Tuesday, November 02, 2010
I love to vote in my township. When I first started voting here, a couple generations ago, we had only our townhall building for a polling place. The townhall looked just like a white frame one room school house, and it probably started it's life as a schoolhouse. It was so small that only the people actively voting could fit inside, so everyone else stood in a long line down the wooden steps and out into the dirt road. Often, we waited a long time in rain and snow. Some kind neighbors often brought cookies or cider and doughnuts and passed them down the line. It was the one chance each year to meet and greet new neighbors - and in those days we counted people as neighbors even if they lived a couple miles apart. About ten years ago, the old townhall was retired and moved into a little village of historic buildings, on property purchased from a wonderful horsewoman and artist named May Mast, who lived into her late nineties. When she was in her eighties, she was still painting giant murals on the sides of her barns and every building on her farm, including the little cabins that had housed children when she ran a summer camp. The historic village has been built in the pasture where May kept two old horses, a leopard spotted Appaloosa and a big fat shiny black Tennessee Walker. The new town hall was built in the adjoining pasture. Now, we have grown so much we have three precincts, all voting in the new town hall. When I fill out my name and address and hand over the slip with my driver's license, I do it at a table where half a dozen women do the paper work - and all of them have last names that are the same as road names in our township. I pass through to a voting booth in minutes, no long line or doughnuts anymore, but I always look for the old cigar box. For a moment today, I thought it was missing, then I spotted it on the floor behind one of the poll workers. It's an old tin cigar box, with old blue and gold paint. When it's open for access to the pens and pencils inside, the lid shows the five cent cigar price in Victorian gold letters. That cigar box has been present at every election since I started voting in Webster Township back in 1972. With all of the other changes, that cigar box represents a permanence to me, a permanence of rural values, which include neighborliness and the right to choose the people who run our government.