This article appeared in The Winchester Sun on November 14, 2019
He leaned way back in his chair, spit in his cup, looked out over his carefully-manicured front lawn, and then looked back at me.
“Ya say you’re writin’ a column for the paper, huh?”
“That’s right, Unk. I think I have something to say. I think people read my column to get my take on things going on locally and nationally. I try to make it interesting enough that they look forward to it.”
“Uh-huh,” was all Uncle Zeke said.
He looked back out at his front lawn.
It was mid-May and the roses were in full bloom. Hummingbirds were fighting over space at the feeder. Zeke seemed more interested in them than in me.
“So”, I continued hesitantly, “what do you think about my column, Unk?”
Uncle Zeke still seemed a long way off. He has this annoying way of not answering right away. As he ponders the question, he gives no clue he even heard you. He just stares off into the distance. You think he’s not even paying attention, but eventually, he answers. You just have to wait.
After an eternity had passed, Uncle Zeke suddenly looked back at me.
“Well, sir, if you’re a‑gonna write for the paper and you want folks to read it, then forget about how interestin’ you are and all that. After all, it ain’t about you, boy.”
Uncle Zeke is a very wise man.
Zeke lives in an old but lovingly-maintained frame house two miles from the blacktop.
His house straddles the Clark-Montgomery county line. He likes to say he’s a dual citizen of both counties.
Once he wanted to paint a line down the middle of the kitchen floor where he reckons the county line runs, but Aunt Beth quickly nixed that idea.
After Uncle Zeke got over her sudden death in 2012, we all thought he might carry out his plan after all, but he never mentioned it again.
These days, Zeke piddles around the house and yard. He still grows a vegetable garden and always has more tomatoes than he knows what to do with.
You may be wondering if Uncle Zeke is real. That’s a tough question.
In some ways, he’s not real, as you and I are. In other ways, he’s more real than either of us.
He’s someone I have internal conversations with when I’m pondering some weighty topic, or facing an important decision. You might say Zeke is an amalgam of many of my elders who have influenced me through the years.
Last Wednesday we had an interesting conversation.
“I want to write about something that’s been bothering me about the election, Unk,” I said to Zeke.
“Some of my friends keep pointing out Steve Beshear only carried about 23 out of 120 counties, and yet he won. They’re saying it isn’t fair that the major cities basically get to decide for the rest of the state. They say Kentucky is overwhelmingly ‘red,’ but the few ‘blue’ areas get to choose. I’m not sure what to make of that. Do you think they have a point?”
Uncle Zeke sat motionless for an eternity, then he spoke.
“So what’s the alternative then, boy? Maybe let the counties vote? Ninety-seven to 23. That woulda been one helluva win for Matt Bevin, wouldn’t it?”
“Yeah,” I replied. “When you look at a map of Kentucky with all that red, it does seem fairer, in a sense.”
“Uh-huh,” Zeke replied. “I reckon you could do it that way. Geography is important. Folks are fiercely proud of their counties.
“Course, there’s other ways you might do it,” he continued. “Folks are right-smart tied to their religion, too. You could make a sorta map showin’ the vote split up by Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Humanists, agnostics, atheists, and so on. Give the same power to each belief. Wonder how that woulda played out?”
“Well, that’s just crazy talk, Unk,” I replied. “Kentucky is overwhelmingly Christian. How could you justify giving the vote of all of them equal weight with each of those other minor religions and beliefs? You’d be saying 500 Christians’ votes are worth no more than one Buddhist. How is that fair?”
Zeke looked at me. “I reckon you’re right, boy. We probably orta just stick to one person, one vote, huh?”
Did I mention Uncle Zeke is a very wise man?