My name is, believe it or not, Gustie Orchard and I am your new neighbor.
I have a place at the end of the block directly across the street from Stavins Memorial Park and you will probably see me in the morning ( bright and early!) and in the evening on the bench with the fancy wrought iron metal work that was dedicated to the very much loved music teacher Mrs. Stavins.
Mrs. Stavins was a sunny and upright lady.
She attended church every Sunday not only because she played the piano for the choir with subtle restrained yet dramatic gestures, but because that is how little old ladies did all things in those days.
They were quiet, they were patient they covered their mouths when they laughed and then they apologized the second they took their hand away.
Mrs Stavin’s hair was sensibly styled, she wore Lily of the Valley perfume, her nails were unpolished and neatly manicured and her dresses were black or gray except for Easter services when she wore a dress printed with flowers and a hat with no flowers on it’s brim.
As I was saying, Mrs. Stavins was the music teacher at the Elementary School and the High school and she used to give pencils stamped with bible verses and little cards with Jesus holding a lamb to her students who learned and performed their lessons correctly.
You could do those things back in those days.
Mrs. Stavins was a beloved music teacher who even hosted Bible Study classes at her house and my name is Gusty Orchard and me and my cat have a place on the corner down the street from your house.
My cat’s name is Ollie.
Not many people know that.
So welcome to the neighborhood, it’s quiet around here and except for around the holidays when the street fills up with cars- they’ve put the turnabout there to slow people down because back of the tragedy. But thanks to the turnabout even if there are a hundred cars on the road it doesn’t turn into a raceway.
Well of course the tragedy that made the city redesign the road and put up a specially made memorial bench was ‘the tragedy’ as it’s called- we don’t call it an accident. I’m not sure why.
It’s a a mystery even to me and I’ve lived here for over 60 years and have been going over that night for a long time.
We know that Mrs. Stavins was leaving an ‘ Autumn Harvest Celebration’- because Mrs. Stavins would never, every have attended a Halloween party, we know she was on the road by 8:30 and we know she was driving fast, which didn’t raise any big questions about why a prim and proper lady who played piano for the church choir and handed out pencils with bible verses stamped on them because that road filled up like crazy during the holidays and leaving it an turning onto it was a nightmare.
The thing is, she sped up a little just before she turned off of La Pierre drive and ended up crashing sideways into a ditch after she had sideswiped a tree.
It didn’t take long for the Police to get there, or for a wrecker to pull her car out of the ditch, or for them to load her onto a gurney and it didn’t take long to get her to the county morgue because it’s less then a mile from where the accident happened.
I can tell you one thing for sure about that night because I caught sight of Mrs Stavins just before the tragedy.
Her hair was a little messy, her mouth was set in a thin black hard line. Her eyes were green flecks of stone set in her humorless colorless face ( proper ladies her age did not wear makeup) set under the requisite short and tightly permed hair.
Mrs Stavins was an angry lady that Halloween night and when she saw me walking across the street with Ollie trailing behind me, she gunned her engine and slammed me into the tree and then she pulled me down with her into that ditch full of soft mud and water and I’ve been there ever since.
I guess nobody found me because no one was looking past poor Mrs Stavins.
When my neighbors noticed I was gone and had left my cat behind nothing much was made of it- I wasn’t a beloved music teacher. I was just a loner with a funny name and a cat that no one knew was named Ollie.
I’m usually at the corner near the bench just after 8:00 with my cat Ollie who joined me a few years ago.
Maybe you’ll catch sight of us there and maybe you’ll wave as you drive or walk by. A long time ago, that’s what a good neighbors did.