Operation Clean Sweep

Operation Clean Sweep

by Darleen Bailey Beard

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Mom for mayor!

Election day is fast approaching, and twelve-year-old Cornelius Sanwick discovers a secret: his mom is running for mayor! That would be pretty neat, except that his dad is the incumbent. Corn feels torn -- surely he should warn his father. But if he does, his mother won't stand a chance. In 1916, Oregon is one of only eleven states in which women can vote, and they have to take office by stealth. Corn wonders what kind of mayor his mom would make. Would she be able to get the streetlights turned back on? Would she corral the chickens and keep their poop off the streets? And what would she do if the pickpocket Sticky Fingers Fred showed up in Umatilla?

Friendship, first love, and above all filial devotion play their parts in this charming story set during the Great War and based on a true episode in the history of Umatilla, Oregon -- the female takeover of the town's government.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781429998567
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date: 09/09/2004
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 160
File size: 162 KB
Age Range: 8 - 12 Years

About the Author

Darleen Bailey Beard is the author of Twister, The Flimflam Man, and The Babbs Switch Story, winner of the Oklahoma Book Award. She lives in Norman, Oklahoma.

Darleen Bailey Beard

Growing up in the 1960s in Levittown, Pennsylvania, I was a foot taller than all my friends. My nickname was "Chicken Legs." I was terribly shy. And more than anything, I wanted to be good at something, but I had no idea what my "something" would be.
Like most kids, I tried the usual -- pressing leaves in dictionaries, pogo-stick jumping, raising"sea monkeys," and selling Girl Scout cookies. I also tried the unusual -- riding my bicycle with a bag over my head, convincing the neighbor kids to eat dryer lint by telling them it was cotton candy, kissing frogs, and collecting used Band-Aids.

Then, in fifth grade, at Herbert Hoover Elementary School, Mrs. Jacqui Schickling entered my life and introduced me to a whole new world -- writing. My classmates and I started a school newspaper called The Hoover Hotline. We wrote book reports, pen-pal letters, and stories with our spelling words. When Mrs. Schickling asked me to stand in front of the class and read my stories, I shook, terrified, but oh so very proud. And when she asked us to write and illustrate our very own books, I thought I had died and gone to fifth-grade heaven!

In spite of how much I enjoyed writing, I didn't read much as a child. Though the Little House on the Prairie books by Laura Ingalls Wilder are my favorites, I didn't read them until I was in my early twenties. I still remember when Laura's dog, Jack, died. I was working as a receptionist and read that chapter on my lunch hour. I was so caught up in the book that I didn't even want to breathe. My heart was pounding and I cried my eyes out. When I went back to work, the office manager saw my red face and thought something terrible had happened. Of course, it had, and I tried to tell her about Jack dying but started crying all over again!

I graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 1986, with a degree in Professional Writing. One of my professors once gave me a C and wrote on top of my term paper, "Anything worth getting is worth busting your butt over." At first, I was angry. I thought, "How rude!" But through the years I have often remembered that term paper and my professor's message and have come to realize he was absolutely right. Everything worth getting does take a lot of hard work to achieve. I remind myself of this when I have to edit and edit and edit my books before they go to print.

I spend much more time editing my books than writing them. Writing is the easy part. It's fun and thrilling -- like being an actress. I put myself into each of my characters' shoes. If they're crying, I'm crying. If they're laughing, I'm laughing. But editing takes time and caution. When I first started writing books, I hated editing. I would spend days and days writing, then spend only a few minutes editing. But through the years, I have learned that editing is my friend. I have to work really hard to make sure all the technical strings have been tied, that my characters are real and believable, and that the conflict is all wrapped up in a satisfying conclusion. And the only way I can do this is through editing.

Watching my manuscripts grow and develop into something more than I originally created is very rewarding and fun and sometimes surprising. Like when Elden Larrs in The Babbs Switch Story showed up in the train depot and kissed Ruthie. I had no idea he was going to do that. How he sneaked in there and puckered up his lips is beyond me. But I like when my characters surprise me. And often they will say things that surprise me, too!

My friends feel they hear my voice when they read my books. After The Flimflam Man first came out, several called and commented, "When your characters speak, it's like listening to you talk." I didn't realize how much of myself I put into my characters, but with each book I write, I see myself more and more. I see my alter egos hidden in there, too.

Last school year, I was invited to over 120 schools, festivals, universities, and writing conferences all across the nation. I also do author-in-residence programs, where I teach children and adults how to become better writers. When I'm not on the road or writing and editing, I enjoy stenciling, decorating, gardening, reading, and antiquing. I like to visit small towns and dig up interesting stories to use in my books. I love going to museums, doing research, and asking questions. Questions are the creative link to my soul.

I share my life with my two precious kids, Spencer (who loves fishing) and Karalee (who loves drawing and making things); a dog, Sparky (who will sneeze on command); assorted fish (who keep dying -- my kids and I call our fish tank the Tank of Doom!); and a seventeen-year-old cat, Crybaby (who likes to lie on my books when I'm reading them).

Read an Excerpt

Operation Clean Sweep

By Darleen Bailey Beard

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Copyright © 2004 Darleen Bailey Beard
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-9856-7



"November 29, 1916 — Sticky Fingers Fred, the most notorious pickpocket in the West, struck the unsuspecting town of Arlington last night, cleaning the pockets of innocent people who attended the annual Arlington Winter Festival.

"Without being seen or heard, this canny criminal confiscated jewelry, watches, and money, including an antique necklace worth over two hundred dollars.

"'Amazing!' declared a shook-up Mrs. Deetle, owner of the necklace. 'It was around my neck one minute and gone the next!'"

I stopped reading and put my hand around my neck. How could anyone be so smooth as to take a necklace off a lady's neck and her not even feel it?

"Go on, keep reading," Dad said.

Otis took his spring-loaded, nickel-plated tape measure from his pocket and extended it about two feet to make it tap me on the shoulder. "Yeah, keep reading," he said.

"Sticky, whose real name remains unknown, can be identified by a large scar on his left cheek. He stands five feet six inches tall, with a slim build and brown hair. He is known to be a master of disguise, having posed as a priest, cowboy, train conductor, Boy Scout leader, and even a secret agent.

"This makes the tenth town hit in the last eight months. It appears this evildoer is headed east through Oregon, preying on large gatherings of people.

"Citizens are urged to be on the lookout for this seedy character. Police say he may be armed and dangerous. There is a $500.00 reward for anyone with information leading to his capture."

I put the newspaper down on the desk in Dad's office and stared at my best friend, Otis Gill, then at Dad. "Gee, can you believe this dirty dishrag?"

"Oh man!" Otis's eyes lit up. "Wish he'd come to our town!"

"Yeah!" I agreed. "Then we could catch him and get the reward money!"

Dad ran his knuckles across the tops of our heads. "Wait a minute, you two. He may be armed and dangerous. Remember that."

I took a swig from my pop bottle. "Do you think he'll show up at our election day parade next week? It's a large gathering of people. That's what the newspaper says he likes."

Dad nodded. "Cornelius, I think you're right. I wouldn't be too surprised if he did show up."

"Gee! I've never seen a real live pickpocket before," Otis said. "I wonder what he looks like. You think he has beady eyes?"

"I know he has beady eyes." I pulled Otis's arm and led him to my dad's bulletin board, which was covered with WANTED posters from all over Oregon and even Washington State. "See?" I pointed to the one that said: WANTED — STICKY FINGERS FRED — DEAD OR ALIVE.

"Gee willikers!" Otis said. "Look at those eyes!"

The photo showed a dark-haired man dressed in a checkered shirt. He had a scar going from his left eye all the way down to his lips. His eyes were beady, all right, the beadiest I'd ever seen.

"It says that he took the cuff links off a dead man," I said, reading the small print. "Can you imagine? Stealing the cuff links off a dead man?"

"That gives me the creeps," Otis said. He measured the poster. "Hmm, let's see, now. Eight and one-half inches by eleven inches."

"Oatmeal? Do you have to go around measuring everything?" He'd been driving me crazy ever since his uncle gave him that tape measure a couple of months ago. At first it was sorta fun, going around measuring things and tapping people with it, but lately it was getting on my nerves.

"No, I don't have to, Corncob. I just want to." Otis put the tape measure back in his pocket and turned toward my dad. "So you really think he's headed this way?"

"There's a good chance he could be. Since we don't know for sure, I'm going to post men at both entrances to Umatilla on the day of the parade. If that bum shows up, we'll throw him in the clink before he even has a chance to blink. That'll make me look good in front of Lanier, won't it?" Dad laughed at his own joke.

Next Tuesday was our election day. Kim Lanier and Dad were both running for mayor. Dad was already mayor, hoping for a second term. Mr. Lanier happened to be Dad's longtime archenemy. In a strange kind of way, they seemed to enjoy making each other miserable. Dad said Lanier was a mud-slinging dingbat who didn't know the first thing about politics. And Lanier said Dad was a slimy scalawag, and that he didn't know the first thing about politics. It wasn't a pretty sight.

I didn't tell Dad this, but in a way, I kinda hoped Dad wouldn't be reelected. Back when Dad wasn't mayor, when he worked at the roundhouse, where the train engines got on turntables and changed directions, he had lots more time for fishing, hanging out, and even whistling. He used to be the best whistler around. He and I would whistle duets in church, and we always got lots of compliments. Sometimes we even got invited to whistle at weddings, but we didn't care too much about that because weddings always made ladies cry, and crying ladies made us nervous. I mean, how do you whistle a whole song and keep a straight face with a bunch of weeping, sniffling women in the audience?

Sheriff Vinson walked into Dad's office with a pile of papers under his arm. "Here's that report you requested, Frank." Then he noticed us boys. "Are you two looking forward to the parade? It's going to be a big one this year. We've got all sorts of automobiles and tractors and horses."

"Sure are," I said.

Otis and I loved the election day parade. And why shouldn't we? Not only did we see and eat lots of stuff, but we got out of school for one whole glorious day. That was about as good as it got. Not that we didn't like school or anything, it was just fun to take a break now and then.

Mr. McGrath, our teacher, was the best. He kept us posted on a daily basis about the Great War, going on over in Europe. Every day he brought in the newspaper and shared it with us, telling us the latest happenings — who was gaining ground, who wasn't, where the troops were, and all the details, even the juicy, gory parts. I knew from him that the United States was almost certain to join the war in 1917, which was only a month away. And I knew that millions and millions of men had already been killed, and that there didn't seem to be any end to the fighting.

"You boys anxious to hear who gets to blow the bugle to commence the parade?" Sheriff Vinson asked. He put the pile of papers down on Dad's desk and exchanged it for another batch.

"Yeah! Who's it gonna be?" I asked.

Otis smiled extra big. "I got to do it last election," he said. "Remember?"

Remember? How could I not remember? That was all Otis talked about two years ago. I was sure hoping that this time I'd be the lucky one, but I wasn't holding my breath. There were lots of boys in Umatilla and all of them wanted to blow the bugle.

"Well, I can't say just yet who the lucky boy is," Sheriff Vinson said, winking at Dad. "But don't worry. You'll find out soon enough." He tossed us each a lemon drop, then headed out the door.

"Say, boys," Dad said, "I've got a meeting with the council in about five minutes. Did you two need anything?"

"Nope. We were just stopping by on our way home from school," I told Dad. I dug down into my pocket and pulled up the pocket watch that he had given me for my twelfth birthday. It was the same one his dad had given him on his twelfth birthday. I ran my fingers over the embossed largemouth bass on its gold case and took a look at the time.

"Three-forty! Otis, we've got five minutes to get to my house or our moms are gonna scalp us alive!"


Otis and I hightailed it down the board sidewalk, past Mahoney's Drug Store, where they made the best chocolate sodas in town, and along Main Street. We landed at my house just in time for our mothers' weekly card game. Somehow, we had been roped into watching the little kids for these gatherings. We didn't mind too much, though, because of all the good food that the ladies brought.

"Cornelius Thorton Sanwick!" Mom said. "It's about time!"

Sparky, my Australian shepherd, bolted through the doorway, almost knocking Mom off her feet. Sparky jumped up on me, looking me in the eye, licking my face.

"Hello, Dirl!" I said. Dirl was Sparky's nickname. It started out as Girl, but through the years evolved into Dirl. I made her get down.

"Shake? Shake?"

Sparky held out her paw.

"Good Dirl!" I rubbed her ears. "Sneeze, Dirl. Sneeze."

Sparky sneezed.

"Good Dirl!"

"Let me try," Otis said. "Roll over! Roll over!"

Sparky didn't seem to mind the "S" tricks — shaking, speaking, sneezing, sitting. She even went along with "come" and "heel." Sometimes. But rolling over seemed to be too much effort unless she saw a treat in our hands.

"Roll over!" Otis insisted.

Sparky sniffed Otis's hands, then mine. When she realized they were empty, she lay down with a thud.

"Boys, wipe your feet and come on in," Mom said.

We scraped the chicken poop from the bottom of our shoes. We were used to that. There weren't any rules about chickens in Umatilla, so folks let them run wild in town. Mom and her friends were constantly complaining because their long petticoats and skirts dragged on the ground, working like chicken poop scoops.

We boys didn't care for it much, either. Especially in the summertime, when we walked around barefoot. Having ooey-gooey chicken poop squish between our toes wasn't our idea of fun. But sometimes we kinda liked the poop because it made great ammunition when we were playing war, and the rotten eggs we'd find all around town made dandy stink bombs.

Mrs. Becky Gill, Otis's mom, smiled. "Well, boys, what did you learn in school today?"

I always hated it when adults asked that question. It made me want to ask them what they'd learned, but I knew I'd get into trouble if I dared, so I smiled right back at her and told her what I'd learned. "Mr. McGrath told us that the soldiers are having to hide in dirty, muddy, rat-infested trenches and that they're covered in lice and —"

"Yeah," Otis interrupted, "and the trenches are so long that they have to put up signs or the soldiers get lost. They're giving the trenches names like 'Death Valley' and 'Hell Hole.'"

"Otis Leroy Gill! You know better than to use language like that!"

"I can't help it if that's what the trenches are called," Otis said. "I'm not the one who came up with 'Hell Hole.'"

"You may not have come up with that name, but you certainly don't have to repeat it!"

Otis and I looked at each other and grinned. Sometimes our mothers didn't understand that repeating a curse word someone else had said wasn't the same as saying it. There was a big difference. Why didn't they get it? But then again, maybe they did, because repeating a curse word was kind of like being able to curse without the guilt and mothers usually wanted their kids to feel guilty when they said four-letter words.

Hobbling up the front steps and into my house came Aunt Lola. She was the blue-haired, wrinkled-up old lady who lived next door. She wasn't really anybody's aunt, but we called her Aunt Lola because she seemed like a member of the family. She didn't have any relatives close by, and neither did we. All of my aunts and uncles and grandparents lived in Oklahoma, and her two sons lived in California, so Mom and Dad kind of adopted her and made her part of our family on holidays and such. She was always helping out with my baby sister, Daisy, and bringing over all sorts of pies and tarts and goodies.

Daisy took one look at Aunt Lola and held out her arms. "Lo Lo Lo!"

"That's right, Daisy. I'm your Aunt Lo!" She put down her plate of cookies and her walking stick, then picked up Daisy. "How's my sweet-pea precious?"

Daisy yanked on her nose and pulled her hair.

"Ouch! Don't pull hair," Aunt Lola said. "I don't have much, but what I do have, I want to keep!"

Next came Augusta Smith, with her drippy-nosed kids, Melton and Beatrice. For some reason, they always had colds, so we had to keep lots of handkerchiefs around for those two. "Here are some sandwiches," Mrs. Smith said, putting down a plate. "Oh, I love what you've done with the place."

I looked around. Mom had everything shined and polished, with a green cloth on the dining room table and a poinsettia on the windowsill.

"Hello, sisters!" Robyn Burris said, walking in with little Johnny and a pot of soup. Mom's friends called one another sisters even though they really weren't. It meant they were sister suffragists — ladies who supported the suffrage movement, which proposed that all women have the right to vote. As it was, only eleven states allowed women to vote. Lucky for Mom and her sisters, Oregon had given women the vote in 1912.

As usual, Johnny was picking his nose. "Now, Johnny, sweetie pie. Put your hand down," said Mrs. Burris. Then, to the rest of us, she said in a lower voice, "He's very sensitive about this. We don't want to cause emotional harm. It might hurt his delicate feelings."

Otis and I looked at each other. Then we made a beeline for the front porch to get a breath of fresh air.

"I think little Johnny has more than boogers wrapped around his finger," I told Otis.

Otis laughed, and that's when Miss McKee, the prettiest public librarian anyone ever saw, drove up in her Model T. She jumped out of her auto, hoisting a heaping tray of deviled eggs onto one hip.

"How are my favorite readers today?"

"Fine," I said.

"Fine," Otis replied. "Here, let me help you with that." He ran over to her and took her tray.

Why hadn't I thought of that?

"Say, Corn. I have a new dog book that just arrived," she said. "Would you like me to save it for you?"


Miss McKee knew I liked dogs. She liked them, too. She was always saving me her newest dog books so that I could read them before she put them on the shelf. I thought that was pretty dandy.

Otis walked into the dining room, carrying the tray that I should have been carrying myself. He set it down on the table. "You have anything else to bring in?"

"No, thank you, Otis."

"Come on, kids," I said. "Let's go outside while the ladies play their game."

Beatrice and Melton ran onto the porch. Little Johnny, still picking his nose, followed them. I put Daisy on our porch swing.

"My turn! My turn!" They began shouting and pushing, trying to climb up onto the swing.

Someone had on a smelly diaper. "Who's the stinker?" I asked, looking at Otis.

"Don't look at me!"

We sniffed around until we discovered the culprit.

Oh brother! It was my sister!


"You watch the kids while I go get us some chow," I told Otis after I'd changed Daisy. I handed her to Otis, and she immediately grabbed his nose and yanked his hair.

"Ouch!" he said.

"Oh, I forgot to warn you. Daisy's new trick is pulling hair."

"Now you tell me."

I took the side door into the kitchen. Just as I was about to open the kitchen door to the dining room, I heard Mom say, "Sisters? If we're going to carry this off, we can't tell any man in town. Not our husbands, our brothers, our fathers, not even our sons."

I stopped cold in my tracks. Sons? What on earth is she talking about?

"Our next meeting will be tomorrow night, nine o'clock, at the library."

"That's right," Miss McKee said. "Remember the password?"

"Operation Clean Sweep!" the ladies said in unison.

I held my breath and pressed my ear against the door to the dining room.

"Tomorrow night we'll make our nominations," Mom continued.

Nominations? Now I was really confused. Surely they're not talking about our town election. Those nominations were made a long time ago, and besides, women don't get involved in politics. They must be talking about some kind of women's club. That's it. They're probably talking about the knitting group they're in or their Christmas social to help poor people.

"I know who I'll be nominating," Mrs. Gill said.

I could hear someone pouring tea. Cups clinked and spoons stirred.

"Flora, you're just the person we need for mayor."

Mayor? I gulped. Dad is mayor.

"It would be my honor and pleasure," Mom said.

"Just think, Flora. Your name will go down in history books. People will be reading about you hundreds of years from now — Mayor Flora Sanwick, right here in Umatilla, Oregon. Your name will be up there with all the great suffrage leaders like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony."

I stuck my fingers in both of my ears and wiggled them to make sure I was hearing okay. I was.

"Sister suffragists, I think we stand a very good chance of getting elected," Mom said. "You know there are more women than men in this town. If we spread the word among ourselves, and persuade enough women to vote for us, I think we can give the men of this town a run for their money."

The ladies clinked their teacups and cheered.

"If I'm elected," Mom went on, "the first thing I'm going to do is pay the town's back electric bill and reinstall the streetlights."


Excerpted from Operation Clean Sweep by Darleen Bailey Beard. Copyright © 2004 Darleen Bailey Beard. Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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