Polecats and Weasels©Averyell A. KesslerMy grandfather told me that all politicians are polecats and weasels. I can’t say that today for fear of offending polecats and weasels aka the Quadruped Community. For me, his humble opinion is a steel-tipped arrow into the heart of today’s tedious political yip-yap and gotcha games. He solved the polecat problem by contributing to candidates from both parties because “I want’em to answer the phone when I call. Dadgumit!” Not a bad idea. Fortunately, they did not visit his office at the same time.Since my twenty first birthday, I’ve voted in every election that came along, including one featuring a Mississippi gubernatorial candidate who was pictured naked in a bubbly, heart shaped bathtub before he drifted into the weeds of political embarrassment. My mother taught me about elections when I was six, and she took me with her to vote in a city-wide election for mayor. At that time, the neighborhood voting station was on the campus of Belhaven College. It was a modest affair, two folding tables, a group of metal chairs and several three-sided booths made of slapped together plywood boards. Inside, a small uneven shelf supported by chains. No one else was there when we arrived. Mama signed in and received a paper ballot and a pencil. There was an intense discussion about whether I would be allowed to accompany Mama into the voting booth. She won. She explained the ballot and I watched her vote, then drop her ballot into a slotted box with a lock on the cover. Simple and quiet.Daddy taught me too. We were driving to the farmer’s market when his car radio announced that President Eisenhower had suffered a heart attack. My father was devastated. He pulled over and stopped the car while he regained his breath and collected his thoughts. After that, he explained what would happen if the famous general didn’t survive. It was a rough but practical lesson in constitutional law. My first.My next political adventure occurred when my best friend Martha’s father, Mr. C, ran for the state legislature. He was a Democrat because that was the only political party in Mississippi. His timing was spot on, as one else had entered the race. Campaigning was simple, he spoke at rallies and shook hands at civic clubs. Mrs. C, my friend and I spent many afternoons, tucking printed campaign cards under the windshield wipers of parked cars. His qualifications for office were simple – married, Baptist, two children. He was a lawyer too, but the card didn’t reveal that until the end. On election eve, the neighbors gathered in a garage on St. Mary Street to watch the returns on a black and white portable balanced on a metal TV tray. Except for stepping around a tangle of extension cords, and a shortage of potato chips, it was a pleasant evening. We cheered when he won. Again, simple, and quiet.Mississippi politics have always engendered a special kind of craziness. Small town gossips told the story of an enraged wife armed with a pink umbrella confronting her candidate husband mid-speech as she shouted, “How dare you!” His mistress was sitting on the front row. When the police arrived, the wife as well as the mistress were taken into custody. The candidate escaped by slithering into the crowd, jumping behind the wheel of a Chevy pick-up, and roaring away in a cloud of dust. There’s a lesson here, if you allow your mistress to open a charge account at an upscale clothing store, make certain your wife does not receive a duplicate copy the bill. The Clarion Ledger either. One of our former governors also suffered from duplicate bill syndrome.My all-time favorite for nefarious Mississippi activities was the black-market tax. “Can’t sell liquor; but if you do, you gotta pay.” A nonsensical solution to the dry state problem before an infamous raid at a society reception ended it all. My mother was serving champagne punch when axe wielding deputies arrived. Her only regret was her failure to take a cup herself before all &^*& broke loose.I hate to see the old Sun and Sand motel falling victim to growling bull dozers. So many scandals, so little time, so much cash passed around in paper bags. Sadly, cell phones did not exist at that time. I missed my chance at that too. While enjoying a delicious steak dinner at a popular steak house on County Line Road, I heard a snore louder than a buzz saw. It’s origin – a big wig from the state legislature, whose glass was always full and whose brain was frequently empty. Quick! Dial 1-800 – National Inquirer. I opted for discretion and my cell stayed in my purse. Luckily, his sycophants hustled him out before he collapsed.Over the years, I’ve seen a steady coarsening of politics, as it has slowly degenerated into a death battle of us against them, even in my small state. As always, money and power, plus a healthy dash of narcissism are indisputable motivators. Political combat is here now, snarling and snapping like an enraged werewolf seeking his next victim. I choose to meet the challenge by maintaining a sense of humor, protecting friendships with people of varied opinions, and remembering that there are two sides to every story. The Englishman who wrote the powerful phrase the pen is mightier than the sword, also wrote It was a dark and stormy night, one of the most ridiculed phrases in literature. Lucky for me, the plague of robot calls has diminished, but they’ve been replaced by cut and paste political chatter on the internet. I’m weary of it. Perhaps this is the proverbial millstone hanging around our necks. In the meantime, I’ll stick with WG’s opinion and his problem-solving advice. If a weasel is hiding under your front porch, run him off!The more you observe politics, the more you’ve got to admit that each party is worse than the other – Will Rogers

Presto!If I had a magic wand, there are a few things I’d like to see and do again. Just once, to know if they were as wonderful as I remember. So, Harry Potter, lend me your wand, because I’d like to:Climb up the high board ladder at Riverside Park swimming pool and see if it still extends to clouds and I can summon the courage to cannonball into the deep end.Sit in the stands for a Friday night football game at Newell Field when Murrah and Provine are going at it hammer and tongs and I’m hoarse from the morning pep rally.Walk into the Paramount theatre on Capital Street with an overflowing box of buttery popcorn and an icy coke to find out if Psycho is still terrifying.Return to Kennington’s with my mother to shop for an Easter dress and new pair of Mary Janes.Trick or treat up and down the streets of Belhaven in my Fairy Queen costume, even though it made my legs itch.Feel the jittery butterflies of the first day of school, as well as the explosion of joy on the last. (Another delicious Power School cafeteria roll would be fun too.)Walk down the wide marble stairs of the Mississippi State Capitol building and be frightened by the “mummy” that wasn’t.Drive around town with my parents to see the Christmas lights, and visit the miniature Christmas village at the Baptist Orphanage. on Woodrow Wilson Street.Go skating at Leo’s.Swap secrets with my best friend.Watch Bucky Beaver fly by in his space ship and brusha, brusha brusha with new Ipana.Drive up North State Street in my Chevy convertible when the DJ announcer says, “Here’s the latest song from a new group. I kinda like.” – ”Oh yeah, I’ll tell you somethin’, I think you’ll understand. When I say that somethin’, I wanna hold your hand.”Jump up and down on the Empire ballroom’s “trampoline floor” at the Heidelberg Hotel during the Homecoming dance, while the chaperones yell “Stop! You’re going to kill us all!”Eat a pronto pup slathered in mustard at the Mississippi State fair, then bite into a crisp candy apple or a pineapple soft serve cone. (Yes, I know they’re still available, but my cantankerous stomach can’t handle that much fun).Dance to Lollipop, Runaround Sue, and for a sweaty cheek, body melding, ear nuzzling slow dance, In the Still of the Night.Relive the first time I watched Lucy McGillicuddy Ricardo explain the benefits of Vita Meatavegemin. “It’s so tasty too!”Settle into a wooden Adirondack chair on the wide front lawn of the Edgewater Gulf Hotel in Biloxi and feel the soft breeze flowing in from the Gulf. I’d brush sand off my toes and watch rainbow colored kites fluttering high above the beach. I’d like to dip my hand into a bag of salt water taffy and unwrap a piece of chewy goodness, as every muscle in my body goes limp and sleep tugs at my eyes.Obviously, this is a list of impossibilities, a litany of long-gone days which have vanished in the blink of an eye. Nothing can be retrieved or brought back by a miraculous second coming. But my memories haven’t vanished, not by a long shot. They’re still here, every bit of them, locked in my brain and nailed down tight. Memories are one of the few things in life that no one can ever take away. They hang around my neck like a string of pearls. The faces of my childhood friends will never be saggy and wrinkled, their voices will never be weak. I’ll always hear them laugh about an adventure we shared, or giggle about the time when we got up to no good. Time passes, but memories don’t. So, thanks Harry Potter, but I don’t need your wand after all. I’ll just take out my memories, place them in my lap like warm furry kitten, and listen to them purr.

Chicago or Bust©

Averyell A. Kessler Every year my grandfather WG treated Mama and me to a weekend of Christmas shopping at Marshall Fields, Chicago’s famous department store. Shortly after Thanksgiving, the store donned its holiday attire and housed an eight story Christmas tree covered with glittering lights and miles of sparking tinsel. I was nine and wildlyContinue reading Chicago or Bust©

Power School Lessons©

Saturday Reprise Averyell A. Kessler During last week’s omicron misery, I thought a lot about my southern upbringing and the blessings I’ve received from my small, poor state of Mississippi. These gifts came from loving parents, my scamp of a grandfather, and friends, also from enthusiastic Sunday School folks, teachers, and pearls of Power SchoolContinue reading “Power School Lessons©”

Fooling the Feds – Part 2©

Averyell A. Kessler Another Saturday morning; another unwelcome visit from a government snoop. My grandfather, WG, was not happy. This time, it was the middle of July, when Mississippi’s blast furnace summer sucked the breath out of every living thing and clouds of steam seemed to rise from the sidewalks. Again his office was empty,Continue reading “Fooling the Feds – Part 2©”