It's an interesting thing, how rumors and gossip ebb and flow through a community.

Some time back - a few years ago - it became apparent that we had somehow shit in the Swinkian Wheaties ... 'we' being Leece and me. We chalked it up to the usual small-town/church gossip. In small towns, they are often one and the same.

We were - and are - an unusual couple. One of those May-December things, and of course, we did not go through a 'proper' waiting period, either.

Gossip in The Smile Hi is nothing new. I remember back in 1979, having this conversation with Joe Clay down at the Pizza Hut, then a favorite watering hole for the cops and reserve cops.

"It's a small town, kind of isolated," Joe said, speaking then of La Junta, but there isn't much difference. "You shouldn't be surprised when people resent inter-racial couples." Inter-racial couples were still very unusual back then. Not so much now, but back then, very much so.

I am accustomed to being half of an 'unusual couple.'

I wasn't surprised in the least by Joe's revelation.

At that time, my first wife, Sue, and I had been bag-dragging around the world and the country for 8 years or so. We had met up in Nakhon Phanom, on the Thai-Laotian border, and a year or so later had gotten married in Bangkok.

We had discovered this fact of American rural life in Kansas, in Oklahoma, in Louisiana, in Texas - though surprisingly Texas was not so bad as the Bible Belt; that was the worst. We chalked that up to Sue being Theravada Buddhist ... though what the hey, at least she wasn't Catholic. Evangelical bible-thumpers can usually handle Buddhists; it's the Catholics, Jews, and Mormons they can't stand.

But like I was saying, the gossip is nothing new. It had quieted down considerably after we started keeping much more to ourselves, but it's still out there, and this dustup over the school board has brought it right up to the top again. It's a form of that 'backlash' Adam Jones was talking about.

Recently, I heard a new one. Sue was, apparently, a 'mail-order bride.'

Let's get this straight for the gossip record ... Sue considered herself to be a 'war bride.' That is much different from being a 'mail order bride.'

A 'mail order bride' is usually brokered sight unseen. You know, like rich hotel magnates latching on to Eastern European babes.

A 'war bride,' on the other hand, is well-known to her GI husband, since the GI husband is stationed in the war bride's homeland, during a war (hence the term 'war bride'), and there certainly was a war going on at the time. We were immersed in it; but that's all another story, and quite an exciting one, too. The courtship process evolves in much the same manner as it does here in the states, though colored somewhat by different customs and cultural twists, and the Siamese are an ancient culture with lots of different customs and cultural twists. I wouldn't expect anyone who hasn't been exposed to much in the world to understand that, but there it is.

So Sue was a 'war bride,' and we bag-dragged around Southeast Asia and this country and Europe over a span of 34 years.

And then, as Forrest Gump says, "She had got the cancer and she died on a Tuesday."

If you haven't been through that, well ... you can't possibly understand it. And if you had been through it,  you certainly wouldn't be so crude and low-rent as to be spreading gossip about it.

But let's keep the record straight. Sue was not a 'mail order bride,' she was a 'war bride,' if that isn't too difficult a concept for some of our friends and neighbors to grasp.

Leece's husband, Gordon, was a much-loved pastor. Leece was a pastor's wife. They had a good life together. They had three boys, and they had been doing a fine job of raising them.

And then the cancer got Gordon.

If you haven't been through that, well ... you can't possibly understand it. And if you had been through it, you certainly wouldn't be so crude and low-rent as to be spreading gossip about it.

So the second bit of gossip here, that Leece and I were having an affair while our respective spouses were dying of cancer, is particularly low rent, even for ignorant hicks who can't be expected to know much about manners and decency. I mean, c'mon ... the timeline doesn't even fit. How about making the gossip at least fit some of the fact pattern. No ... wait ... it's gossip. It doesn't have to fit a fact pattern.

The third bit of gossip, that Leece 'made' the church buy her the house in Swink and remodel it, obviously comes out of that church. Given that the Swinkians who attend that church are fairly limited in number, it isn't all that hard to figure the likely source. But here's the deal ... we just paid off the mortgage on that house. If the church 'gave' her that house ... why was there a mortgage? There's that pesky fact pattern thing again ...

Not to worry ... I'm sure the gossips in that church will pee their pants in their haste to fill in the juicy details of it all.

You guys have missed a fourth one, though, and a pretty good one if I do say so myself.

The boys all collected Social Security survivor's benefits. I'm surprised you haven't figured that out. If you had, you could have been accusing Leece and me of siphoning all that money off for our own benefit, leaving the lads destitute, forced to labor as slaves, doing horrible things like ... their own laundry, and making their own beds, and cutting the grass, and doing household chores.

Wait ... that slave thing is one of the rumors ... that the boys were forced to labor in slave-like manner while Leece did nothing to save them from Me, the mean old step-dad. Yeah, you had that one ... you just missed the Social Security bennies. Don't you feel really stupid over that, especially since I had to point it out to you?

How about coming up with some better stuff to spread around. Try to come up with some arguments and points relative to the school board dustup. This gossip? This is just ... smallville venom, and it's ancient history. Please try to be more imaginative in the future. Play on that 'unusual couple' thing, with a more modern twist. Start spreading it around that we're both trans-gender or something, and we used the boys' Social Security bennies to pay for the secret operations.  I mean, like ... Jeeezus. Get some imagination.