Lem Hooper Discovers Our President
by Ellis Parker Butler
"Durfey," said our eminent jurist, Justice of the Peace Lem Hooper, "do you ever make mistakes?"
"I make them, but I don't admit it," said Court Officer Durfey.
"That qualifies you to be a United States Senator," said Judge Hooper, putting down his newspaper. "I'm different, Durfey. I made one mistake, back in the hot days of 1920, and I'm going to admit it. When the tumult ceased and the shouting began, Durfey, and everyone was saying, 'Who is this man Cox anyway?' and 'Did you ever hear the name of this Republican nominee before?' I thought I knew who was going to be the next President of the United States. 'Durfey,' I said to you then, the evidence is clear; the big bosses are tired of having a President that quarrels with the Senate -- or vice-versa -- like two dogs over a bone. Everything has been fixed. The Senate of the United States is to be the President of the United States, come next March.' I was wrong, Durfey; dead wrong! When the voters elected Marion --"
"You mean Harding, Judge," said Durfey politely.
"I said Marion and I meant Marion," said Judge Hooper. "The bosses thought they were electing the Senate to be President, and the people thought they were electing Warren G. Harding to be President, but they were both wrong -- they elected the cozy little town of Marion, Ohio, and it now occupies the Presidential chair. When I cast my eye toward Washington I can see it as plain as day, including the front porch with the rocking chair, the post office, the Ladies' Aid Society, the City Council, the family Bible, the wise men of Main Street, 4 1/2 per cent paid on deposits, the Soldiers' monument and corn on the cob. Yes, and I will include, Durfey, the freckle-faced boy with the stone-bruise on the palm of his foot on his way to catch three pumpkin-seeds and a four-inch bull-head on a hot Saturday afternoon when the dust of the road puffs up soft and hot between his bare toes! That's what is President of the United States, Durfey: Marion, Ohio.
"And I don't know that it is a bad notion, Durfey, for a nation to forgo the excitement of electing an Idea or a Faction or a State of Mind to its Chief Magistracy now and then and to elect a snug little village instead."
"Did you say 'smug little village,' your honor?" asked Durfey.
"I did not; I said 'snug little village,'" said Judge Hooper, "for that is the kind they have out there in Ohio. A village, Durfey, with brick-paved streets and father pushing the lawn-mower in the cool of the evening in his shirt sleeves, and mother fanning herself on the veranda and hoping it won't be so hot tomorrow night, which is prayer-meeting night. A town, Durfey, with 'respected citizens' and that has long since put Bolsheviks, games of chance, Democrats, mosquitoes and ne'er-do-wells in the same class.
"When you elect a town like Marion to the Presidency, Durfey, you may not be calling the eagles from the high peaks to soar aloft with the affairs of state, but you can count on good pumpkin pie. You can bet that nobody is going to order the church painted until most of the money is subscribed. You can wager that although we may send a bag of flour to the heathen we won't open an account with a dead beat unless it is guaranteed by his rich uncle. You can be mighty sure that we'll have a calm smile for every decent neighbor, but that we won't invite a drunken bum to come to dinner. We don't forget how a bank does business, Durfey, nor that most of our subscribers live right here in the county, nor that there has as yet been no Constitutional Amendment to the Ten Commandments. Before we build a trolley road to Bucyrus or Canton we'll figure up whether it will bring us trade or lose us trade.
"As long as a town is going to be the Chief Executive of these United States, Durfey, I prefer Marion, Ohio, to Greenwich Village or Hollywood. If Marion, Ohio, is not always right it knows it is always right, and that's something. If it does not shoot gloriously through the sky like a rocket and burst in a glory of new-fangled red stars it does stay right in one spot, and it knows that is the best spot in the best State in the best nation in the world. It knows it has the wisest and sanest ideas. It may not invent an Einstein Theory, but it gets home to dinner on time and there is always a dinner to get home to.
"Once before in recent history, Durfey, a great nation has been ruled by a place, but England's ruler was a front parlor with a plush album on the walnut centre-table, and crocheted antimacassars on the chairs, and crayon portraits of Uncle George on the walls. And the reign of the front parlor was England's happiest and most prosperous reign. The Margots and Bottomleys are interesting warts, Durfey, and amusing as pathological sprouts, but the front parlor is the backbone of Old England.
The sky-rocket is amusing on the Fourth of July, likewise, and Coney Island and Versailles are interesting places, but when you come right down to brass tacks the people of the United States, by a big majority, live in Marion, Ohio, and eat three meals a day, and have to earn them, and earn them every day. And that takes something, Durfey, that the town of Marion took with it when it went down to Washington to be President. It is something that is more important than the Monroe Doctrine or the Fourteen Points or the whole Constitution and By-Laws. It is the thing that has made a good many hundreds of thousands of Democrats say, "Well, this President certainly has surprised me; I never expected it!'"
"Patriotism?" suggested Durfey.
"Plain, ordinary small-town common sense," said Judge Hooper.