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Living In A Land of No Streets

by Mary Walker Baron

I grew up on Arizona cattle ranches. Aside from our Post Office boxes we had no addresses. If someone wanted to find us they had to know how to get to us. And if they wanted to get to us the reason had to be pretty important. That's just the way it was. The first ranch I called home was about 35 sections of land in the desert. It was about 45 minutes on a dirt road outside of the little town where I attended school. The second ranch I called home was over 95 sections of land under Arizona's Mogollon Rim made famous by the novelist Zane Grey. It was about 4 hours of dirt road from the little town of Globe and then another two hours outside of the tiny town of Young. The people living out in those Arizona Hills cared a lot about politics and they never missed an opportunity to vote. Our home on the desert ranch was, in fact, the polling place. Elections were incredibly exciting not only because we got to see people who we didn't even know existed but also because when our poll closed we got to keep the sample ballots and the pens and the ink and the little flags. The only thing that left in its locked box were the ballots cast by the men and women whose only address was their Post Office boxes. The only people for whom our polling place was convenient were my mother and my father. All of the other folks had to brave roads in such disrepair as to be barely navigable. Mr. Kenny, who lived in a cave in the Buckhorn Mountains, had to crank his Model T and hope it made the trip and then hope that after he made his marks on the ballots it would get him back again to his cave. Oscar and Lillian often walked to our house to cast their ballots. Mrs. Pickens and her son Bob, always in the throes of tuberculosis, coaxed their old pick up truck to our house to cast their votes. And John and Frank Goodwin and Florence married to one of the brothers rattled in through our gate in a cloud of dust which caked the constant chewing tobacco dribbles on their truck doors. One Armed Joe generally came last hoping for an invitation to dinner after the polls closed. The invitation was always extended and always accepted. Those were the people my brother and I recognized. So many more people wandered in to vote who we couldn't remember ever seeing. Our father knew them all but always made sure they were on his list of registered voters. These people were proud to cast their ballots. They were proud to be part of the great Democracy in which we lived. They were proud to have their vote counted. And my brother and I, always excused from school on election day, were proud to pretend to cast our ballots on the left over sample ballots. That's how we learned to never miss an election and a chance to vote.

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