The Simsville Inheritance
Copyright ©2006 Elizabeth G. Cox. All rights reserved.

Chapter 1 - The Inheritance

I never owned a whole town before. What do you do with your own town?

Aunt Myrtle left it to me in her will. Who knew she even had a town to leave. She never lived in it. She got it from her husband's will, but she never did anything with it. He never lived in it either. His father's mother's great-grandfather started the whole thing, back in the days when it was easy to own a town, I guess. Aunt Myrtle told me all about it when her husband died, just letting me know I'd come into ownership one of these days, seeing that I was her favorite living relative. There's not much to it...

Simsville, that's the name. Percival Monroe Merryman Sims came from the old country, England, got a grant for some several thousand acres, built himself a shack of a house, then a pretty good barn, then a stable next to the barn, then a smith, and then a few sheds, one used for a store, of course. Seeing he was doing pretty well growing things, he went up east and found himself a wife. Of course, she decided he needed a better house, and eventually several other houses for the help (slaves at first, indentured servants later on), then before you knew it, he needed more houses for his own sons to live in.

A creek ran between some of the houses. In bad weather it flooded, so they put up a bridge, Sims Bridge, still there today. Old Merryman had got to handling scrip for the paid farm hands because there wasn't any real bank for many miles. Not yet. So he printed up some scrip to use for pay, so the hands could buy their supplies from the store. Whenever he needed real cash, such as when someone wanted to strike out for other places, and for trading goods and the like, he used gold coins. Paper money was rare, unstable, and not much good in places that wouldn't accept it. Sooner or later he built himself a bank, out of necessity. It was just a little one but it had a real vault in it. Since it was so well built, he used the bank for most of his official business, even for a jail the few times they needed one.

After several years, folks in other parts of the countryside began calling the place Simsville. It was only natural, I guess, since he never had given his land a proper name like other men had done. When he died at age 86, he was married to his third wife, the first one dying of yellow fever leaving three young children, the second one dying in childbirth with her fifth child, and the third one, Louann, still living at age 58. All told, he had fourteen children, nine of whom outlived him. Six sons, three daughters. The others are buried in the little family plot close by that bridge, in a patch of high, shady ground.

The boys had some property of their own, split off from their daddy's when they got married, and then they added to it by buying or trading land. The girls married well, not exactly planned marriages, but there wasn't a lot in the way of bachelors nearby so daddy had sent the girls and their stepmama off to New England to find husbands. It only took a year or so; Louann came home to report all was well, marriages accomplished, the necessary dowries amounting to several years' income, but they'd been saving up for quite a while. All three daughters came back home to visit at least once, introducing husbands and children, sometimes in-laws, before returning to real cities and the life they had grown to love better.

Merryman kept the center of Simsville for himself. It passed from eldest child to eldest child (only once was it a female, since there was no son), until finally the last heir, Aunt Myrtle's husband, was childless when he died and it passed out of the blood kin, to me. I'm not a Sims, as you might have guessed.

Simsville has a bank, a hardware store with a single gasoline pump in front and a repair bay in back, a saloon (really a bar and grill), a boarding house, a dispensary, and a closed-up train depot used these days for several offices. A realtor rents part of it, a lawyer part, and a doctor the rest. There used to be a church but the last pastor nearly starved to death since so few of his congregation had any money to pay him with, and he finally moved away. The building's still there, used for a meeting hall, bingo games and voting.

All told, three hundred people live in the little town. Most who have jobs work somewhere else. One lady does hair in a little two-room shop. Another sews. Still another bakes cakes, pies, cookies, and a lot of bread to sell out of her front room on Wednesday. One elderly gentleman prints flyers and handbills, and every other week he puts out a special edition of the Simsville Informer, a single sheet with news of weddings, funerals, shootings, and the like. If it's a slow time (there really aren't very many shootings), he writes editorials and opinion pieces and letters to the editor and jokes and quotations. There are no subscribers, he just gives them away free as a service to the town. Of course, he signs everything with somebody's name, though of course he is the author of one hundred percent of it. He uses names like "Everyman," or "Knowsitall," and "Inquiringmind," but nobody is fooled. Unless maybe a tourist.

Which brings me to my inheritance. What do you do with your very own town? I asked the dusty, frumpy, wrinkled white-haired lawyer who gave me the news. He gave me an interesting answer.

Believe it or not, Simsville is a money-making proposition. It makes money in "quaint." Tourists, visitors, wanderers, and lost travelers stop by and spend money. And since no one in the little town owns any of the real estate or buildings, they have to pay rent to me. How neat! How much income is there in that, I asked him. Oh. How much? Well, after taxes and all, I'll never have to work for a living again. It amounts to several large sums monthly, let me tell you.

So I had to come to Simsville and see what I had, after all. The original house is long gone of course. Fire got it about a hundred years back, but the replacement built by one of the ancestors is where the relatives stayed whenever they came by to vacation or visit. The property has a manager who lives in one wing of the house, there's a cook and a maid or two who come in during the day. The large kitchen was "modernized" the lawyer told me, only thirty or forty years ago! I might have to invest in a microwave.

Well, it's a pleasant place to look at, like walking back in time a couple of generations. Except for five acres of lawn that a town teenager gets paid to cut, the twenty-five acres of woods, three-acre lake, unused pasture and farm land that hasn't been planted in who knows how long, have all grown up in weeds. That lawyer said we get paid not to plant cotton, imagine that! More money for me, though. And it's quiet and peaceful, too.

Of course, Simsville doesn't have any real police. No real crime to speak of. The county supplies a deputy whenever one is required. There's no fire department, either, RFD takes care of that. And, there's no town hall -- no administration. But there is a mayor and there is a town council, all elected every four years. The same five people have served for so long the election is just a formality. There's nothing for them to do much, just answer questions about where to pay taxes, what to do about potholes, who to call to get a roof repaired, stuff like that. Mostly they meet for supper in a back room at the saloon and play cards afterwards, even the two women.

Seemed like an ideal inheritance, when I first came to town.

My name? Well, I don't exactly go by my birth certificate name. Evelyn Maurine Mavery Alderson just didn't cut it in grammar school. Mama said she had to please her best friends, didn't she, and daddy was bound and determined to please his money bags grandfather, even though he didn't leave any of the money in those bags to daddy, all of it went to pay bills and such.

Emma seemed to come naturally so me and my school buddies called me that. When I left home for the big city, though, it sounded too small-townish so I adopted a new name for myself. Avery is what I became and it stuck to this day. Some people think I'm of the male persuasion when they read it in the phone book, but it scotches some of the more bothersome types who might be tempted to make disgusting phone calls. It breaks even, the way I see it.

Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Chapter 11 | Chapter 12 | Chapter 13 | Chapter 14 | Chapter 14 | Chapter 15 | Chapter 16 | Chapter 17 |