Abe Lincoln and Al Capone
Sometimes “Uncle” Bud disappears for a week or two on “fishing trips.” He always has a nice car for trips, usually a Buick with a big trunk. Pays cash for ’em, too. Always says he got the money from cashing in his “G.I. insurance.” Less said about that the better. On the porch some evenin’s when he is in the mood, he shares his adventures.
“Ever been to Arkansas?” he said the other evenin’. We knew it was one of them rhetorical questions and not a real one. “I like Arkansas. The people there ain’t yet been eddicated out of good sense. Now take Hot Springs, a most interesting place. In the old days Hot Springs was right on the railroad between Chicago and New Orleans. Some Chicago people started stopping off there when they found out they had horse racing and very few busybodies to interfere between a gentleman and his bottle. They still tell how it was one of Al Capone’s favorite places, and how he used to rent a whole floor at the best hotel.
“Now I don’t know if Al Capone was a Democrat or a Republican. Probably a Democrat because in them days Chicago was run by Republican fat cats instead of colored Democrats, and Republicans always want bigger bribes. Anyway, some Chicago Republicans, not to be outdone by Al Capone, sent down a big statue of Abe Lincoln as a donation to the town. The local folks put it in a warehouse and forgot it.
“While I was there they showed me the house where Baby Boy Blythe, otherwise known as Bill Clinton, growed up. It was a nice brick place in the better part of town, about like your Great-Uncle Worth’s in Randleman, and better than most of our folks have ever had.”
Uncle Bud on American History
Uncle Bud has his own unique way of seeing things, but he knows a lot. I’ve probably learned as much history from him as I did from any teacher except maybe Mrs. Smith in the eleventh grade. Though he’ll never admit it, he does a lot of readin’. More than just the Raleigh “News & Disturber” like most folks. I been in his house a few times, if you can call a big cinder-block place that used to be a store a house. He had a wall full of books of all kinds. When I was little he used to take me to the public library. He always returned what he checked out faithfully and on time, which might seem a little unusual for a man of his proclivities. You might say he had a respect for learnin’, and the library was where he got most of his.
Of course the discussion has come around a lot lately to Obama. “The last really good president,” Uncle Bud says, “was Grover Cleveland. Now there was a man. Bryan might have made a good president, or John W. Davis, or even Al Smith, but they never got the chance ’cause the times was not right.
“At least up until very recently, the Lord has been looking out for America in regard to presidents. Americans like to think of presidents as if they are someone they know personal. It follows that they will likeliest vote for someone they could really like or respect if they knew him. Furthermore, they shy away from somebody that they ain’t quite sure about. I call it the Harry Truman factor. Now everybody back in ’48, when I was just beginning to hear about such things, was sure that that smug rich Yankee Dewey the Republicans put up was going to win. But the people sensed something worn’t quite right with him. They knew Harry Truman. Say what you will bad about Truman, and I’ll probably agree with you. He was the S.O.B. that sent me to Ko-rea. But folks knew that he had come from where real people lived, that he would step up to the plate and not run, that he would not lie any more than usual with politicians, and that he would do what he thought was right even if they knew it was wrong.
“It don’t have nothin’ to do with intelligence, because it’s harder to find anything stupider than Americans when it comes to politics, but they have some deep-down way to know a phony when they see one. When they are given a choice, which ain’t happened much lately, they will pick the man with the most character, a man with some bottom, with some gravity as they used to say. Now Reagan was a movie actor and liked to joke, but people knew he was sincere and really loved the country, at least until the Alzheimer’s took over, which is a terrible thing.
“You just have to go back to ’52, which is the first election I really remember, and look at the one the Democrats put up against Eisenhower, Adlai Stevenson. Now there was a lightweight that nobody would trust in real life. The Democrats did that, but the Republicans are the real experts—Landon, Wilkie, Dewey, Dole, Romney. Bush Boy got a free ride because everybody felt that Al Gore was even flakier and more of a spoiled brat than Bush, though it was a close-run thing. The same with Obama. Everybody felt like McCain was a little weird. Maybe it worn’t his fault, but you would not want to be around him too much. But, of course, these days more people have their snouts in the trough than are doing any real work. So that helps account for Obama.”