The following morning, Dixie and Kathleen went to visit The Columns. Kathleen had to admit it was an impressive place. To be a new facility, the designers had paid close attention to details. The Corinthian columns on the front porch were intricately carved. The main house was made of traditional old style bricks. All the plantings in the yard, as well as in the garden, were heirloom varieties dating back to the early 1800's.
Their meeting with the wedding coordinator was very cordial. All was copacetic until the coordinator pulled out the list of services Dixie had requested and approved.
Kathleen found the wedding cake policy a little much, but then who wants to offend the pastry chef and take a chance on the other food he prepares for the wedding being off menu. Worse yet, that the chef 'absentmindedly' forget to prepare the steamship round or substitute chicken nuggets in lieu of the boiled shrimp. Then she was shown the $48,900 tab for everything from chairs to the parking valets, outrageous.
In Kathleen's mind, her father's offer of $40,000 more than generous. Besides, she knew that this was only part of the bill. She was certain Dixie had costs in addition to this. The list did not include the 'designer' flowers, the fancy cake, and God knows what else. Keeping with her promise to her father, she did not let her exasperation get the best of her. She could hold it until they got home.
After they finished the contract discussion, the coordinator took them through 1 of the 3 large French doors that opened onto a tremendous flagstone terrace. With the house providing a lovely back drop for the terrace, in the other direction, it overlooked the sloping lawn, which was large enough for a fairly good size wedding or nice reception.
Kathleen and Dixie were commenting on the lovely site, as the coordinator walked them down a large stone staircase to the lawn. They stood on the thick carpet of green grass, surrounded by flowering scrubs and beds filled with rich colored blossoms. Then a loud roar interrupted the beauty of the moment.
As Kathleen and her mother turned toward the sound, they heard a deep voice through a loud speaker announce, "Gentleman, start your engines." There was a starter's gun followed by the racing of engines, and the yells of a boisterous crowd. Kathleen turned toward the wedding coordinator.
"What is that?" Kathleen asked.
The wedding coordinator quickly answered in a nervous voice. "That is the local race track."
"Racetrack?" asked Dixie.
"Yes, not professional, just local drag strip."
"How often do they race?" asked Kathleen, fascinated in a way, since she had never seen such.
"Oh, once or twice a week," the wedding coordinator said dismissively. She turned to the 2 Quinton ladies, motioned toward the house, and suggested they go back in, as if to say, 'Move along, nothing to see here'.
But not before Dixie asked the obvious question, "And what days would that be?"
The wedding coordinator was very uneasy with her answer, "Wednesdays and Saturdays."
"Every Saturday?" asked Kathleen.
"Yes", answered the coordinator in total dejection.
Dixie, not wanting to dwell on this, looked at Kathleen. "Sweetheart, do you have any more questions?"
Kathleen said she did not, turned to the coordinator, and complimented her on the lovely place. "Mama and I have a meeting back in Gallagher, so I am afraid we need to leave."
The wedding coordinator shook both lady's hands and thanked them for coming. "If you have any questions, please let me know. You are a lovely Bride, Kathleen and I think you would be most satisfied to have your wedding here."
The 3 ladies exchanged some pleasantries and the Quintons left.
While Kathleen and her mother had been touring The Columns, Gallagher was preparing to warmly welcome the Elderidge's future husbands. Word traveled fast around the town. It seemed a majority of the citizens had showed up, some to share in the joyous moment and others simply due to idle curiosity.
Ella and Rayanne had tied dozens of balloons, in large bunches on the street lights in front of Ed's. A large banner strung across the street read, "Welcome John and Don." The marching band was standing in formation waiting their cue to play. Col Wadsworth was present astride his horse in full Confederate regalia just for the occasion.
Ella and Rayanne were standing up front with Flora and Cora. All 4 ladies were dressed in their Sunday best. The twins were wearing matching floral print dresses. Their wardrobe was complete with hats, white gloves, and the large pink and white corsages they had been presented. Even the Mayor was there. While Flora and Cora appreciated the support, they were just a bit anxious.
The previous night the 2 women had shared a serious discussion about their decision. Flora asked, "Are we ready for this? What are we doing? How are we going continue making our firewater?"
"Flora, I think at our age we can handle this."
"Cora, there are other things, I'm concerned about. What if they . . .,"she paused. "What if they have certain 'expectations'?
"Flora! That is not something a decent woman considers at our age."
"I don't know. I have read books about it."
Cora quickly told Flora that she was never to mention that again. Cora went out back to check the still and Flora finished ironing their dresses.
So here they were, very excited but anxious as the time went on. The bus was running late which only raised their angst. Then a not so quiet comment could be heard in the crowd, "I told you this was a hoax. These 2 old biddies are bat shit crazy. They must have been drinking their own stuff when they dreamt this up."
Ella immediately found the source and gave him the choice to either hold his thoughts to himself or leave. As she was making her way through the crowd to take her place beside Rayanne, the rumble of the bus could be heard turning into town. The murmur of the crowd got a bit louder as everyone waited for the bus to arrive.
The bus approached the crowd, stopped, and its air brakes hissed. The driver opened the door and stepped out to get the luggage for anyone disembarking there. The crowd held their breath. The marching band started playing 'Happy Days are Here Again." The majorettes, twirling their batons, led the musicians to the front of the bus. The Mayor stepped forward holding the Key to the City decorated with a huge red bow.
Several travelers exited the bus, a bit confused with the crowd, the balloons, and the band. In a few minutes, the driver got back on the bus, closed the door, and slowly pulled away. The crowd fell quiet. The band stopped playing. The Mayor, obviously perturbed, approached Ella and Rayanne. "Seriously! What was all this about anyway?"
Ella quickly replied that she was sure there was an explanation. Flora and Cora were not known to make things like this up. "Maybe the men missed that bus and will be on the next one."
Ed called from the crowd. "The next bus doesn't arrive until 2 this afternoon."