I have no idea what the agenda was for last month’s meeting of the Jackson County Historical Society, but elections and voting were what was on people’s minds. When Mother, Ray, and I arrived a few minutes before the 6:00 p.m. starting time, we found that we were walking into the midst of an argument about an important national social issue. Nobody was yelling, but folks’ emotions were revved up for sure.
The argument ended when Mr. Fox, our gentle-spirited and spiritually-mature president, firmly called the meeting to order. His unspoken message was clear: this argument is over.
The Tennessee primary had just taken place a few days before; and though the argument was over, elections continued to be the unplanned topic of the evening. Mr. Fox got into a story-telling mood along with some of the other older citizens. When that happens, it is always worth paying attention.
Mr. Fox recounted what happened to him the very first time he voted, which was when John Fitzgerald Kennedy ran against Richard Milhous Nixon in 1960. Vote counters were short in Jackson County that day, so someone grabbed young John Richard Fox. “I counted votes all night,” he said.
I imagine a crowd was waiting for those votes to be counted and announced. There aren’t any reporters around here to let folks know about our local elections, so people find out the same way they did a hundred years ago. They gather on the courthouse square and learn in person.
A building constructed through one of President Roosevelt’s New Deal programs, the National Youth Administration, was recently demolished in our town. Mr. Fox also told us stories about that building.
Agriculture is always essential, because people have to eat; but the federal government placed a heavy emphasis on agriculture during the mid-twentieth century. Mr. Fox’s daddy taught agriculture at the local high school.
In addition to his school duties, the senior Mr. Fox was also responsible for promoting good agricultural practices in the community. In an addition to the historic building just torn down, Mr. Fox’s daddy ran a government-funded cannery. Any citizen of Jackson County was free to bring their garden produce to the cannery and have it canned in metal cans, just like the ones used for canned goods at grocery stores.
One of the many reasons I enjoyed hearing these stories recently is because of what they said about community.
One morning recently I was out on an early errand and passed Mr. Fox not too far from our house. He doesn’t live that close to us and it was unusual to see him in our neck of the woods. He slowed down as I made a turn at a T intersection. I wondered if I should have stopped to see if he needed one of us for anything. The question lingered after it was too late to do anything about it, so I called his wife to check on the situation.
Oh, he does that, she told me. He drives around the county in the mornings, just checking on things.
I was deeply comforted, knowing that Mr. Fox — elder at our church, retired school superintendent, retired mayor, and president of the historical society — is checking on things. I love that he cares so much about the people of our county, including my loved ones and me.
One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him,
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”
And He said to him,
“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’
This is the great and foremost commandment.
The second is like it,
‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
On these two commandments
depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”