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With America’s most recent election cycle recently behind us (depending on who you talk to), Americans once again have demonstrated the genius of the unmatched form of government forged for us by the far-reaching wisdom of our nation’s founding fathers.  It is inspiring to know that we common citizens, no matter how insignificant we may think of ourselves, can actually help hire the next President of the United States.  One person, one vote, one ballot—this is our inviolable right and sacred duty.  By casting a secret and secure ballot, we can each have a voice in choosing the man or woman who most closely represents our interests…or something like that.

When I think of the flawlessly fair and consummately just election system that our nation has perfected over the last 200 years, it makes me grovel in embarrassment to think how we ran things back in Moose Hole when it came time to elect new officers to the Wolverines Club.  My only defense of the Wolverines’ scandalous voting process is that we were kids and didn’t know any better.

The Wolverines Club was originally the brainstorm of Anika Van der Veen.  She even typed the whole idea up on her mom’s manual typewriter.  The way the smudged and heavily whited-out document explained it, the purpose of the Wolverine Club was as follows:

“We, the Kids of Moose Hole, Alaska, anorder to:

  1. start a cool club,
  2. make sure evrybuddy plays fare and dont fight with each other,
  3. pinky promise to watch each others back if anyone that dosnt belong to the club trys to pick on any of us,
  4. donat some change from are alowenses to by cool ekwipment and stuff that we all can share,
  5. and make sure we have lots of fun together…

do ordane and istablesh this Contusion of the Wolverine Club of Moose Hole, Alaska, till death do a spart on are word of onner.”

Her “Contusion” went on for several long, boring pages, detailing the way the club was supposed to work.  However, we had to admit that the idea of a club sounded irresistibly mysterious. Besides, it would be great to have reinforcements if “Armpit” Hodges caught one of us by the gravel pit and tried to throw us in.  After a lively discussion, everyone signed the Contusion at the bottom–except for Larry Fred.  Larry was the last to sign and there wasn’t enough space at the bottom because Walrus Fahnestock had scribbled his signature about three inches high in purple crayon…so Larry signed the back instead. Thus the Wolverine Club was born.

The next step was to elect officers.  Anika explained that we needed three different departments in the club.  That way, each department could keep an eye on the other departments to make sure nobody cheated or got too bossy.  The three departments would be called the Expletive Department, the Laxative Department, and the Prejudicial Department. 

First, we were to elect two people to the Expletive Department, namely a “Grand High Muck-a-muck”, and a “Slightly Lower Muck-a-muck”.  They were kind of like the official spokespersons of the Wolverines and were expected to have lots of great ideas for fun things to do on the weekends. If the Grand High Muck-a-muck’s mom grounded him or something, the Slightly Lower Muck-a-muck would fill in for him until he was allowed to come out and play.

To the Laxative Department we were to elect a “Centaur” and a “Reprehensible”.  Their job was to make up the rules for any games, cook up fiendish punishments for trouble-making Wolverines, collect and plan how to spend the club money, and decide when it was time to break “Armpit” Hodges’ armpits.  Oh, yeah!  The Laxative department could also add a postscript to the Contusion if they were in the mood.

Finally, the newly elected Grand High Muck-a-muck was to appoint two “Supreme Court Jesters”.  They had to memorize Anika’s Contusion.  If a Wolverine was suspected of behavior prohibited by the Contusion, the Jesters would be consulted.  After pondering the matter, they would either send the hapless victim to the Laxatives for a dose of punishment, or tell his accusers to stop being tattle-tales.

It was kind of like the game of Rock-Paper-Scissors.  The Reprehensible and the Centaur could “peach” the Grand High Muck-a-muck by pelting him with rotten fruit if he got too bossy.  They could also give a random and unprovoked wedgie to any Supreme Court Jester to whom they took a dislike.  To repay them for a wedgie given to his appointed Jester, however, the Grand High Muck-a-muck could turn around and cancel any punishment that the Laxatives were about to wreak on somebody.

In addition, the Grand High Muck-a-muck could “Vito” any rule the Laxatives made up by writing the rule on a piece of paper and feeding it to Felica Bianchi’s baby brother, Vito, who would eat anything you put in his mouth.  In revenge, the Laxatives could un-“Vito” their endangered rule by tickling Vito until he spat it out.  If it was still legible after being wrung out and air dried, then the rule stuck.  Literally.  Vito’s slobber was like glue.

By the time Anika got finished explaining all this, our eyes were crossed and we were beginning to pine for the good old days of oblivious anarchy.  Larry Fred stifled a yawn and raised his hand.  “Excuse me, but how are we supposed to know who to vote for?”

Anika rolled her eyes at Larry’s naiveté and answered with exaggerated condescension.  “Somebody has to champagne, of course!”

That got Walrus Fahnestock’s attention.  He belched and heaved himself to his feet.  “That’s what I’m talking about!  I’ll be a champagner!  I’ll even vodka if you want me to!”

It took a while, but finally Anika was able to break it down into simple language.  Basically, anybody who wanted an important job in the Wolverine Club had to brag enough to convince the majority that no one else could do the job as well as them.  It seemed to be very similar to a game of “King of the Mountain”.

Champagning started the next day.  Both Rory Smithers and Jerry Fendlin wanted to be the Grand High Muck-a-muck, so Rory quickly reminded us of his endless fountainhead of devious creativity which had kept us entertained for years.  He cited the mud pie battles of ’81 and the time we snuck into Old Man Hanley’s cabin and shaved his cat bald.  Both of these episodes of coolness and extreme levity, he proudly reminisced, had originated with him, and if we picked him, he could promise many more to come.

Jerry countered that such stunts were the last thing the Wolverine Club needed.  Had we so soon forgotten the repercussions that had followed close on the heels of those particular incidents?  It had been no thanks to Rory’s harebrained caper that any of us had survived the wrath of our mothers upon seeing our mud-encrusted clothing.  Furthermore, did we not jolt awake every morning with a stark flashback of Old Man Hanley’s cane beating a tattoo upon our tender skulls upon discovering us in the act of shaving his beloved “Fluffy”?  No, as Grand High Muck-a-muck, he would steer the Wolverines into activities far more fitting the dignity and decorum of this generation of promising young Moose Holians.

By the weekend, the champagne was heating up.  Jerry began accusing Rory of being a Boogerhead, pointing out that only babies would be stupid enough to vote for him.  In response, Rory produced Jerry’s family photo album containing a picture which seemed to show Jerry doing a pirouette while wearing a pink tutu.  When Jerry’s little brother Petey protested that the picture was actually their cousin Doris at ballet class with Jerry’s face pasted on it, Rory offered Petey a plate of chocolate chip cookies. Petey suddenly came down with a bad case of indigestion and had to stay home in bed until after the election.

Elections were planned for a Saturday.  In an unexpected twist, on Friday Walrus Fahnestock decided he was going to run for Grand High Muck-a-muck too.  That split Jerry’s tenuous support base, which had suffered a rash of deserters after the tutu disclosure.    

The same day, Anika announced at school that there would be a debate that evening.  All of the aspiring Grand High Muck-a-mucks would sit on chairs in a row on her front porch, the Wolverines would gather in the yard to listen, and “Weasel” Conklin would ask the candidates a series of questions.  It seemed like a great way to give them all a fair and equal chance to be heard.

When the time for the debate rolled around, everyone was startled to discover that Jill Smorkstini was sitting on the porch along with Rory, Jerry, and Walrus.  Jill claimed that she had been champagning for the job of Grand High Muck-a-muck for nearly as long as Jerry.  When we asked why she hadn’t informed us of this, she explained that she had tried to do so on multiple occasions.  Unfortunately, every time she opened her mouth, Rory or Jerry would come charging up, shove her aside and begin champagning loudly. 

She had put up posters on the bulletin boards at school and the post office, but they were torn down as soon as she turned her back.  She had also placed hand-written notes on everyone’s desks, but had personally witnessed Walrus remove them.  She stated that this had occurred immediately after a large cream-filled donut had been transferred from Rory’s lunchbox to Walrus’ mouth.

At that point, Rory grew indignant that Jill was “holding up the debate process with her petty allegations” and demanded she be thrown off the porch.  However, Anika confirmed that Jill had indeed been an official champagner from the beginning, so she was allowed to stay.  Weasel cleared his throat and began.

Most of Weasel’s questions were directed to Rory and Jerry.  Regardless of the question, Rory and Jerry would answer by reading from one of a half dozen index cards they had prepared.  They read something like this: “I’m glad you asked that, Weasel.  This issue has always been important to me and my past performance clearly demonstrates that I have always stood strong on this issue.  I promise that the trust of Moose Holians will not be misplaced if you give me the honor of becoming your Grand High Muck-a-muck tomorrow.  My opponents, on the other hand, will stomp your pet kitty to death and throw your toys in the river if you vote for them.”

Near the end of the debate, Weasel had a single question for Jill.  “Miss Smorkstini, do you think your bed wetting problem will hurt your chances tomorrow?”  Jill opened her mouth to reply, but just then the buzzer went off and the debate was over.

Rory won.  He received 12 votes.  With 8 votes, Jerry became the Slightly Lower Muck-a-muck. Walrus had 4 and Jill had 0.  Jill’s brother Jack, Felicia Bianchi, Donna Sam and Larry Fred all claimed to have voted for Jill, but even after Walrus recounted, he only found one vote for her.  Of course he was so busy eating a huge donut that he might have missed a vote or two.

Yep, we were crazy when we were kids.  I sure am glad stuff like that doesn’t go on it the real world.  Wouldn’t that be a bummer?

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