The town was noisy, but not with the sounds and greetings of the coming Christmas season. No, what filled the streets and shops and homes were angry voices. Even if a stranger were passing through on a trip home for the holiday, he or she would hear it and travel on, wondering what reasons were responsible for the terrible din in such a lovely town.
Violet Starnes was heard in Angle’s Hair Parlor saying that she had never been so embarrassed and ashamed. “Never!” she said, had the town not been recognized.
Albert Monroe complained to Cecil, who owned the Fix-It Hardware, that his daddy had given the first money for its creation, and he would sit upright in his grave if he knew what had happened.
Hobart Clearmont wrote a letter to the editor of the weekly Morning Sun announcing to all that he would not, “Give a dime more,” and he was appalled at what had happened.
The clamoring grew to such a level that the mayor, tired of hearing all the voices and offering his reasons for the placement, decided to hold a town meeting. In that way, he thought, the situation could be aired, and all the discontent would be exposed, and everyone would hear the same explanation at the same time when given by the same voice.
On the night of the meeting, seats were claimed in the town hall long before the meeting was scheduled to begin. It seemed to the mayor, when he stepped to the front to begin, that the first two rows had been claimed by the severest critics, and he observed that the rumble of voices revealed the rift that had divided the town’s citizens. It was so loud that the mayor had difficulty calling the meeting to order, but a loud yelp from Clarence Starnes caused the voices to stop in surprise at Clarence’s yelp. With that pause, the mayor was able to call the meeting to order and explain that the head musician would give her reasons for the placement and then she would hear any questions. With that, a nervous Louise Staymore walked to the front and, looking over the assembly with a young, inexperienced stare, she took a deep breath and began:
“I know and appreciate that some of you are disappointed,” she began.
She was then interrupted by Albert Monroe, sitting in the center seat in the front row, who stood and looked around for support before saying, “You bet we are.”
The mayor then walked in front of the nervous, young head musician, and demanded order. With that, everyone grew quiet, and Ms. Staymore began again.
“Perhaps if you let me explain,” she said, “you will better understand what happened. I know that this has never happened,” but swallowing hard, she went on, “I think the fault lies with you, the townspeople.”
Her words caused a deep rumble to crash over the hall and someone in the back yelled —-What do you mean?-
Those words and the rumble, oddly, seemed to fortify Louise Staymore and she continued.
“When I became the head musician, some of you were angry that a female was named to a position that has previously been held by a male. Because of that, donations were withheld or “designated” for some other need of the band.”
She went on to explain that because some citizens had favorite causes for the band, they would give only for that interest. “For instance,” she explained, “a citizen donor liked uniforms, so he designated his gift to dress the band well. Another donor enjoyed the brass sound, so her gift was for more trumpets. Because,” she explained, “so much of the donations were designated, the band had to compete without an adequate percussion section and while the band had many trumpets, there were not enough trumpet players in the town, so the unused instruments were stored while the band needed two reed instruments for young players, but no monies were available for their purchase.”
“Yes,” she shared, “our band looked great, but it needed instruments in some areas, and because of that lack did not win the annual parade competition against other town bands.”
“The reason,” she inhaled before saying, “is you—you chose to give according to your desires, not the needs of the band. “Now,” she said looking at the front two rows, “we have lost for the first time.”
A steely quiet came over the hall. The mayor allowed it to resonate before standing to say,
Any questions? But no one dared.