by: Wes Ishmael

If you've ever seen a hen pummeled by the rain—scratching the ground with a combination of anger and discomfort while trying to shed water at the same time—then you have a fair picture of Aunt Pinky and Nelda Isselfrick.

Amid the deluge of pouring water—unlike anything witnessed in Apache Flats since 1962, if city records are to be believed—Aunt Pinky was striding toward the passenger side of the wrecked, vintage Buick Electra, swinging her over-sized purse furiously like a leather buzz saw. Nelda was simply beating the hunk of metal as fast and hard as she could with her cane which had splintered by the second blow.

Peetie Womack, instigator of the parade, surveyed the carnage from the judge's box and said to no one in particular, “Well, we were worried about not having any fireworks…”

Making a Political Statement

To say that Peetie had been disillusioned by the political system since the last presidential election would be like suggesting that General George Armstrong Custer had an unpleasant fishing trip in Montana.

“We're being held hostage by the coasts,” he would rant and rail. “Look at the map. And if that's not bad enough, Congress is so busted they can't even figure out how to disagree on a budget. And, don't get me started about the agencies…”

It was during one these soap box soliloquies at the monthly meeting of the Rio Rojo Cattlemen's Association that Izzy Franklin reckoned, “Daddy always said, if you don't like it the way it is, fix it.”

“Democracy is plumb messy,” Cousin Charlie said. “But, I still believe it works if enough of those who are governed get involved in the process.”

“All of us here have been involved in the process and it doesn't seem to make any difference,” Peetie responded. “I swear you could get a jackalope elected president of this country if you had enough money, time and figured out how to appeal to the coasts.”

“That never stops all of those lame brains from trying,” Izzy said.

That's when the notion occurred to Peetie. That's when the plight and reason of the non-traditional political parties that never stood a chance in a popular election finally made some sense to him.

Peetie slapped his knee with glee. “We don't have to get our candidate elected, no disrespect Hooter, but if we do it right, we can at least get some publicity and make our voice heard more loudly than a single vote on a single day in a single election. And we can experiment right here at home.”

“Huh?” asked Hooter. He was less interested in Peetie's rationale than the fact that Peetie had somehow included Hooter in his plans.

“Just dream with me for a minute,” Peetie said. “Suppose we had a candidate, one who shared the views of our group, and that candidate could make those views known to a wider group than we can reach individually? And, this candidate wouldn't be hamstrung by having to please this political donor or that one. If there were any donors at all, they'd be the type who wanted to promote an open platform as much as the candidate himself or herself and their individual platforms.”

“I think I kind of understand where you're coming from,” Charlie said. “It's the stuff we always talk about, but hitched to a candidate and a campaign more folks would have a reason to listen.”

“Exactly,” Peetie said. “And, I think Hooter here would fill the bill perfectly.”

“Huh?” said Hooter.

“I think you're right,” Izzy agreed. “He can say anything and nobody thinks it's strange, considering all the other stuff he says.”

“Huh?” Hooter said again.

“You know, much as I hate to admit it, it makes sense,” Lonnie said.

“Yep,” Chirped Delmar.

“But I don't have the time, plus I don't have any platform,” Hooter announced, crossing his arms in decision, once he finally understood the noose tightening around his neck.

“Time's not a problem. We won't ask you to go anywhere,” Peetie explained. “This will be as local and grass roots as it gets. It's an experiment, remember?”


“As far as the platform, let me ask you something. What do you think of ethanol production?”

“You know how I feel about that, Peetie. How this country's so-called leaders could ever join our energy and food policies together at the hip is a travesty and a national security issue. Never mind the unfair advantage those blender credits give corn growers in the market place, that system of renewable identification numbers—where you can buy the numbers and use them in place of production—is a bigger shell game than when that Ponzi character first started robbing Peter to pay Paul.”

“What about Country of Origin Labeling?” Peetie wondered with a growing smile.

“That's your classic case of folks not knowing how the business works doing what nobody wants done in the first place, including the consumer, so that costs go up, trading partners retaliate and consumption goes down. I guess that's what you call win-win-win in Washington.”

Peetie looked at the rest of the gang in triumph. “See?”

Once Hooter agreed to play his part in the experiment, Peetie decided, “What better way to kick off the campaign than with a parade with our candidate serving as the grand marshal?”

Peetie put a paw on Lonnie's shoulder. “And, what better place to unveil that luxurious Buick of yours? It would be the perfect ride for our candidate.”

The Buick in question was a 1960, midnight black Electra convertible that Lonnie had spent more than a year restoring to better than original condition. The paint glowed, the chrome sparkled

Image is Everything

So it was that Peetie organized, wheedled and cajoled everyone around to mount the first annual Apache Flats Elects parade. There were at least five floats, the high school marching band and part of the 4-H club riding horseback and carrying flags.

“What're you doing with that stink stick,” Lonnie demanded as Hooter climbed into the car, puffing contentedly on a Churchill-sized cigar. “It's my Kinky Friedman look. In fact, it's one of Kinky's own brand of cigars. Charlie suggested it. He's my PR director.”

“Like him or not,” Charlie chimed in. “You've got to appreciate Kinky's style. Remember when he lost the 2006 election to become Texas governor? His concession speech was something along the lines of, ‘The people of Texas have spoken…the $%@&*%$#”

“Don't you dare drip any ash on these seats,” Lonnie warned. “They're genuine leather and polished to a high shine.”

“Shouldn't be a problem,” Hooter said as he casually flicked the ash from his cigar so it dropped down the back of Lonnie's shirt. “I'm pretty good.”

Building Consensus

Hooter was, decked out in his best Wranglers and shirt, starched and pressed, perched on top of the back seat of the sparkling Electra (Lonnie made him take his boots off), puffing his cigar.

“Take me to the crowds, driver. You know how I love the crowds.”

“Mind your manners,” Lonnie grumped, dropping the gear shift into granny gear and purring ahead.

When the Riviera came into view, the crowd—all 163 of them (Delmar counted), not including those in the parade, roared their approval.

Hooter held one hand up showing the victory sign; in the other he held a red pennant with white letters that proclaimed, “Why not Me!”

In response, the crowd chortled:

“Hooter McCormick in 2016!”

“All the way, Hooter!”

“We're with you!”

“Don't forget to write!”

Hooter had never been to a Mardi Gras parade, but figured it had to be similar to this. The joyful, festive exuberance of the crowd, the beads and candy pelted at the car. Even Delmar was stumbling from the pack to bestow the grand marshal with something large and fuzzy.

As it turned out, the furry gift was a bug-eaten fox skin coat that Delmar had acquired somewhere. After the aftermath, sipping from his giant mug, he explained, “There's something (hic-cup) roy-roy-roy (hic-cup) really high class about it (hic-cup).”

Lonnie, who was admiring the gleam of the gear shift, never saw Delmar approach, never saw him trip about the time he got to the car, launching his offering toward the Buick. The fur coat caught the breeze, fluttered and then landed on top of Lonnie, encasing him in a perfect, delicate cocoon.

All Lonnie knew is that his world was suddenly dark, scratchy and reeked of mothballs. Instinctually, his foot moved to the brake. Part of the coat was bunched on the floor, though, causing his foot to slam on the accelerator instead (at least that's what he said later).

The Electra flashed ahead. Lonnie pulled the wheel hard to the right. The Electra hit the curb, climbed it and then smashed into the lone fire hydrant on Apache Flats' main street.

Water everywhere. The crowd cheered.

Crisis Management

Lonnie was stricken, unable to process the unfolding events. The water cascaded down on him and his lovingly restored interior.

Hooter, who had been cart-wheeled into the front seat, was stacked in a discombobulated heap with one leg draped over the windshield, his head lying in Lonnie's lap. His cigar was smashed but still gripped firmly between his teeth. He was laughing hysterically.

Shadows moving in the torrent of water finally started bringing Lonnie back to reality. “What're you laughing at?” he growled.

“I'll drive…” Hooter sputtered between laughs. “That what you said (Hoooohoohoo!) Wouldn't trust any of you dimwits to ride in it let alone drive (Haaaaaaa Hooooo!). Way to stick it in the curve, Mario (HaaaaaaHaaaaa!). And none of it is my fault (HooooHaaaaa!) Oops, there's Aunt Pinky…Duck! (Hooo HaaaaaHoooo!)

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