The Tour, Part I

“The field on your left hosted the great Peace Concert of July 12, 1969. With acts like Arlo Guthrie, The Who, and Jimi Hendrix, many people consider this to be the Woodstock of the South.”

“I didn’t know there was a Woodstock of the South!” declared one woman, a sweet, older Midwestern thing. The camera that hung from a strap around her neck seemed to jump into her hands, and she managed at least a dozen pictures of the field even though the tram passed it at full speed. They’d be blurry, but she would show them off anyway.

The Woodstock line was always dangerous, but Jonas prided himself on his ability to size up his groups. This one skewed older, and pulsed with kindly passionlessness that would accept every word he said, and probably repeat them back home over Olive Garden dinners to all of their similarly post-striving friends.

“Coming up on your right is the childhood home of a man named Jacob Marleigh.”

“Like A Christmas Carol?” the man sitting next to photographer woman offered enthusiastically.

“Very good, my man,” Jonas announced, and there was a bit of hubbub at the back of the tram as news of such an amazing coincidence traveled backward. (While the speed of sound is more than 700 miles per hour, Jonas estimated the speed of information through a tour group at only one and a half meters per second.) “Although the family name is spelled differently, ‘M-A-R-L-E-I-G-H,’ they did name him after the book.”

“Did you hear that, Ronny? The family name is spelled differently,” over-enunciated a woman in the middle of the bus to her husband. Jonas checked his mirror, aimed at the passengers rather than the road, and took mercantile pleasure at noting her attire: a bright red T-shirt with “I’m a tourist–ENTERTAIN ME!” in big loopy script. If she would purchase that, Jonas imagined, with proper prodding she could be persuaded to drop a massive wad of cash in his gift shop after the ride. He mentally set five hundred as a goal.

Jonas didn’t dwell on his forthcoming riches. Some breaks in narration could be passed off as paying due attention to the operation of a motor vehicle, but long ones were just shoddy showmanship. “The parents gave Jacob his name knowing that it might be an obstacle for him to overcome, and thinking that if he learned to do so it would help him to achieve other things in his life. I think you’ll agree that it worked, because as a young man Jacob was the first to observe the amazing metaphysical properties of the unique electromagnetic fields that you will find at twelve points in and around Darkwood Gulch. In fact…” Jonas paused for dramatic effect here. “I think Jacob Marleigh deserves a round of applause.”

The tour gave Jacob his due and more. Some cheered, and at least one man gave a absurd little trilling whoop.

Yes, this trip was going to pull in some coin.

*****

Today, my family took a boat tour of the Peace River. Fun and interesting, but heavily local-history focused. So I wondered… how do we really know if the operator is telling the truth in everything he says?

In the world of The Clean Hippie Murders, the tour operator (who, as you may note, is also mayor, which I just learned today) clearly won’t be. He founded the tourist trade of his town on magnificent fictions, but he is clever enough to make them stick.

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