The sleepy little town in question was Weaverville, in upstate New York. I’m a science-fiction writer and a couple of my books had had modest successes, enabling us to buy a house there, moving from our apartment in New York City. It was a pleasant spring day and we were sitting out on the patio. My wife Ellen’s Uncle Pringle was visiting us for the first time that year and he’d asked the usual question about what was happening in our town. Instead of giving him the usual answer of “Nothing much” I’d answered as above.
Uncle Pringle was a small dapper man whom I’d always thought resembled the English actor whose first name he shared, Claude Rains. He’d been in some secret government agency and on retirement was a consultant, although what he consulted about and for whom was never clear. One thing was clear; he had many high-level contacts and some low-level ones as well, and an uncanny ability to solve problems. In the past, he’d helped out several of our friends as well as myself and our family. He’d recently been out of the country on one of his “missions,” as he called them. Now he said, “Turmoil? That is surprising. What is going on?”
For an answer I handed him the day’s local newspaper, whose front page headline proclaimed: “Historical Statue of Jacob Weaver to be Torn Down after Riotous Town Meeting.” Jacob Weaver was the first settler and founder of Weaverville.
“Well, well,” said Uncle Pringle. “I suspect that Jacob has been found guilty of something he did in years past.”
“It’s our new mayor,” said Ellen, who was passing out cold drinks to us.
“The new mayor is a recent import from New York City, like us,” I said. “Her name is Arabella Camerela-Verdasco. She’s of mixed heritage, some African-American, Latino and maybe Native American. She was elected mayor last November because no one of note was interested in running and also, I suspect, that a lot of our liberal residents voted for her to show their open-mindedness. She’s made some changes---a tax on utilities to fight climate change, a tax on gas to keep down auto emissions, and a fee on all city transactions to help the homeless, although I don’t think we have any homeless persons. Now she’s discovered that old Jacob Weaver, who founded our town, fought in some war against the Indians in colonial times and that makes him a racist so his statue has to be torn down.”
“I see,” said Uncle Pringle. “Well, some interesting things have been going on in this country since I’ve been away. You can’t say that Weaverville isn’t on the cutting edge. There seems to be a nationwide movement to examine the heroes of the past and judge them by modern standards. It seems to have started with anyone on the Confederate side in the Civil War. So statues of Confederate generals are being taken down and I suppose that anything, a school or a street or a building, named after Robert E. Lee must have its name changed.”
“Yes,” I said. “And now it’s extended back to our founding fathers. Since many were slave holders they also must have been racists. Even Washington and Jefferson aren’t exempt. The city where Jefferson was born is no longer going to celebrate his birthday. And some mural in San Francisco showing Washington doing something has to be painted over.”
“So Jacob Weaver has become a target. I take it that not everyone agrees that his statue must be removed.”
“A lot of people, especially the older residents, objected, but the Town Council voted and approved it 3-2. I think Camerela-Verdasco has them intimidated. She’s very vocal about anyone who opposes her. And the last thing white liberals want to be accused of is being a racist.”
“When is this removal supposed to take place?”
“There has to be another town meeting. It’s to decide whether to move the statue, maybe find some museum willing to take it or simply demolish it. The last is what Camerela-Verdasco would like to do.”
“Do you think you can do anything to stop it?” Ellen asked Uncle Pringle. Before he could answer his phone rang. “Excuse me,” he said. “Yes, Donald. No, as I told you before, you’ll have to stop those ridiculous tweets. No, otherwise I can’t help you. Besides, I may have a little business for her to take care of.” He put down the phone.
“Was that ----------?” I said.
“An old acquaintance from New York who, I’m afraid, is in over his head. But, getting back to the matter at hand, I’ve always liked seeing that statue when I come to visit. Let me think about it.”
* * *
The morning of the scheduled town meeting our local newspaper had another startling headline: “Statue of Jacob Weaver Disappears Overnight.” The story described how a worker arriving to clean up debris in the town square suddenly noticed the statue was missing. Mayor Camerela-Verdasco denied that she had anything to do with removing the statue. “It’s just as much a mystery to me as to anyone else,” she told reporters. When asked, she said yes, there’d still be a town meeting that night. She also said it hadn’t been deemed necessary to guard the statue; nobody had thought of doing it.
“What do you think?” I asked Ellen. “Do you see Uncle Pringle’s hand in this?”
“It’s possible,” she said. “He does like dramatic effects.”
A phone call from Uncle Pringle later that morning erased all doubts. Ellen and I both got on the line. “How did you do it?” I asked.
“I have some friends in construction,” said Uncle Pringle. “They had the necessary tools and it wasn’t too difficult.”
“What did you do with the statue?” Ellen asked.
“Let’s just say it’s in a safe place.”
“So what now?”
“I’ll see you at the town hall meeting tonight. Oh, and I’ll be bringing a friend along. I believe he may help matters.”
* * *
The town hall that night was packed. We had arrived early and met Uncle Pringle, who introduced us to his friend, Chief Silver Eagle of the upstate New York Senequoi tribe. As I’ve said, Uncle Pringle had many contacts, both high and low-level. So I wasn’t surprised that Uncle Pringle knew an Indian chief. The Chief wasn’t dressed in Indian attire, he wore a dark suit, but he was an impressive looking man, tall, with a bronzed face, a noble nose and high cheekbones. There was no doubt as to his heritage. We obtained seats close to the front and waited for the proceedings.
The meeting began. Mayor Camerela-Verdasco repeated her denial that she had anything to do with the disappearance of Jacob Weaver’s statue. The council members then argued about whether they should just do nothing or try to retrieve the statue and if it was retrieved then what should be done with it. They came to no conclusion. The meeting was then thrown open to the floor. A number of people said that they missed seeing the statue and that if it was retrieved they’d like to have it back. Then Chief Standing Bear was recognized.
“Thank you,” he said. “I represent the Senequoi tribe. When it came to our attention that the statue of Jacob Weaver was to be taken down we were surprised. Jacob Weaver fought with our tribe against the Onuga tribe, who were aligned with the British against the Americans. Our tribal historian researched our records and confirmed this. Accordingly, we thought the best thing to do was remove the statue to a safe place until this matter was resolved. If you wish to restore the statue to its place we will be glad to return it. If not, we shall be honored to have it on our land. Oh, and I understand that Mayor Camerela-Verdasco has some claims to be of Indian heritage. Our tribal historian is looking into this.”
Chief Silver Eagle sat down. The crowd by this time was in an uproar. The chairman of the town council called for order. People were yelling, “Take a vote. Get the statue back.” The Mayor seemed subdued. The vote was eventually taken and it was 5-0 to retrieve the statue as soon as possible. Jacob Weaver would once again occupy his place in Weaverville’s town square.
* * *
We were back in our house with Uncle Pringle. Chief Silver Eagle had left after the meeting, saying he had business elsewhere. It was a warm evening so we were again out on the patio, having cold drinks. “Well,” said Uncle Pringle, “that was a satisfactory outcome.”
“It was,” said Ellen, “thanks to your Indian chief friend.”
“You know,” I said. “Those were strange-sounding tribal names. I’ve never heard of them and I’ve done some research into Indian tribes in New York State. And is there really a tribal historian who’s going to look into the Mayor’s claim to have an Indian heritage. And come to think of it, Chief Silver Eagle looked very much like an actor I’ve seen on television.”
Before Uncle Pringle could respond his phone rang. “Yes, Donald. I see. All right, but this is the last time. Yes, my business here is done. I’ll leave immediately. Remember, this is the last time.” He put down the phone.
“Yes, the same acquaintance from New York. I’m afraid I must leave now, a plane will be waiting.”
“About your Indian friend?”
“We can discuss that when I return. The next time I visit you I look forward to seeing Jacob Weaver’s statue back where it belongs.” He winked and was gone.