It was one of those mind-clearing, meandering drives through the country, the kind that makes one grateful that we still have grassy fields with rolling hills and livestock noshing, not having a care in the world.
It’s a safe bet the cattle had to have a great World Series interrupted by nasty, low-brow presidential campaign ads.
After contemplating the fortunes of all things bovine, I couldn’t believe my good fortune. There he was, stretched out in a recliner, a dapper old guy, just sitting there, matching the cattle non-thought for non-thought.
This was too good. An investigation was in order. So after careful traipsing through the grass and avoiding those land mines that can ruin a pair of sneakers, we had a conversation.
“Howdy, old-timer. What in the name of John Wayne are you doing here? And who in the heck are you?”
He gave a laugh and replied: “Been waiting here, sitting in the middle of my huge spread, for someone to ask. I’m the last of the dying breed.”
My thoughts were to the contrary, since there are plenty of nuts around, although I’d never met one resting amongst some of creatures that are living proof that God isn’t a vegetarian.
“I’m the last living honest politician. Let’s have a talk and see for yourself.”
Holy, dead voters! Could I have stumbled on a true rare treasure? A conversation was in order.
“Why are you here?
“Well, I guess you could say my campaign manager, Shifty, has told me to say I have been put out to pasture,” he laughed. “It’s better than saying my family didn’t want me around. I was a bad influence on the grandkids.”
He seemed pleasant enough, despite the rheumy eyes and the wheezy laugh. I wanted to know what could this elderly gentleman, obviously well schooled in the art of communicating with a variety of citizens, could have done wrong.
“My kids got a little fed up with us playing ‘pull my finger.’ When the grandkids went to school lighting matches and yelling ‘fire in the hole, everybody hit the deck’ that was the last straw. Sister Mary Wolfman was not impressed. It took a while for the burns to heal.”
“That’s terrible,” I responded. “We’re supposed to respect our elected officials. They should be the type of person that wants to help, not encourage scandalous behavior.”
My subject slapped his knee. “You probably want to talk about things like trust and honesty.”
That’s absolutely what I wanted to explore, so I asked: “Give me your honest opinion: What is your personal philosophy on the secret to a good life of public service?”
My host put on his best sincere, campaign stump voice: “There are actually two answers that me and Shifty came up with. First, old dogs, children and watermelon wine. Secondly, it’s faster horses, younger women, older whiskey and more money. I though of those that time I was busted flat in Baton Rouge.”
“Wait a minute, that doesn’t answer my question. And besides, I thought you said you were honest.”
He looked me in the eye, raised his right hand and replied: “Oh but I am. People believed me and gave my foundation lots of money to carry on my mission of helping those in need. It just so happened, I was the one in need.”
Fearing this conversation was about as worthless as what I had almost stepped in and smelled twice as bad, I was outraged. “You’re a sham.
Those first two answers are lines from Tom T. Hall songs. And secondly, it was Kris Kristofferson, not you, who wrote me and Bobby McGee.”
“I never once claimed to have stolen the words of those two fine songwriters, both a credit to their profession, as well as our great country,” he said.
“You just told me that those were your words, now you claimed to have not said you did. I don’t understand. Your flim-flam, doubletalk has got me confused. I don’t know what to believe.”
“You’re a fast learner. Ever think about running for office?” was his reply.
There was no self-importance of misrepresented greatness, just a pathetic individual who had gotten rich thanks to the generosity of others who had believed in him.
I told him he was as useful as a pimple. But in the back of my mind, there was something vaguely familiar about him. Where did he get his start?
“Oh I used to be a TV preacher, but nothing lasts forever,” he retorted. “And I’ve always believed I’ll be here ’til they lay me beneath the green, green grass of home.”
Mike Tasos can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears in the Forsyth News every other Sunday. He s already voted and wishes everyone had too. He has little use for politicians who have gotten rich, unless they’ve made their fortune honestly, like playing poker.