephanie Wells, it was the eyes that drew her attention, particularly the fact that the eyes were identical, warm, full of life—just normal brown eyes. But those eyes were in a head that had two faces. Half was the face of any young man, with his dreams and hopes and plans. The other half was the essence of destruction and the ruination of all dreams, hopes and plans. And yet, the eye in the midst of that destruction still shone with hope and pride. She had to wipe her own suddenly tear-filled eyes before she could score the entry. She scored the photograph with the highest score she'd ever given and waved at the attendant.
Crandall Peabody considered himself the senior judge, based primarily on his tenure in the PP of A and his opinion that he was as good as Ansel Adams. Other photographers admitted he was good, but their opinion wasn't anywhere close to his own. His face was still frozen in the rictus of horror that had taken it over as soon as the photograph appeared. "That's disgusting!" he breathed.
"What?!" Stephanie's head swiveled away from the photograph.
"That's the most disgusting thing I've ever seen," Crandall almost panted. "It's OBSCENE!"
Stephanie couldn't believe her ears. She stared at her peer in astonishment.
Jerry Baldwin, the judge to his right, was also astonished. "Crandall, you're insane," he said, his voice low. "That's master work if I ever saw it."
"It's PORNOGRAPHY!" snarled Crandall. "I OBJECT! This ... this ... this travesty should not have been accepted into the competition!"
Jerry snorted. "Just score the print, Crandall," he said.
"ZERO!" thundered Crandall.
The announcer's voice came onto the PA system almost instantly. "Judges will keep their votes secret until all votes have been cast, please."
Crandall made a production about pushing one finger onto the keypad, leaned back, and folded his arms, scowling.
"I need to change my vote," said Monica.
"As you SHOULD!" said Crandall, not all that softly.
Monica made just as much of a production of pointing her finger and pushing down three times. There was only one possible score that required three numbers ... the perfect score of 100.
Jerry did exactly the same thing.
The easel was turned toward the last judge, who was Larry Turnbull. Larry was the oldest judge present, at age sixty-two. He was also a vet of WWII and had landed on Omaha Beach, though no one in the room was aware of that. He still had a German machine gun bullet lodged in a knot of scar tissue less than an inch from his spine. He knew when it would rain because of that bullet.
"I've already scored it," he said quietly. "Next photograph please?"
After all the photographs are viewed and scored, there is a second viewing, for all prints that scored 85 and above. One photograph in each category is selected as best in category. The last viewing compares all the best in category and best of show is then determined.
It sounds fairly routine, but rarely is, in fact. It wasn't routine at all in this show.
When all portraits that scored 85 or better had been viewed, and the announcer said that wedding photographs were next, Monica Truebridge raised her hand.
"I don't believe you displayed 'All gave some.'"
Silence descended on the gallery.
"That photograph received a score of eighty-two, point six," said the announcer.
Crandall harrumphed and smiled widely.
"And now wedding photographs," said the announcer again.
"One moment, please," said Monica. "To get a score of eighty-two point six," she said, "I believe that five of the scores would have to have been averaged somewhere above ninety-nine." She let that sink in as Crandall's face twisted, while he tried to do the math. "If five out of six judges feel that strongly, I believe that photograph has merit. I'd like to see it again," she said.
"I object!" said Crandall.
"We'll take a little break," said the announcer. "Would the judges please assemble in the conference room?"
"You people are insane!" trumpeted Crandall.
"What, exactly," asked Larry, "is your objection to the photograph?"
"It's unpatriotic!" snarled Crandall. "It's blasphemy!"
Five judges looked at him like he'd sprouted a third eye.
"Don't you see it?" said Crandall gruffly. "He blames the United States of America for his infirmity! And to flagrantly expose those scars! I shudder to think what some poor child would think if she accidentally saw that monster!"
Monica, Stephanie and Jerry all drew breath to argue, but waited when Larry raised his hand.
"Is it possible, Crandall, that the photograph could be viewed as if he loved his country, despite what he suffered?" Crandall took a breath, clearly about to argue, but Larry cut him off. "Could it be that the flag he drapes himself in is a symbol of how America cares for those who suffer for our benefit?" His voice hardened and got louder. "Could it be, Crandall, that that young man displayed incredible courage in letting the world SEE those scars you object to so much? He suffered those wounds for YOU, Crandall, so that you could have the privilege of taking whatever photographs you want to and won't be jailed for showing them to anybody!"
"Nonsense," snorted Crandall. "The Vietnam war was a mistake, a travesty. The Vietnamese never threatened us OR our way of life! Men like him killed babies and raped women. They disgraced our whole COUNTRY!"
"We're not here to talk politics," said Harold. "We're here to judge photographs."
"And I judge that one as having no value at all," said Crandall smugly.
"So the colors are wrong?" asked Monica.
"That's not what I'm objecting to," said Crandall.
"How about the composition?" she pressed. "Is that poorly done?"
"That's not the point," said Crandall.
"It's exactly the point, Crandall," she said. "It's a photograph. Regardless of whether you think the subject matter, or what it says to the viewer, is objectionable, it's still a photograph and should receive due consideration on its technical merits. I could understand if you gave it a fifty, but a zero makes you look like an idiot."
"I am not an idiot," said Crandall stiffly. "I am merely a man of moral conscience."
"So anybody who is sent to war by this country, and suffers injury, should just be put on a shelf and forgotten," said Larry. His voice sounded husky.
"I didn't say that," said Crandall.
"You scored him ZERO!" snapped Larry.
"I scored the PHOTOGRAPH zero," insisted Crandall. "It profanes the flag."
Stephanie spoke. "I think we should get the photographer in here."
"Why?" asked Crandall.
"So he can tell us what his intent was," she said.
"The intent is clear," insisted Crandall. "Except to Larry, I suppose," he added.
"Except to all of us," said Monica. "It's five to one, Mr. Peabody." Her voice was formal.
Christy stepped into the conference room. She was very nervous. She'd left Will back in Granger, to mind the shop while she came to Wichita for the competition. What she'd seen and heard had made her very glad he wasn't there.
The six judges were sitting at the table. No chair had been provided for her, so she just stood at the end of the table nearest her. She had no idea why she had been called here, but she was sure it couldn't be a good sign.
"You're the photographer?" That was Monica and she sounded surprised.
"Yes," said Christy. She didn't trust her voice to say more.
One of the men, the older one with gray hair, spoke. The man who had said such horrible things sat next to him, with a frown on his face.
"Would you please tell us what you intended to portray in the portrait you made?"
Christy clamped down on her emotions. That was no easy feat because just the photograph alone caused emotion to balloon in her. And she didn't know what this meeting meant, which caused other emotions to roil in her. But her anger and frustration at the frowning man gave her the strength to speak.
"When I met Will, he was withdrawn and in pain," she said. "He had given up on life." She calmed as she thought about him. "But he wasn't bitter. He didn't blame anybody for what happened to him, even though it was friendly fire that caused his injuries."
"Did you say friendly fire?" asked the gray haired man, leaning forward.
"What's that?" asked the man next to him.
"That means it was American ordinance that burned him," said the older man. "WE did that to him, Crandall ... not the enemy."
"Oh," said the man he had addressed as Crandall. He looked confused.
"Go on, please," said the gray haired man.
"He almost died. He lay on the battlefield for hours before they found him. All he wanted was to see his sister again ... to go home. He was in the hospital for months and months," said Christy. "And through it all, he was in agony that is indescribable." She felt tears forming in her eyes and blinked rapidly, clamping down on her emotions. "He survived it and he wasn't bitter. He still loved his country. America took him back, burned and broken, and helped him survive. He's done amazing things since then. He gave so much and wanted so little. He knew it was friendly fire, and he still loved his country. I wanted to show that."
"Why did you show the scars?" asked one of the women.
"It's who he is," said Christy, helplessly. "He can't disguise them. Everybody he meets sees his face. He gave something up for his country and that should be honored." She looked at the man who had said those hurtful things in the gallery. "You were wrong," she said. "It isn't pornography. It's reality. He lives with that reality every day."
Crandall was stubborn, but in the face of what she'd said, his arguments had no punch. He was badgered into accepting the inclusion of the portrait into continued judging. When the other five judges selected it as best of show, there wasn't anything he could do about it.
He hated that photograph for the rest of his life, because it made it all the way to national competition. Nobody along the way agreed with his assessment and he was never asked to judge again.
Something a lot more people paid attention to in 1979 were the Country Music Association awards. Misty Compton played significantly in that situation, because she was nominated for female vocalist of the year. By this time in her career, she was known for two things. First, she had a string of number one hits under her belt.
The song that stayed at number one on the country charts for thirteen weeks was the one that tipped her name for the nomination. It was one she wrote herself—about a wild young man who was finally tamed by a shy young girl who claimed his heart. Most people thought it was about the still unknown father of her child and her fantasy of capturing his love. It made her famous.
And it ensured that the press would pay particular attention to her at the awards. That's because the second thing she was famous for was telling the press it was none of their damned business who the father of her daughter was. On multiple occasions, her answer to the question was: "That's part of my personal life, which is none of your damned business." She always delivered that line with a smile and people, particularly women, loved her for it. She always appeared at things like this without an escort—arriving alone and leaving the same way.
What had Nashville in a buzz that night, at least as far as the press was concerned, was that word had been leaked that she WOULD be escorted this time. When the limo stopped and the driver opened the back door, the place lit up like the silent finale of some immense fireworks show.
In the midst of that blazing strobe-like light, Misty stepped daintily from the rear of the car, smiling widely, and reached her hand inside.
A man stepped out.
All chatter stopped as the man, who was blushing mightily, looked around with stunned eyes. The tuxedo he was in couldn't hide the fact that he was almost certainly in his late fifties or early sixties. What wisps of hair he had left had been carefully combed over the top of his bald head. His Adam's apple bobbed frantically as he swallowed multiple times.
In the stunned silence, punctuated only by the click and whir of the motor winds of a hundred cameras, Misty said "I'd like y'all to meet Jasper Tomkins. He's my songwriter."
Madge fairly barreled from the back of the car and took Jasper's arm.
"And he's MY husband," she said triumphantly. "So y'all can just go on back to wonderin'."
Jasper's leaving, to write songs professionally and get married, wasn't of that much note in Hutchinson. What got a lot more attention was the wedding of Amanda Griggs. She had met the man when she spoke at a symposium being held by a medical group, during which she gave a speech on the techniques she used to communicate with her father, who had lost his speech abilities due to a stroke.