Photo by Carl Soerens
It was a long time ago, and folks have varying versions of the story, and as all recitations of the story conclude, only the Fuller Brush man knows for sure.
Now Violet Wintersteen wasn’t especially pretty, and didn’t do much to enhance her few natural attributes. Her eyes, which were a haunting shade of green, might have been an asset but for the fact they were too close together. Still, she kept a trim figure and her personality was unfailingly cheerful.
When asked why she never married—a rude question but people weren’t as politically correct in those days—she laughed it off with the usual “Just haven’t found the right man, I guess.”
She seemed content to teach grades one through eight at the country school. She paid a trifling sum from her pitifully small salary for a room and two meals a day at Widow Martin’s house in walking distance from the school house. Her duties included, in addition to teaching all eight grades, keeping the school clean and sweeping the outdoor privies.
The story centers around money and the privy. Specifically the girl’s privy. That’s where the Fuller Brush man comes in. How he happened on Violet while she was sweeping the little square building isn’t known, and neither is what happened after that.
What is known is when questions arose about Violet Wintersteen’s whereabouts, the District officials investigated the school house and surrounding property. They found the outdoor toilet furnished with at least $200.00 worth of Fuller and Stanley products including extra strength bowl cleaner, bowl brush and bowl brush holder, completely unnecessary in an outdoor pit toilet.
Widow Martin said she had not been aware of “anything funny” going on just because the Fuller Brush man often gave Violet a ride to her house after school. The widow said she thought it was mighty kind, especially on snowy days.
She did say she worried some when the Fuller Brush man’s little brown van didn’t come around, but supposed it might be because it was a school holiday weekend. Still, Violet had not let her know, nor did she take any of her belongings with her.
Not that Widow Martin snooped in people’s belongings usually; it was simply a matter of concern. She was very fond of Violet.
When the Fuller Brush man showed up at the tavern on Monday after the holiday, he didn’t seem at all surprised when the local fellows hugging the horseshoe-shaped bar told him the scuttlebutt around town was that he and Violet must have gone off and eloped. Yet here he was, and where was Violet? Not in school, that’s for sure.
It was while they all were sitting there, polishing off beer after beer that the sheriff marched in and pointed at the Fuller Brush man.
“Where’s Violet Wintersteen?” He demanded of the Fuller Brush man who faced them with a friendly demeanor.
“She’s where she wants to be, I reckon.”
“Where does she usually want to be?” Sheriff’s voice showed some aggravation.
“She likes old abandoned buildings. She says she can hear voices from the past if she sits still and listens. Those tall old cylindrical silos for sure. She says they speak to her.”
Sheriff stilled. “Didn’t Jonas Weber just have his silo filled the other day?”
There were murmured responses all around.
“Who was the last person to talk to her?” He looked around but the Fuller Brush man was gone.
As time went on, the Fuller Brush man could not be found. His little brown van stayed on Widow Martin’s house, filled with valuable cleaning supplies.
If Jonas found Violet Wintersteen as he gradually emptied the silo to feed his cattle, he’s not saying.
Only the Fuller Brush man knows for sure.