By Mike Linn: CNJ News Editor
Every day it’s something different: Cannon Air Force Base is expanding. Cannon Air Force Base is closing. Dillard’s is closing. A high-ranking school official has his eyes set on a job at city hall.
So goes the gossip that infiltrates coffee shops, beauty salons and government buildings in area code 88101.
Those most likely to know insist Dillard’s is not closing and there’s no shakeup brewing at city hall or in the school administration. Changes may be in store for Cannon, but not until 2005 when the federal government plans to complete its Base Realignment and Closure process.
But like many small towns, Clovis harbors its fair share of rumors.
Just ask around.
“I’ve heard so many I’ve learned to block them out,” Assistant City Manager Joe Thomas said.
Two months ago Thomas heard rumors that he was about to lose his job to Clovis Municipal Schools Assistant Superintendent Lonnie Leslie. Thomas said the version of the story he heard was that a group of high-ranking school officials were on their way out and Leslie had his eyes set on a position in city hall.
To this day, Thomas and Leslie are unaware where the rumor came from and why it got circulated. Both agree it’s not true.
“We heard that was going to be my new career,” Leslie said. “I would like to have known where that one originated but was unable to track that down. It’s just one of those things that floats around.”
Jennie Piepkorn, a nail technician at Solutions beauty shop in Clovis, has heard a lot of crazy stories.
She’s heard Cannon Air Force Base is closing and Clovis is on its way to ghost-town status. She’s also heard another Air Force base is closing and merging with Cannon, giving Clovis a major jolt to its population.
“We hear a lot about Clovis and the direction it’s going,” she said.
Piepkorn said the salon has rules for employees about chatting with the customers.
“The big rule at the salon is you don’t talk about sex, religion or politics,” she said. “But we try to keep people happy and say ‘Oh really?’ when they tell a (weird) story.”
The rules, of course, do not apply to the customers.
Piepkorn said she hears quite a bit of talk about individuals’ love lives.
“I think people know since they’re in a small town they can expect to get talked about,” she said.
Businesses can also be targets for rumors.
Sandra Hemmenway, manager of Dillard’s, would like to set the record straight about the store’s future. She said on more than one occasion customers have come in saying they’ve heard the retail outlet at North Plains Mall is closing.
“I don’t know how or why (the rumor started),” she said. “But we’re not closing, we’re not leaving, we’re happy to stay.”
Suzzane Pulz, a waitress at Dave’s Coffee Shop, is privy to most of the town’s gossip.
She’s been told the son of a prominent Clovis citizen recently shot and killed a man. She’s not sure how the story came about, but she’s sure it’s false. Police are also convinced it’s false since they’ve arrested a suspect in the incident and that suspect is from another state with few ties to the region.
Pulz said she’s learned not to pay much attention to stories that seem too unbelievable. And she has a theory about how rumors originate:
“When you hear half of the conversation, that’s how rumors start…” Pulz said.