On a beautiful Tennessee fall afternoon, I pulled in the long gravel driveway of Uncle Sid and Aunt Sadie’s farm. Their white frame house, located among the landscape of the multi-colored hillsides, showed perfectly what autumn on a Tennessee farm is all about. But among the fall foliage next to the drive, I noticed a red, white and blue yard sign stuck in the ground for everyone to see.
I knew Uncle Sid didn’t like those things because he didn’t even let me put one there when I was running for county commissioner. “Folks ought to vote for who you are, not how many signs you have up and down the road,” he had said. I couldn’t wait to hear his explanation for this one.
Aunt Sadie met me at the front door, wiping her hands on her apron as usual, and led me to the back portion of their house. There, sitting at the round kitchen table, was Uncle Sid sipping on a cup of coffee and working on a plate of Aunt Sadie’s homemade cookies. We exchanged pleasantries, and I took my seat at the table to share some of those cookies. Uncle Sid once again directed his attention to the plate.
“Just saw a sign at the road in your yard supporting Amendment No. 2 in the Nov. 4 election. Thought you didn’t like yard signs,” I said, looking down at my cookies.
Rolling his eyes and giving a deep sigh, he answered, “Ain’t my sign, it’s your Aunt Sadie’s.”
“It’s an important vote, and if people don’t pay attention, they will let those four amendments on the ballot slip by, and No. 2 is the most important,” said my little gray-haired aunt, taking off her apron and standing over the two of us.
I could tell she had something to talk about, so I grabbed one of the cookies meant for Uncle Sid and waited for my aunt to get on her soapbox.
“A preacher told a story the other night about a man who had two mules he couldn’t tell apart,” she began. “So, he cut one mule’s mane fairly close and the other mule’s tail somewhat shorter. That worked for a while until they both grew back out, and then the man had to come up with another way to solve his problem.”
I was surprised by Aunt Sadie’s storytelling lead and could tell that Uncle Sid also was wondering where this was going. Aunt Sadie continued: “The man decided to study his problem a little closer, and after a detailed examination and a lot of studying, he came up with a solution. He determined that the white mule was two inches shorter than the black mule.”
The room grew silent and both our eyes seemed to cloud over for a second. I wanted to laugh, but thought better and just waited to see what was coming next.
“You see,” said Aunt Sadie, smiling at us, “many times we can’t see the true answer for looking too deep at our problem. There are those who wish to elect our appellate judges, who are the Supreme Court justices, the 12 judges on the Court of Appeals, and the 12 judges of the Court of Criminal Appeals. They want to put them into all this political stuff we have now with campaign funding and getting folks to back them. If we vote yes on Amendment 2 in November, we get to keep a system similar to our current one by continuing to trust the governor to appoint the most qualified people. We’ll also be adding a new layer of accountability by having our elected representatives in the legislature confirm or reject the governor’s appointees. Then, we still vote on whether to keep the judges at the end of their respective terms.”
Uncle Sid and I sat there looking at Aunt Sadie in total amazement. Our coffee was cold, but it didn’t matter. All I wanted was one of those yard signs.
Uncle Sid turned to me and said, “See why I let her put that sign at the road? It’s amazing what they talk about at those FCE meetings each week. I just hope folks vote for that Amendment No. 2, because if they don’t, we menfolk will be back to store-bought cookies, and our courts will have these ladies to deal with.”
Aunt Sadie also has a way with words.
Pettus L. Read writes for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org