Today is my last full day of being a public official of Franklin County, a position I have enjoyed greatly and felt honored to do. Tomorrow my friend Adam Tucker will be sworn into office in the courthouse in Winchester Square, as I was four years ago.
Not very much about th ceremony itself was memorable, as I recall, except that it was followed by a medley of patriotic songs that a local woman sang along to with a karaoke machine. My greatest regret is that I did not bring my own Bible to put my hand on– I had thought there was some official Franklin County Bible or something, but in fact, nobody put their hands on any such thing. Still, I wish I had thought to get the Oxford Annotated Bible from my office for the occasion. I’ve been teaching from it for years, for Honors at Boston College and in Sewanee’s Humanities Program. It’s heavily annotated, and it would have meant a lot to me to have pledged to uphold the Constitution of the United States on it.
The best part of the event was standing alongside Marshall Hawkins, who was being sworn in for the umpteenth time as a county constable. A colorful local character, Marshall had for the longest time directed traffic in front of the Sewanee Elementary School. His grizzled, friendly presence was a fixture of my children’s school-day for years. As many will know, Marshall died earlier this year (his obituary is here) and a celebration of his life was held at the University Shooting Range shortly thereafter. He is still sorely missed in the community.
Four years ago, Marshall and I stood beside each other waiting our turn to be sworn in while the hot August sun heated up the county courtroom. Getting sworn in is not an especially efficient process, and Marshall and I got to talking to pass the time. Among other things, I mentioned that my wife had seen a copperhead out in the yard, and I asked him how I could keep them out.
“Get a hog,” he replied.
“Really?” I asked incredulously, only remembering later the opening of Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove.
“Oh yeah,” he said. “A hog will eat anything. Anything but a cucumber.”
A few moments passed.
“That’s the reason I don’t eat cucumbers. If a hog won’t eat it, there’s something wrong with it.”
While I am not sure that it was offered as such, I have always taken Marshall’s remarks to be a sort of political wisdom– look for natural solutions to any problem, establish a base-line of unacceptable behavior and stay on the right side of it, think like a hog. In lieu of any other advice, I pass this on to my successor. Congratulations to Adam Tucker, as he gets sworn in tomorrow as the fifth district’s new school board representative. I wish you as wonderful a term as I have had, and as interesting a day as I had four years ago in Winchester with Marshall.