Vernon Shank has long been known as the undertaker of the fine town of Great Bend. Recently he has been promoted to the vastly impressive job of Medical Examiner and has done brief stints as a deputy, starting during the town’s smallpox outbreak. A man of few words he is mysteriously macabre.
Do the Shanks have a long history with the town of Great Bend?
My Grandfather, Ezekial Shank, was thrown out of the Quaker Church in Branson Missouri for what documents say was “inappropriate use of scarecrow”. Ezekial intended to travel to St. Louis to relocate but had a remarkably bad sense of direction and ended up running out of food just outside Great Bend.
Did you have a fascination with the macabre early on or is your current profession one chosen out of necessity?
My father was an inventor and tinkerer and had an interest in taxidermy. In fact, unbeknownst to me he had my mother stuffed when I was young and I learned about it six years later. Boy we had a good laugh. I really thought she just loved sitting in that rocking chair. I enjoy experimenting with cosmetics and I’m very good at building crates. Undertaking seemed like a perfect fit.
What dreams lie within the mind of a man who works with the dead? Do you ever wish for a more distinguished life? Where do you see yourself when you are old?
Oh no, I’m a simple man. I very much enjoy the time I spend with myself in my ‘creating shed’. I like playing with different aspects of cosmetics. I also have a fairly elaborate doll collection and have just started sewing and needle-point. Also, I host a ‘game-night’ on the second Tuesday of every month.
How did it feel to be promoted from the Undertaker of Great Bend, Kansas to Medical Examiner?
I don’t always adapt to “change” very well so it was a little scary. Plus, I sometimes get a little fuzzy eared when Sheriff Hoyle is talking so I think some important information got lost in translation.
Do you really care much what people think of you due to your line of work?
No. I’ve been teased most of my life. In school, some of the other children called me “poke rat” and “boogie trout” because I didn’t look like everyone else. There was also an incident where I was caught in a barn with an alpaca goat that people really rushed to judgement on. That wasn’t fair but I learned to deal with it. I’ve become immune to some of the mean things people say.
Were you surprised to see Hoyle take a bite of that apple found in Mr. Webb’s stomach?
Nothing that Hoyle does really “surprises” me. Although I was scheduled to go to his house for dinner that week and I cancelled.
What is the strangest thing you have seen over the course of your career working with the dead?
I remember working on old Abner Treman and did a lovely job prepping him for burial. He had a big shock of lovely red hair that he was very proud of and I styled it beautifully. When I woke up the next day it was parted on the opposite side and the comb was in his hand. Brr…
Did you have anything to do with Hoyle’s shoot out with the Younger’s that nearly killed him on the day you had picked for the Sheriff’s Death Pool?
That’s a beautiful shirt you’re wearing.
How did it feel to have to open a man up with so little medical experience? Did you ever find out what part that was you took out of Hoyle and put in that Mason jar?
I think opening a man up has less to do with ‘learning’ and more to do with the right attitude. And that I have. And I have no idea what that little thing was but I should probably find out because I’m pretty sure it ended up in an omelet. I really need to separate my kitchen from my workspace…
Does it feel rewarding to be one of the few Great Bendians who owns his own business establishment?
Yes, but I’m not thrilled with my location. Right now I’m sharing storage space with Mr. Hovennian’s textile shop and he hogs all the parking with his stupid carriage. He’s a terrible parker.
You have been accused of moving that watering trough when Jeremiah Dunlop leapt to his death. Do you sometimes have to take measures to drum up business when things get slow?
People made a big stink of that, but they fail to mention that I am on the town’s civic planning committee and I moved the trough to free up maypole space in front of the saloon. I mean, come on. I’m not a monster.
Did losing your mother at the age of six affect your psyche to this day? Did her experience with spiders make you somewhat arachnophobic?
She had a fairly stern expression even before the paralysis from the spider bite but that really took it to a new level. Add that to the facial droop she got after being stuffed and it was pretty spooky. I don’t think it has affected my relationships with women, though.
Were you nervous going into Cole Younger’s hideout dressed as a woman? Was it the first time you had done such a thing? Did help bring you more in touch with your feminine side?
First time? I mean, of course, how would it have happened any other time? I mean, that was like such a strange scenario that would never…could never have even happened before I don’t know what you’re…are you implying…I mean…oh my look at the time I need to get to an appointment thanks so much for talking don’t hesitate to ask any more…bye.