Fairly Distracting 

The parable of Moses and the shed

A story I think quite delightful has come to my attention. It concerns Moses Alexander, Idaho's governor from 1915 to 1919. He was a Democrat, as all of Idaho's good governors have been, and the nation's first Jewish governor-a fact Idahoans drag out anytime we want to convince someone we're cooler than we look.

The way I heard it, Alexander was campaigning out Caldwell way (which couldn't have been much fun, even back then) when he came upon a number of farmers clustered in close proximity to a low, flat-roofed shed. You could see the same sort of thing today, I'm sure, were you to leave the hustle and bustle of the Capital City behind, then journey through that retail-clone zone still quaintly referred to as "Meridian." You would have to get out to where things to eat are still grown and where animals poop all over the place (rather than just in my front yard). It is there, far from the nearest Old Navy, that you might come upon a number of farmers, clustered in close proximity to something, in lieu of a low shed.

Anyway ... it seems Mr. Alexander couldn't let such an opportunity pass without trying to win over some voters. You know how politicians are. Why, just this last night, I witnessed the same sort of vote-fishing suck-uppery at work, down at the state fair. You see, my wife and I were manning the Ada County Democrat booth in the Exhibition Building for an evening, just as we do every summer. It's sort of a family tradition, her and me and our child, spending quality time handing out "I'm A Democrat Fan" fans and encouraging passersby to sign up for the opportunity to be solicited for contributions for the rest of their lives. When our girl was little, she thought it was great fun to work the booth-much more fun than those noisy carnival rides ... I told her. But she's almost 16 and, frankly, it's not so easy getting her to go to the fair with us. She seems to think she's too mature to be seen walking around the largest gathering of unchaperoned, thickly cosmeticized, alarmingly clad teenagers in Idaho with her Mommy and Daddy.

So what we do now is let her take a friend, someone like her, so they can walk together several yards behind or ahead of us and not appear to have gone to the fair alone-which in her mind would look almost as bad as being seen with Mommy and Daddy.

Anyway ... last night, she spent more time walking around the fair with her friend than she spent with us at the booth, which made me a tad sad but at the same time gave me a plausible excuse to abandon my post, claiming I had to go see if my offspring was safe and sound. It's not that I don't enjoy handing out "I'm A Democrat Fan" fans and arguing with passing Republicans, especially during the heat of a hot election season. But this is not a hot election season, as you know. To tell the truth, it was pretty dull this year-like working in a lemonade stand during a cold snap, I'm guessing.

To make matters worse, I didn't really want to be there in the first place. You see, it was drawing near to the day when I am obliged to hand over a completed column to Boise Weekly, and I didn't even have a subject yet. I had struggled for days to think of a fresh topic, but I was as dry as the sawdust the 4-H kids spread on the floor of those pig cubicles to keep the stink down. And it wasn't for lack of material, gad. At the time, Bush was slurking around Idaho with Kempthorne loping along side like a well-trained Irish setter-showing his master how well those Statehouse-to-Tamarack GARVEE bonds will be spent, no doubt-but even that wasn't enough to get my writerly engine revved up.

In retrospect, I believe it was because I was in too close a proximity to Bush. Somehow, he's is even worse when he's in Idaho than when he's hiding from Cindy Sheehan down in Crawford. I can't explain why, but maybe it's like in those scary movies where flowers and fruit immediately shrivel up and turn black whenever a possessed soul is in the vicinity. Know what I mean? Whatever the reason, I couldn't come up with a column idea, and time was running out. That's why I didn't want to go to the fair and hand out fans.

Anyway ... out of boredom and deadline anxiety, I left my wife to do the heavy fan passing and spent much of the evening edging through the fair crowds, marveling at what some parents let their kids leave the house wearing, all the while looking not so much for my daughter as something to write about. Which is how I was to come across so much vote-fishing suck-uppery. Sheila Sorenson had a booth to herself. So did Bill Sali and Robert Vasquez. As you know, Butch Otter is looking to move into his ex-daddy-in-law's governor's digs up on Big Flag Hill, and to fill the ensuing Congressional void, Republicans are lining up like piglets at a one-teated sow. Vasquez wants it, Sali wants it, Sorenson wants it, and so do three other Idaho GOP superstars you may or may not have heard of. I didn't actually see Vasquez, but Sorenson and Sali were there in person, just over a bank of hot-tub booths from one another, slapping backs and enticing passerby with bumper-stickers and, yes, fans. It was just like what Moses Alexander was doing with those farmers in Caldwell. See what I'm getting at?

Only ... Alexander didn't have bumper stickers or fans to pass out. Poor schmuck, had nothing to rely on but his oratorical skills, which aren't worth beans when no one can see you. I have no way of knowing how tall Alexander was, but I suspect then, as now, you don't win votes from Caldwell farmers if they're trying to catch a glimpse of you over someone else's cowboy hat.

Anyway, what he did was shinny up onto that low, flat-roofed shed so he could better "address them on the issues of the day," as one witness put it. It wasn't until he stood atop the flat roof that the farmers bothered to tell him the shed was used to store manure. (Manure. You city slickers know what that is, don't you? Yup, it's another name for poop. The shed was full of poop. Ha!)

So how did Moses Alexander react to the revelation? Why, he looked out over the gathered farmers and spoke: "This is the first time in my life I've ever spoken from a Republican platform."

Hah! Isn't that delightful? I told you it was delightful, didn't I? And it's a darn good thing I heard about it, 'cause I had nothin'. But Bush is gone now and I'm already feeling the juices start to flow again.

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