The political roundtable

“Wipe your nose,” my mother would command my brother, handing him a Kleenex from the van’s glove box.

“Smell the baby’s diaper,” she’d instruct me, as we made our way down the last hilly mile.

“Pull up your socks,” she’d say to my sister, as we waited for a turning tractor.

“Wipe that spot off your shirt,” she’d say to my other brother, as irrigation water hit the windshield.

“And do not talk about politics, at all!” she’d yell at my father, as we pulled into the grandparents’ yard.

Whipping us into presentable shape for a visit to her parents’ house was a formidable task in itself. Making sure my father didn’t bring up politics while at the dinner table was an endeavor that she attempted over and over, always to no avail.

With so many political round tables on television news shows these days, I got to thinking about the real-life pundits that used to gather over Grandma Irene’s roast beef.

I’d join my siblings and cousins at the kids’ table at one end of the room. The adults would gather around their own table with Grandpa Pete at the head.

They’d politely pass Grandma’s Melmac bowls to each other, keeping with small talk.

“Your flowers look good this year.”

“I canned 120 quarts of tomato sauce.”

“Did you get that pivot put in at the south place?”

“Lettuce is on sale at Ray’s Superette.”

“Hearing some knocks coming from the Chevy. Anyone know where I could get a used motor?”

“This baby better come out pretty soon, my feet are so swollen.”

“Did you hear what that dumb shit Carter said yesterday? What does he know about being president? He’s a dang bleeding heart peanut farmer!”

And just like that, my father, once again, would take a perfectly sterile round table conversation about mundane topics and whip it into a controversial frenzy.

You’ve heard the old adage that no one should ever talk about religion or politics in a social setting.

For the most part, that group of people never talked about religion . . . because they were all Catholic and agreed about everything in that realm. I guess that’s where the topic lost its luster.

But they had plenty to discuss when it came to politics.

As soon as my dad opened his mouth, I remember always looking right at my mother for a reaction because he’d gone against her orders. She’d sigh, roll her eyes and more than likely kick him under Grandma’s floral tablecloth.

He always seemed to fire the gun that started the race – but my uncles and grandfather were more than happy to jump in and run with him.

I honestly didn’t understand whether they were in agreement or opposition with one another. The only thing I knew for sure was that those men were loud.

Their booming voices loudly proclaimed the world as they each saw it – regarding government farm subsidies, paying taxes, the death penalty, going to war, who should be president, who was doing a bad job in Congress, who was a wimp in the legislature, the high price of gas, the horrors being handed down by this new thing called the DEQ and who had to drive the worst rural roads in Antelope County.

I understand my mother’s disdain for their practice because those poor women couldn’t hear themselves think, let alone have a gab session with each other.

The talk of gardening, mothering and cooking was over-run by the male voices.

The ladies had to eat Grandma’s pudding dessert in the living room – leaving the men yelling at their round table and the kids food-fighting over the plastic covers Grandma had placed upon her precious new vinyl linoleum.

Jimmy Carter became president; corn, cattle, hog and milk prices fluctuated; the Antelope County supervisors never did fix the treacherous Eight Mile Road; Congresswoman Virginia Smith never lost an election; there was still gas for the pickup; and tougher regulations were created regarding my dad’s run-off lagoon . . . . despite all the yelling, predicting and commentary from that rural political round table.

I watch the so-called experts today, sitting in their suits, belaboring their thoughts on the issues. They’re not nearly as exciting as the live version I remember as a child.

And I’m pretty sure today’s expert talking heads will probably have as much effect on the outcome as my dad did way back when.



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