IT STARTED WITH RUMOURS that Miss Freda had run off with Mr P.R. Lagner. P.R. came to Slidell to sing at the annual squash festival, and it was Toby Goobersnatcher’s idea to invite him to be one of the judges to select the new squash queen.

The new squash queen? Now that’s a joke. Miss Freda has been the squash queen of Slidell for forty-two years in a row. And why not? At five foot two inches and three hundred and sixty-three pounds, the gal is not merely pleasingly plump, she is what is known in beauty circles as well rounded. When Miss Freda sets the squash tiara atop her red locks every year, it is enough to bring oohs and aahs from even the losing contestants.

Libby, Miss Freda’s little sister, is expected to be the next squash queen if Miss Freda doesn’t show up for the pageant. Miss Libby is not fully rounded, but she’s only forty-six years old. We had expected that when Miss Freda retired, she’d have time to table-train Libby and get her weight up to where it ought to be. Libby has been eyeing that zucchini tiara with a gleam in her headlights for a couple of decades now. The Walker farm is second only to Mayor G’s farm in the variety and quantity of squash grown each year. Yellow crookneck, banana, small white, acorn, butternut, and zucchini all flourish on the Walker’s 500-acre Mecca of squash. The Walker squash farm, along with Mayor G’s place, are two of the reasons why Slidell, Texas, has become the squash capital of the world.

What we think happened was, P.R. met Miss Freda at the rehearsal for the pageant, got seduced by her womanly charms, and they took off for Nashville, Tennessee, in Mr Langer’s Ford Club Cab. Miss Freda has long wanted to get on the Country Jamboree, and if stealing P.R. Langer from Miss Molly Morton is what it takes, well he wouldn’t be the first man to succumb to Miss Freda’s irresistible flirtations. Miss Freda has a set of twins darn near every year, and the offspring have some pretty famous daddies. Do the names Mr Speck Streets and Tucker Owens ring any bells? Some folks think that Mayor G himself may have fathered a couple of sets, because a couple of pairs started balding about the time they began bottle-feeding. This notion is bolstered by the fact that Miss Freda has been doing commercials for G-brand squash on the local radio station, KSLD (K-slide) for about forty years. You’ve heard the spots: ‘Folks, this is Miss Freda Walker remindin’ you to buy G-brand squash. It’s best fer boilin’.’

With the squash queen herself recommending your squash, well you can just imagine that sales of G-brand squash went right through the roof, and have stayed high for all these years. It’s only fair to say that Miss Freda and Mayor G have helped each other become rich and famous.

Now what happened last night was that Toby was patrolling in his squad car, and with the squash queen contest being held today, well he was naturally paying close attention to the Walker house. He has long considered Miss Freda a potential kidnap victim, due to her beauty, wealth, and fame. What he saw when he drove by was Mr

P.R. Lagner up on a ladder at Miss Freda’s window. If it had been anybody except for the king of country music, Toby most likely would have shot the cowboy hat off his head. But you just don’t go shooting at a man of Mr Lagner’s stature.

Now we’re all sitting here waiting for the contest to begin, and we’re missing our odds-on favorite to win and our judge. But if you think we’re upset, you should set your eyes on Miss Molly Morton. On the television, Miss Molly looks like a big old healthy gal. But after seeing her in person, I can tell you, she doesn’t weigh more than 200lbs soaking wet. She’d be swallowed up in a pair of Miss Freda’s coveralls. Getting back to the subject at hand, what we have here is a crisis, and thank the good Lord we’ve been blessed with a smart, rational leader like Mayor G to see us through these trying times. Here’s Mayor G stepping up to the microphone now to assuage the crowd:

‘Ladies and genmuns, I know you’s all worried about the desserpearance of Miss Freda Walker and Mr P.R. Lagner,’ Mayor G began, and Miss Molly Morton began wailing at this time. ‘I has a strong feelin’ that Miss Freda has started workin’ on her twin pack early this year. She ain’t a young thang anymore, and she proberly has been havin’ heat flashes.’ All the women in the audience shook their heads in agreement with Mayor G’s rationalisation to this point. ‘The important thang today is that we move on with our lives and get on with crownin’ a squash queen. And I am happy to announce that whom-so-ever is elected to be the new squash queen will be the spokeslady fer G-brand squash fer a full year. I don’t thank I have ta remind ya that the lucky lady will be paid $12 fer every week the ad is runned on K-slide. That totals out to almost $500 a yearwhat’s that Bubba? Oh, right, that is $600 a year.’ The revised total brought gasps of amazement from the crowd. ‘So the first order of bidness is to erpoint a replacerment fer Mr P.R. Lagner as judge.’ That brought very loud wailing from Miss Molly Morton. ‘I nomernate myself. If there are no objections, then it’s done. So that’s that. Bring out the contestants.’

Well, about an hour later, G surprised the crows by announcing that the new squash queen was Miss Molly Morton. Now that brought on a lot of wailing by Miss Libby Walker, but it proved to be a very wise move on Mayor G’s part because Miss Molly wiped the tears out of her eyes and put on a big smile along with the zucchini tiara. Nobody will ever forget Miss Molly’s words:

‘Folks, even though my heart is broken and even though you people in Slidell has totally destroyed my whole life, I will try to be the best squash queen you has ever had. I will treat this here squash tiara with the same love I gave my pants of many patches my mama gave to me.’

Mayor G and Miss Molly headed on down to K-slide, and the crowd moved on to the squash recipe judging contest to taste a few samples. I couldn’t help but notice the way Miss Molly and Mayor G were looking at each other. I expect she’ll have her own set of baldheaded twins pretty soon.

Anyhow, it looked like things were getting back pretty much to normal till come Saturday night. Most everybody goes down to Leona’s Go Go Lounge and Quick Mart on Saturday night to watch the Country Jamboree on the big screen colour TV. Well, big as life, up steps Mr P.R. Langer to the mike and says, ‘How deep is the mud a-gettin’, papa? I has a real treat fer all you country music fans out there. I has discovered some real genuine talent, and I’m gonna sing duet with her, right here tonight, on the Country Jamboree. Please give a big Nashville welcome to Miss Freda Walker of Slidell, Texas.’

The live audience at the Jamboree took one look at the former squash queen and went completely nuts. You’d of thought the rafters was gonna fall in on the place and squash all them people. There stood Miss Freda Walker in a red polka dot dress, a white cowgal hat, and a pair of lizard-skin boots. She was the most fully-rounded entertainer that had ever took to the stage at the Jamboree. When she and Mr P.R. Langer sang, ‘The Squash Fields of Slidell,’ there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Miss Freda was an instant hit. When they finished and Miss Freda was just standing there looking pretty, P.R. Langer went back to the mike:

‘ls she bigger than Miss Dottie West?’ he asked.
‘Yes!’ they screamed.
‘ls she bigger than Miss Patsy Cline?’
‘Yes!’
‘Is she the new queen of country music?’
‘Yes!’
‘Do you want her back next week, an’ ever’ week after that, till you’s as old as Grandpa Jones?’
‘Yes! Yes! Yes!’

Now I don’t have to tell you or any other country music fan that all you have to do is turn on the TV on Saturday night and you will see Mr P.R. Lagner and Miss Freda Walker singing their hearts out. And you can hardly tum on the radio without hearing their latest hit either. Of course if you turn into K-slide, you are going to hear Miss Molly Morton doing her ads for G-brand squash: ‘Folks, have ya tried cuttin’ a butternut squash in half, sprinklin’ sugar an’ cinnamon on it, an bakin’ it in the oven? Umm, umm!’

That’s the story of how we got a new squash queen and country music got our old squash queen. There’s a lots of other stories I could tell you about the goin’s on in Slidell. When you’re talking about a city of over 300 people, well there’s a lot of exciting things going on all the time. Next time I’m going to tell you about how Toby Goobersnatcher got the atomic briefcase bomb he carries in the trunk of his squad car in case there’s ever a riot in Slidell. Until then, keep eating plenty squash. 01′ Doc Miles says it’s the best thing a person can do to keep their health up, and 01′ Doc is ninety-two years old and still practicing medicine, so he bears listening to.