"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Billy Bob’s Odyssey - How A Coon Dog Cracker Came To Vote For Joe Biden

During last year’s election Joe Biden’s inner circle told him to forget the rural South – ‘coon dog, bass boat, gunrack, trailer trash’, they said, ‘leave them be’.  Yet the Senator from Delaware, in the spirit of inclusivity and diversity, felt he owed this constituency a visit.  After all, if he had included blacks, gays, women, Latinos, and Muslims in his embrace, why shouldn’t good ol’ boys be included as well.

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Billy Bob Thatcher was one of the five men on the porch of Randall Tire and Tackle who saw The Presidential Candidate arrive in a limousine with a bad shimmy, tires caked with enough Alabama red dirt mud to stop a half-track.  Out came The Candidate, all smiles, dressed in his sharkskin suit that caught the morning rays of the midsummer sun and glinted.  His Secret Service detail positioned themselves around The Candidate as he picked his way through the mud towards the porch and the good ol’ boys.

 “I wonder how they do that all at once?”, The Candidate asked himself as he watched Billy Bob adjust his chaw, take a swig of Bud, and spit into a rusted Maxwell House can at his feet.

He also noticed a rack of flayed squirrels, chickens pecking under the porch, dead flies stuck on the gummy fly strip, children playing in a rusted pick up on blocks, a dog in the dust, and a woman yelling in the yard. 

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“I’m Joe Biden.  I’m running for President, and I’d like to have your vote”.  He extended his hand through the porch railing and waited.  “Perhaps Dorothea was right.  I shouldn’t have come here”, he thought as he felt a wet hand take his fingers and hold them.  What was on those fingers, wondered The Candidate.  Motor oil? Fatback grease? Dog slobber, or God forbid, worse?

He had a politician’s careful sense of appropriate intimacy and didn’t want to withdraw his hand too quickly, especially when he was used to the two hand clasp of friendship and solidarity he used at every whistle stop; but he couldn’t manage that here, extended as his hand was up through the porch railing and held by the fingers.  So he spoke while held.  “What would you fellows like to see me accomplish once I am in office?”.

The man holding Joe’s fingers let go, stood up, shook his pants, and said, “What are you proposing?”, and with that The Candidate was off and running, a litany of tax reform, health care, foreign policy, and environmental programs.  He stopped short of his favorite, preferred topic – transgenderism and the gender spectrum – not willing to upset the applecart before he had barely got started; but on second thought he reconsidered since he knew that incest and bestiality were de rigeur down here.

His aide de camp knew his boss well, and saw what was coming, so pulled him aside.  “Don’t Senator, please”, he said, gently touching his elbow; so The Candidate moved on to global warming, desiccated plains, empty reservoirs, and dry, parched fields.

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None of these blandishments got a rise out of Billy Bob and his friends, who sat and chewed.  “What’s he talking about, Earl?”, Billy Bob said.  “No idea”, Earl said, tossing a crust of cornbread to the chickens below; to which Biden gave his familiar, classic, full-face smile, and offered to clarify the issues, explain their impact on the little man, the forgotten, alienated, marginalized poor.  He was warming to his audience now and, energized, pushed on about the great transfers of wealth he envisaged, dismantling Wall Street and sharing the wealth “among you folks”.

A blue jay jeered in a loblolly pine, a hound stirred in the dust, and Billy Bob scraped his chair, got up, and pulled another Bud from the cooler.  The Candidate began to have another one of his fade-out déjà vu episodes.  He could swear that he had been here before; and although he knew that Wilmington, Dewey Beach, and Newark were nowhere in sight, and these good men on the porch were not his kith and kin, he couldn’t help thinking that the coon dog was his own faithful Lab, Mickey, that the tire and tackle store was his grandfather’s shoe shop on Grand Avenue, and that the smell of frying bacon from somewhere off in the trees was from his grandmother’s kitchen.  How he loved the old woman!

The wall of silence continued, and no one replied to The Candidate.  It was as if they were figures on a frieze, like the one on the Pension Building in Washington, not far from his Senate office building, or on the Parthenon.  He began to smile, not the broad, pinned on smile he gave to constituents and voters, but a happy, reminiscent smile reflective of happier times.

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“Tell him about Pa Ferguson”, said Rainey Howell.  The last man in Beecher County to vote Democrat, great grandson of the chairman of the local Freedmen’s Bureau, which although sponsored by Congressional Republicans was crazily liberal, taking lands from legitimate landlords, installing illiterate, former slaves in the state legislature, forcing young white Confederate widows to beg and steal, and defiling the Cavalier tradition of the Old South. 

 “He had a point”, said Howell, “but no one since has ever put his X by a Democrat”.

“Times haven’t changed”, said The Candidate, looking dreamily up into the milky blue, warm Southern sky.  “Republicans are still the party of the privileged rich, the party that cares about Wall Street and not Main Street, the party that has forgotten good people like you, the party…”; and here Joe’s voice trailed off as he lost his train of thought.  Civil War history, let alone Reconstruction, Radical Republicans, and agrarian reform were beyond him.  

Thank goodness that Delaware had little to do with the War, always minded its own P’s and Q’s, and came out, like Switzerland, neutral but moral.  “Now, where was I”, he said, figuring that he, after decades in Washington, could spin any yarn and make it believable, and that no errant train of thought was ever lost. 

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The man next to Billy Bob scratched the ears of the dog lying under his chair, moved his paws from under the rocker, got up, and headed for the outhouse.  “Nature calls”, he said, swallowing the last of his Bud and tossing the can into the yard

It was no use, thought The Candidate.  I never should have come.  Inclusivity has its limits.  The Big Tent isn’t that big, and these cornholing crackers can go fuck themselves. 

 “Gentlemen”, The Candidate intoned, “It has been a real pleasure, I must say.  Have a good day”; and with that, he and his entourage left in a cloud of red dirt dust.

“Let’s vote for the old guy”, said Billy Bob.  “Why not?”; and so the democratic process actually worked; and if it could work in Beecher County, it could work anywhere.  It had only been within recent history that this, the most rural county in the state had even gotten a polling station, and it had been so remote and removed from any and all political discourse that voting meant only picking up spare parts and cornmeal in town, pull one lever, pull another, same difference.

As everyone knows Joe Biden won the election.  The new President, fondly remembering his visit to Beecher County asked his aides to report on voting there.  Only a handful of votes had been cast, scattered among the major candidates and three write-ins, but the results had been quickly challenged, fraud determined, and all votes were thrown out.

However, the good ol’ boys on the porch of Randall Tire and Tackle, voting or not, were seminal in the new President’s thinking.  He now had no doubts whatsoever that his attention should be paid to the poor blacks in the inner city, still oppressed, still suffering the legacy of white privilege and systemic racism, and still in desperate need of his help  - not the buggering, overalled, backwoods crackers of Beecher County.  His ‘Man For All The People’ stopped at the Coosa River.

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