Flubug is the shining star of Down County, an achievement analogous to doing more chin ups than your cellmate in Brackwater. Yet Flubug was quite the town in its day, due to an abundance of graphite. Flubug became the graphite capitol of the region and though mining took a heavy toll on the citizens, through cave-ins and regular explosions, it provided a comfortable living for all and a sense of security that disappeared with the widespread use of the ballpoint pen.
Plaques and memorials to the town’s mining heroes still dot the landscape including the Black Lung Memorial on Slopeside and the permanent exhibit at the Overmeyer Historical Society (Flubug’s Greatest Days). The Bugle, too, as self-appointed guardians of Flubug’s mores and civic history, pays regular homage to that “greatest generation” through countless editorials and special editions (offered only to paid subscribers).
The graphite boom lasted over a hundred years, from 1820 to 1941. Most thought the gravy train would never end. In a testament to their confidence, the City of Flubug erected The World’s Largest Pencil in 1927 near the entrance to east side of town.
The Pencil, which rises an impressive 610 feet, is still the most palpable relic from the era and can be seen from as far away as Carson’s Car Service in the Main Street “fishtail” where County Road meets Bradshaw’s Pike.
To this day. the World’s Largest Pencil evokes emotions in both young and old and remains the city’s most visible landmark – an achievement analogous to… well, you get the point.
But Flubug’s fortunes weren’t reversed overnight. The invention of the ballpoint pen in 1888 was a portend, but few took it seriously. Early pens were messy, inconvenient and smeared easily. If anything they underscored the need for a good pencil. All that changed in 1941 when the Brio brothers (an Hungarian newspaper editor and an evil chemist), introduced a ballpoint pen in Germany that (sort of) worked.
Their invention was good, but not perfected. When the ink bled on a map of Poland used by Hitler to prepare his blitzkrieg, the brothers fled to Argentina. Sensing an opportunity, the Overmeyer family, who owned the mines, sent Ernst Shoerenhoffer, a supervisor from Mine No. 67, to Argentina to sabotage the Brios’ invention. Shoerenhoffer added disappearing ink to over two thousand pens. He threw dozens of crates into Buenos Aires harbor. He helped Ramón Antonio Castillo Barrionuevo craft Angentina’s Infamous Decade during which a thousand ballpoint pen owners were jailed. But his efforts failed.
By 1945 ballpoint pens had proliferated throughout the United States.
The graphite mine closed in 1951 and fell into disrepair. It was cited as a public hazard in 1956 and condemned. It languished as an eyesore for seven years, but was reopened in 1963 as a tourist attraction. Two years later it was closed by the city when a neighboring mayor’s daughter disappeared through an open mine shaft.
The City of Flubug is still paying the debt.
As the 60’s progressed, Flubug’s population began wandering off. There was a brief uptick in the late 60’s when an obsession with the town’s homespun psychedelic bands captivated the nation. But it was followed by an even steeper decline in the mid-to-late ’70’s, a decline that became so pronounced that the elders turned to desperate measures (like prohibiting the sale of any map that gave directions out of town). By the ’80’s, most of the town’s young people had fled to larger cities in search of employment.
Today, most Flubuggers are too broke, too old, too wasted or too dumb to leave. Those who remain have nowhere to go, no way to leave or are hopelessly lost. Unemployment stands at 46%, but the last person to collect benefits died three years ago. The city’s response was to claim unemployment no longer exists.
Popup malls have evolved with barter systems similar to those in correctional institutions. Drugs, fuel and stolen goods often replace cash. Suspicion toward the local currency has increased with the denominations. Meth labs are rampant. Drug dealers are more plentiful than teachers who are as plentiful as students. The only hospital moved to an undisclosed location. Potential patients are blindfolded en route until their coverage is ascertained.
But there is a bright side now that Sheriff Ramsey has declared himself Emperor.
Mining is coming back (though no one agrees on what they’ll be mining since the graphite is depleted). There’ll be plenty of jobs building the wall Ramsey promised between Flubug and Stateline. Fracking will be legal everywhere. And best of all, Ramsey has promised to deport every “low life” in Flubug (though, admittedly, that might include most of the town).
The other bright side is that compared to Poison Wells, Shlltown or Barking, Flubug is doing pretty well. Population figures for Poison Wells dipped into the single digits last year. Shilltown declared the town an amusement park and now charges admission to anyone who wants to conduct business there. Barking is a circus and half their animals wandered off during the 2014 blizzard.
So, yeah, Flubug’s fallen on hard times. But we’re survivors. We keep getting back up.
Of course, that might be part of the problem.
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The Flubug Bugle is a collaborative effort of Andrea Hackett and Dean Wartti who together comprise Fightin’ Words Productions and are solely responsible for the content (however ludicrous) of this blog.