June 05, 2010

Chasing the Facts

By May B. Yesno © 2010

I was chasing the facts, fiction, and story; call it as you will, of a story rumored around my hometown to have taken place in a place distant. I was on my third day of questions and answers with the locals in that distant place, and hadn’t gleaned a smell of fact, or fiction for that matter. I decided a break was in order. In manner, then, I chose a lounge bar on the out skirts of town and settled down for an hour to relax and review notes of yet another story I was researching.

My notes were telling me of radio station failures and radio station consolidation for reasons I’d not totally grasped at that point in my research. Money for operating costs and newer broadcasting techniques seemed the most likely suspects, but I hadn’t quite put a handle on the smaller, regional, five watt stations that sprouted like milk weed. Those little stations that broadcast twenty-four/seven/three-sixty five with little or no advertising were the popular item, Mom and Pop places.

It was an interesting subject, to be sure, but one I’d only dipped a toe into through surface skimming literature garnered from correspondence. No interviews as yet of people actually in the business.

I was in the middle of heaving a sigh of frustration over tangled ends of ideas for articles, partially written articles, what might sell and to whom, when the conversation at the next table sank into my awareness.

They were speaking of radio stations. Quite implausibly a local station and how it was structured.

It was a feeder type station, carrying a packaged programming sent to it from a distant point. One of several stations owned by one person, one consortium of persons and all run from the central point. This particular stations hiring two people to serve the machinery and front the local population was nepotism as the manager appointed was a brother and his wife.

The conversation I was witnessing continued for some time and then the participants drifted out of the lounge. I had filled a page or so of my notes – because, who knows when something related and useful might come along or I might use these notes. I did receive some insight to the business of a small station. I received some insight as to funding such things. There was one snippet, a clue to, the subject that had brought me this far.

As I have related, I was concerned with my notebook and as I tuned into the conversation, I realized I’d caught the words “micro-brewery” and “construction” and “advertisement.” Those were all words pertaining to my original quest, that which had dragged me from the comforts of home and hearth and out across the no-where land of country.

And I’d missed it.

I had, however, come to awareness in time to register a town name. Some searching of Maps told me the town was only a few miles down the road and easily accessible. I left the Lounge and headed there.

Perhaps an explanation is in order. I had heard of a publisher interested in articles about Micro-Breweries. If they were interested, then I, as a writer, was interested.

About the same time I was told there might be a Micro-Brewery in a town some distance away.

Which explains why and what I was doing so far from home. The fact I couldn’t find the Micro-Brewery wasn’t surprising because I had one vague name or a maybe real location for the thing, and felt, as I normally feel when dealing with small town folks, that indirect suggestions of questions was the best way to seek information. One of the things I do know about country folk is the “suggestion ability” they will sometimes apply to their group, intimates and casual listeners. Where indirect comments to things, partially stated facts (or fictions) will be laid out with no emphasis and the conversation continued, or terminated as the speaker wishes. Then the listener is watched from afar, in silence, to see if the bait was taken and what actions the listener might exhibit.

Once the listener has taken action, whether now or some time from now, he will generally hear about it over a beer or cup of coffee, several times in fact, and from a wide variety of folks, in the years to come.

The stop at the Lounge gave me a town name, where all the indirect questioning had failed.

The short of it was I found the town mentioned. I found a corpse no-one had bothered to bury. There was at least twenty-five people living there and the only building large enough to remotely qualify for ‘commercial’ status was a dairy milking shed.

I parked on a knoll top and thought about the situation for several minutes.

The problems seemed to revolve about: 1) radio, 2) advertisements, and 3) booze. Not to put too fine a point on small town reticence and humor.

Those being the case; then, a liquor store should produce some answers. But which liquor store. Liquor stores buy and sell booze, therefore a micro-brewery needs a market.

The local phone book gave me two choices, and the maps gave me a clue to middle vs. working class patronage – the radio station/advertisement angle weighting on the middle class side. So off I went to my best guess estimate for an informational source.

I got lucky. The owner was present and listened patiently to my explanation of my search and started grinning.

It was a hoax, he said. A small inside joke between three guys. None of the micro-brewery ever was. Well, not really.

Look. The fellow that use to own the local radio station, for twenty years or more, sold out.

When the new guy (not the new owner, his brother, the current manager) got into town to take over the operation, the old owner invited him over to his home. It so happens that the old owner was a home brewer hobbyist and offered the new guy some home brew.

The brew was terrible. There were no words to describe it really, the Liquor Store Owner said. They tried the usual stock of panther piss, paint remover and what-not, but none came close. It was so bad, in fact, none but the old owner of that radio station finished their beers.

After the change of management and all had taken place, that new manager got to thinking about that beer the old owner prided his self on, and developed an advertising campaign around it.

He called the stuff Down Stream Grizzly Bear Beer, and threw in the name of that small town you saw as the home of the finest beer made of cow pasture run off water ever bottled and distributed for human consumption – all, you understand, to commemorate the old owners beer.

Well, I guess you don’t get a salable story every time out. But, if you’re willing, you can get a story.

May B. Yesno is a writer from Fresno, CA.

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