In case you haven’t heard about it, there’s an election coming up on Tuesday.
Now, take a deep breath.
In and out.
That’s it. You can do it.
I’m not one to wax poetically or any other way about politics as they’ve come to be, other than that we’ll hopefully find our ways back to old friends, neighbors and relatives who’ve huffed away in political disagreement. Dan Lyksett, an old long-time journalist friend, used to occasionally stick his head into my office this time of the year and ask whether I’m “fer or agin’” – his words wonderfully summing up the differences that we manage to overcomplicate into fits of insult-throwing and name-calling.
I’ll keep to myself about whether I’m fer or agin’ and move ahead with what I’ve known as my longstanding obligation to mosey my way over to Pleasantville and stand in line for a few minutes to vote at our Hale Town Hall. And then, I might take in a bit of the traditional Pleasantville election-day dinner at the church a few steps across county Highway O from the Town Hall.
Yes, that’s right – lunch. We in the rural countryside such as which covers this northern Driftless Area still know what’s important, and that fully includes getting together with neighbors to sit for a bite and bring our widened political ilks back into a more neighborly circle.
Food, we know, has a way of doing that, and I have a waistline that stands to prove that I’m fully fer when it comes to such neighborliness.
Some have been telling me my curmudgeonly attitudes are slowly increasing with my age – well, to be honest, some actually argue that it’s quickly advancing. Part of that is how I like to stick with some of the older and traditional ways of going about things.
Attending an election-day dinner, whether it be in Pleasantville or somewhere else in the area, is one of those matters those non-curmudgeons don’t seem to grasp. Forget about getting together to break bread with your neighbors, they say; who wants to sit and talk with somebody who didn’t vote the same ticket as them? Those people disagree and, by golly, they can yell at each other on election day, the day after the election and in the weeks and months and years that follow.
In places such as Pleasantville’s election-day dinner, people find other things to talk about besides the election. They talk about things that bring our communities together and the things that bond us together.
The way I like to vote is another of those things about which some in my close family and friends say I’m more than a bit curmudgeonly. That includes liking to stand in the line to cast my ballot on the official election day, and then to cast my ballot on an actual paper ballot.
I know there are important reasons for early voting, absentee ballots and electronic machines and fully appreciate assuring that everyone gets a chance to vote. I even cast absentee ballots a few times (one per election – honest) while I was places distant with my U.S. Marine Corps comrades.
Though those other options exist, I like the way election days’ excitement takes me back to the comfort of my earliest memories.
In them, I hear the voice of old town of Sherman Board chairman Lowell Schultz – my grandfather – talk about election-day preparations over at the old Sherman Town Hall.
I see the American flag hanging outside the Town Hall’s front door, elections being among the few occasions they hung the flag outside that door.
I see only the backs of the legs and feet of my parents, grandparents and neighbors as they pulled closed the cloth that hid them in the mysterious municipal confessionals.
I wanted to hear my pencil scratching a piece of paper so valuable just as I heard it scratching those hallowed ballots under the hands of many generations of voters who stood in those curtained booths.
And then, just as mysteriously as the booths themselves, my parents kept from me the secrets about who they voted for whether it be Kennedy, Nixon, Johnson or Goldwater. I wanted to someday hold that same important secret.
I’m not sure whether it’s much of an inconvenience, but I appreciate those town of Hale poll workers who these days allow me to follow my somewhat curmudgeonly tradition. But each election they hand the paper ballots to me and, with what seem to be understanding smiles, point me to the single booth where those like me go to scratch our pencils onto paper away from those non-curmudgeons who are OK with those electronic gizmos.
When I walk out of the Town Hall on Tuesday, I suspect there will be a certain relief that this election cycle is over even if I get to the Pleasantville election-day dinner. But I know – without doubt – that I’ll quickly again long for the next election.