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By Staff | Sep 24, 2010

While out for a walk the other day I espied a heron standing by a pond. He was still as a stump and staring into the water, probably hoping to snag a frog.

Or else he really liked his own reflection.

Maybe he was an egret. How do you tell those birds apart? In any case, he was one of those stilt-legged avians that hangs around at water’s edge.

If he were an office worker, such a bird would be up-to-date on all the gossip due to his constant presence at the water cooler.

I envied the bird, and not just because he’ll soon be winging off to warmer climes.

The main reason I was jealous of him was due to his long legs. With the political season fully upon us, we’ll all soon be wishing for anything to keep us up and out of the, uh, stuff. You know, the sort of gunk that would fall out of the sky if bulls could fly.

It’s been said that campaigning for political office is basically carpet bombing with money. I actually wouldn’t have a problem with that. It would certainly be better to receive cash than to endure all this bloviation and baloney.

It must be fun to own a TV station during an election year. With so much dough being thrown into the airwaves, it must be about like having a license to print money.

I don’t even understand what motivates politicians. I cannot fathom such a weirdly twisted personality disorder that an individual feels compelled to constantly foist his or her opinions onto the public.

They say there are three levels of untruth: lies, damned lies, and statistics. And somewhere beyond statistics, way out past the orbit of Pluto, are political ads.

Perhaps what bothers us most during these election cycles isn’t so much the worthless assurances and irrelevant rhetoric as all the incivility. But this mean-spiritedness shouldn’t really come as a surprise. A penchant for mudslinging is embedded deep in our nation’s DNA.

Some years ago my wife and I visited the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, located in Springfield, Ill. The museum is a top-notch facility that contains many interesting historical artifacts, including a historical Subway sandwich shop.

One feature of the museum is a peculiar room called The Whispering Gallery. The walls of this gallery are plastered with extremely unflattering political cartoons and newspaper squibs regarding our 16th president. Piped-in voices mutter highly uncomplimentary quotes about Lincoln.

One such quote went something like “I attended the state dinner at the White House last evening and Mrs. Lincoln had her bosoms on display like the cow that she is. Her hat looked like a flowerpot.”

And this was from a New York newspaperman. A putative Lincoln ally. Imagine what was said by those who didn’t particularly care for ol’ Honest Abe.

Ain’t nothing new under the sun. Throughout our nation’s history, candidates have accused each other of high crimes that ranged from leaving the toilet seat up to murder.

And that’s just those running for dog catcher. The higher the office, the lower its candidates seem willing to stoop.

Every office-seeker should have a dog in an advisory position. Not just any dog, though; a good, honest pooch like our golden retriever, Sandy.

Sandy and I go for a walk each day, and I often use the time to run essay ideas past him.

“What would you think if I wrote about ‘X’?” I may ask. Sandy might respond by going over to a fence post and lifting a hind leg. Enough said.

A bit later I might wonder aloud, “What if I explored topic ‘Y?'” The dog may respond by jamming his head deep into a badger hole. Best come up with something else.

“Maybe I should write about ‘Z’,” I’ll venture. Sandy might suddenly begin to roll in the grass as if he’s trying to rid himself of an irritating annoyance. Not too difficult to interpret that.

I won’t tell you what he does when he deems one of my ideas really disgusting, except to say that it’s really disgusting. He has never failed to inform me if an idea isn’t worth a woof. His brutally honest advice has no doubt saved me buckets of heartache.

It may take a few walks, but I’ll eventually find a topic that passes muster with Sandy. He’ll let me know when an idea is good by nuzzling my hand.

To the untrained eye, it might appear that he’s simply trying to prime the petting pump. But that’s exactly what happened very recently.

“What would you think about acolumn regarding yonder lanky bird and politicians and dogs?” I asked.

He nearly nuzzled my hand to pieces.

Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at jjpcnels@itctel.com.

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