Saturday, July 11, 2009

Day 141/365 Yellow Dogs

The definition of Yellow Dog Democrats: If the only candidate on the Democratic ticket is an old cur yellow dog running against a highly regarded Republican, we would vote for the yellow dog. Period.

The term originated in Alabama, when a Democratic senator refused to support the Democratic candidate for president, choosing instead to support Herbert Hoover. We all know how well that turned out. In response, the errant senator's constituency coined the phrase: "I'd vote for a yellow dog if he ran on the Democratic ticket!' "

Yellow Dog Democrats have two predominant traits: absolute party loyalty, and an equally absolute belief in liberalism.

And now I'd like to introduce you to my grandmother, our matriarchal Yellow Dog Democrat herself.

This is Inez Hazelwood, about the time her parents were discovering she had quite a temper and a extremely stubborn disposition. Her mother was America McKinney and she took her politics seriously (being a Scot). She was a Democrat before there were Democrats and she raised her daughter the same way.

This is Inez during high school. She's just won an elocution award for giving a most excellent speech supporting Woodrow Wilson, then-current President of the United States, a Virginian and a Democrat to boot. I need not mention which of those three characteristics was most important.

My grandmother was an unusual person. She was no shrinking violetand no soft-spoken Southern lady. She preferred wearing pants, excelled at basketball, never hesitated to speak her mind, knew how to handle a gun and seat a horse, and above all, would rather be fishing.

However, it being the 1920's, she chose the accepted working occupation for young ladies. She became a school teacher. Raised on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, she could have remained at home, teaching school while waiting for Mr. Right.

Instead, she graduated from teacher's college, then picked up and moved to the wilds of western Virginia, taking up a postion at a one room schoolhouse, up in the mountains of Highland County,Virginia. During the winter, the roads were impassable, and teacher and students arrived either on foot or by sled drawn by draft horses.

And then Mr. Right appeared (I knew him as Grandpa, but when he was younger, he was smoking hot. Looked alot like Al Capone with his fedora.) This was their first visit to his parent's farm in Bland County, when she was introduced to his family, discovering they were also dyed-in-the-wool Yellow Dog Democrats, and Scots, and avid horsebreeders. What more could she want?

The ensuing years brought a family business, and four sons serving in World War II and Korea. Even so, still Democrats. Various members of the family served as party chairmen, and FDR was the mantra.

In the early Sixties, Kennedy was a household word, and Grandpa still wore a fedora, and still looked cool in it. His cigar just added to the mystique.

By the late Sixties, my Grandpa having passed away, Inez was still outspoken , still a good shot (she did not suffer fools or trespassers), and an accomplished musician on the accordion, mandolin, and organ. And not half bad with a kazoo. "Nixon" was considered a swear word in her home. And "Reagan" was a joke. Yep. Still a Democrat.

Many women might prefer jewelry from their husbands, but my grandmother's idea of a great present was a boat. It made fishing so much easier. By the time of her death in 1980, she had three: a rowboat for the creek in back of her Virginia home, a motorboat for her lake home, and a larger 20' cruiser for her Florida home.

My grandmother took her fishing, her boats, and her politics seriously. From cradle to grave, she was the walking definition of a Yellow-Dog Democrat.

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