It is a dark and stormy day. It is Primary Day in Kentucky
Awareness screams at me. The clock by the bed fools me into thinking it was 4:15 am. Good God! 4:15 in the morning. What cause would be worth this assault on my sleep or personal well being?
Lying there in the darkness, trying to remember who I am, the night before discussion with her came flooding back to me.
“We do this as part of our civic duty. I promised to help be a precinct worker.” she who is my consensus on what passes for common sense, tries to explain yet one more time, why I would be up before 5 am.”
My job is to be very simple. Just make the coffee.
Stumbling out of bed, trying not to step on the Siamese, I slowly make it to the kitchen.
Total darkness. With James Bond attention to detail, even in my stupor, I fling open the refrigerator for instant light.
Now, at least I will not trip over the table with knives on it.
By 4:38 am coffee made.
By 4:40 am, my body and total self being are beginning to register that I am truly alive and not in one of my very weird dreams about altered states of existence. I pour coffee down as if the end of the world was near.
Being Slavic I worry about everything. All life and actions have very deep interpretations and meaning to us central Europeans.
However, being married to She Who Must Be Obeyed, life is often reduced to viewing the world through Irish eyes.
Time 4:41 am. “Where the hell is my coffee” she shouts from the next room.
Time 5:25 am. We leave the house in darkness to travel to the voting polls.
Time 5:31 am. We are a minute late. Nervous workers are already grabbing their machines and setting up for the day’s onslaught of humanly.
As I watch her go through the door, I have a few seconds to register the geography of this event. The polling building is a metal structure some 60’ by 100 ‘and in real life it’s the alternative school. But today, Clinton 1, Clinton 2, and Clinton 3 precincts are located here. Behind the building are the baseball playing fields for the school system. Across the street is the EMS building and equipment. Some 300 ft west of the polls is the county high school.
No school today. All quiet at the EMS building. The only life stirring in this part of Clinton are the Democratic and Republican teams working the polls.
Time 5:45 am. I pull out of the dark parking lot and head for the house. Traveling West past Hickman County High School, and then past New Hope Church, I come to a complete stop at the intersection with Kentucky State Highway 51.
It is an eerie puncture in time. Normally, this highway would be rumbling with the sounds of heavy truck traffic. This spot, this road, would be short term home to log trucks, hog trucks, chicken trucks, massive farm tractors, and the flood of normal traffic heading north toward Chicago, Cairo, St. Louis or south to Memphis and New Orleans. Passing this spot would be a lot of people going very fast to somewhere not here.
Time 5:50 am. All is quiet. No traffic of any kind. No lights other than from my car. No stirring from across the street at Jewell’s gas and convenient store. No life to be seen anywhere. Politics has yet to take its toll on the day’s activities.
Time 5:55 am. Back at the house, I discover I am very hunger. Take time to eat a good breakfast. With reinforcement of another cup of my own blend of Maxwell House and Folger’s gourmet coffee, I settle in to watch Morning Joe start to discuss the races in Kentucky.
Time 9:43 am. It comes at me out of some science fiction movie. The object seems to hang in mid air for a brief second as it eventually smacks me on the nose. Not once but over and over, the giant white and grey paw strikes my nose.
General Mosey, the Maine Coon, is trying to wake me. It seems I had really settled in and promptly gone into a deep sleep. Both he and General Rommel, the Siamese, decided that it was feeding time and I must be reminded of my duties.
Time 10:38 am. Cats fed. Open the door and am shocked as to just how raw a day had slipped into our small town. Heading toward the car, my senses encounter the threat of rain down pouring from low hanging black clouds framed with streaks of white (wind).
As I open the car door, I glance around to ponder the scenes and sounds of this special day. To my left is the plumbing crew working on the sewer problems next door. Four houses down on my right is a crew working on a roof.
Alone with my thoughts of this Election Day, I realize that there are no political signs anywhere in sight. From all visual accounts there is no election.
Time 11:05 am. The office phone rings. It is my Irish maiden asking for my help. It seems that the good ladies of the Clinton Women's Club, who are catering lunch for the poll workers, no longer provide drinks. They are too hard to handle in transit to the poll. "Would I bring her a glass of tea when I come to vote?’
Time 11:32 am. As I pull into the polling area parking lot, I notice the arrival of two massive Mack Dump Trucks racing toward the metal building. I stop the car and watch their movements. Both trucks are fully loaded, in fact overloaded with dirt. At what seems like warp speed, the two trucks make the circle drive by the metal building without crashing through the brick front. Coming to a full stop some fifty feet from me, I watch in fascination as the massive trucks lock brakes and skid to a stop, spilling heavy globs of wet dirt around each truck.
Almost in unison, two figures built like young John Waynes flow out the truck cabs. They quickly entered the polling building to vote. Just as they come out, another strange vehicle makes its presence known at the polling place. A 20 ft. long, two seat camouflaged boat is pulled into the parking behind a old beat up Ford 150. The owner of this rig is dressed in complete camouflage clothes. He too made his way into the voting building.
Time 11:35 am. I finally make my way through the door with iced tea in hand. She is waiting for me. With warm thanks, she whispers, “Try not to make any trouble this year.” She understands my attitude toward authority and structure. I promise to be good.
Walking up to Clinton 1 precinct table, a quiet settles over the workers. In past years, I have been challenged by the Republicans as to my identity. This year, my wife assures them that I am in fact who I say I am. Taking an extra second to admire my signature on the list of voters, I slowly turn toward the voting machines.
These are totally different machines. Unlike past years, with the electronic machines in which I officially cast doubt as to them being linked to a Bush Chaney conspiracy to default my vote, these new machines are very simple to use. They use paper ballots that feed directly into a scanner.
Time 11: 45 Voting done.
Time 5:31 pm. Leaving the office I run into Mark Green, candidate for sheriff. In his early forties, he ran a high class campaign. Good media ads in local newspaper that explain his position on crime prevention, home security and duties of being a good sheriff.
In many ways, Mark Green reminds me of another high profile sheriff with an attitude of good public duty. His name is Jon Hayden, sheriff of McCracken County.
Mark tells me that if he loses, he will still work hard to make his message work for the good of the county. Impressive! I am staring at the face of a new era in West Kentucky politics, reform progressive democratic county politics.
Time 5:45 pm. Sitting out in front of the polls, I watch as political junkies and operatives arrive with pen and pads in hands to take down as soon as possible the election results.
Time 6:00 pm. Polls close.
Time 6:18 pm. Election results for Clinton 2 are posted. Within the next 10 minutes all elections numbers are posted.
From across the street, one of the EMS workers shout, “How’s it going for our man?”
With a thumbs turned down gesture, the court house operative makes a sad statement that they are losing the race for sheriff.
Time 6:20 pm. I stroll up to the doors with my own pad and ink pen. Sure enough, young Mark Green has beaten the incumbent sheriff some 512 votes to 254 in these three precincts.
Time 6:32 pm. My lady comes out of the building. “We have to take the ballots up the court house.”
We leave. But in my own personal style I run over the orange cone that is placed by the sidewalk for the parking disadvantaged.
After a long day of being good, the last thing that my lady needs is to explain why her husband is trying to murder an official poll site orange cone.
She, in dress clothes and heels, kneeling in the gravel, gets up and encourages me with strong language to rock and roll the car to dislodge the evil cone. I do. It does. We go.
Time 6:47 pm. Court House scene is subdued. The sheriff and his team stay in their office. Mark Green’s supporters, 14 out of a crowd of 43, nervously awaited the official results.
Time 7:01 pm. All votes had been counted. Election over. I take my lady back to the house.
Time 8:22 pm. My Irish Lady is fast asleep. She spent the day trying to make a difference in this small outpost of humanity along this rural frontier of the American civilization. Hickman County has 244 sq. miles with an average of 19 people per sq. mile.
As I look down at her, I am struck by how she is the perfect example of why it matters for us to take our civic duties seriously. Instead of revolutions, we have elections. My lady has committed her entire life to fight injustice where she encounters it.
She is modest. She will tell you, all that she does is to “do the right thing.”
Time 10:15 pm. Along Jefferson Street, in this small town of just under a 1,000 souls, lights are going out. It’s time to sleep and prepare for the next day. Elections come and elections go. People, along the frontier, worry about the small things of life like jobs, medicine, food, good water, family, and living in a free nation.
That freedom is recharged on this day. If my Irish Lady is right and we do our part to fight for freedom's right to exist, then worries of the night will indeed give way to bright opportunities of day.