Pile of papers

Editor's Note: This is an ongoing series which runs each Thursday morning titled the Richland Chronicles, by author Paul Lintern. It is set in the 1800s and tells the story of Richland County through the eyes of young people. The books are available from Lintern for $25 a set, tax and shipping included. Each book is about 120 pages written for intermediate readers (4th grade) with local illustrations. Volume I is Amelia Changes Her Tune. Volume II is Isaac and Wolf Paw Find Their Home. Volume III is Autumn Keeps Her Secret. Volume IV is Mr. Gamble Starts a School. Volume V is Jacob Blows his Horn. Volume VI is Cassie Fights the WarVolume VII is Emilene Adopts Her Family. Volume VIII is David Dances the Bases.

“Who’s idea was this, a contest with so many schoolchildren?” Lucas was saying to Miss Vasbinder, sitting before a large pile of completed contest forms as she walked into the Methodist Episcopal Church.

Natalie sat beside him.

“I got all these from the Bank across the square; how will we get through this?” he asked.

“Especially when we add these from the Shield and Banner,” she said, pouring a bucketful of forms onto the table.

“And these, from Wappner’s,” said Miss Osbun, pouring even more onto the pile.

“Maybe we should recruit a few more judges. Perhaps Rev. Broadwell here will help us, or some in the ladies circle,” he suggested.

“This really will take forever, and the dedication is in three days,” Miss Vasbinder

Everybody sighed deeply. Then, Miss Osbun’s face lit up.

“We don’t have to grade them all. We are only looking for those that are completely right. If we find one wrong answer, we can set it aside,” she said.

“Very good. Let’s pick one question that will be hard to answer correctly, and use that to sort through most of those,” Lucas said.

“Good, but which one?” Miss Vasbinder said.

“These questions are all easy to find, if you are looking. They won’t put in a guess without searching first. This will be harder than we think.”

“We can look for blanks on any of the questions and then disqualify that form,” Natalie suggested.

“Let’s see how that goes,” Uncle Lucas said, and they all began looking through.

Twenty minutes of looking produced only a handful of disqualified entries.

“This is not going well. There must be a better way,” Lucas said.

“Short of adding a team of proctors, I don’t know what to say,” Miss Vasbinder said.

“Do you have to find all the perfect ones before you pick from them,” Natalie asked. “Couldn’t we pick one randomly, and if it is perfect, declare that the winner?”

Natalie saw the three adults look at each other thoughtfully, then smile and nod their heads.

“That is a perfect solution, Natalie,” Miss Osbun said. “That is exactly what we will do.”

“Jane, dump these all in that barrel over there and stir them up well. Miss Osbun, you will select the first form, then we will check it. If it qualifies, that will be our grand prize winner. Then we will pick another, and another, until all 10 grand prizes are awarded,” Lucas said.

The committee set to work. The first one selected was a girl from Walnut Street, but she missed two of the newspapers and listed only 10 attorneys, and so was disqualified.

The next was a boy, from the south side of town, on First Street.

Everything looks good, yes, this one is complete.

Natalie nodded to the judges and handed it to Uncle Lucas.

“Delmar Hightower is our grand prize winner of the bicycle,” Lucas declared.

Soon, the other nine winners had been chosen, with only 12 forms needed, and Miss Osbun had written down the names, and was preparing to display the winning entries.

Meanwhile, Miss Vasbinder was going through the remaining forms and selecting several good drawings of the courthouses, to display separately.

“This will be fun for people to see,” she said.

“I am sorry that none of our schoolchildren were selected,” Natalie said to Miss Osbun.

“It probably is just as well; avoids looking like someone had an advantage,” she replied.

“The prizes are nice, but the important thing is how involved our children have been in preparing for the dedication. And, how interested they have made the local merchants and businesspeople around here,” Miss Vasbinder said.

“Mr. Pleasants and Mr. Kern were happy for the publicity about their barbershops, I am sure, and Mr. Glessner said the children created a constant stream, asking to spell his name.”

“Editors like Mr. Glessner appreciate good spelling,” Uncle Lucas said.

“I talked with some of the men at the firehouse and they all enjoyed signing the forms. They said the horses enjoyed all the extra feed,” Miss Vasbinder said.

“I hope it didn’t slow them down,” Natalie said.

“The firemen?”

“The horses,” she laughed.

“We have our winners, we have a nice display of art, and have a lot of excitement about the fountain, and we have completed our task. Congratulations on a job well done,” Miss Vasbinder said.

“And especially to you, Young Lady.”

Oh, my, it was nothing!

“Thanks, Miss Vasbinder,” Natalie blushed, then she pondered.

“Excuse me, what if people ask whether we looked through them all, especially those who think their’s was perfect, but not chosen. What do we tell them?”

“The judges’ decision is final,” Uncle Lucas said.

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